Steelers Scouting Report: What to Expect From the Tennessee Titans
After a very exciting win for Pittsburgh Steelers fans over the Cleveland Browns this past Sunday, we have an even bigger game to look forward to this weekend. This Sunday, in Nashville, will be a battle between the only two remaining undefeated teams in the AFC in the Steelers and Tennessee Titans.
While all of us loyal fans know how great the Steelers have been, the Titans have been just as impressive. They are off to a hot start with very impressive wins, including a 42-16 blowout over the Buffalo Bills. However, they are also up against their biggest test of the season against the Steelers.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at this week’s opponent, the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are dealing with some key injuries on both sides of the ball heading into this weekend. Their biggest hit came on Monday as it was announced that starting left tackle Taylor Lewan would miss the season with a torn ACL.
They will also be without backup running backs Darrynton Evans (Hamstring) and Senorise Perry (Undisclosed), who were both placed on the IR.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown (Knee) and rookie tackle Isaiah Wilson (Illness) are both listed as questionable. Wilson missed practice on Wednesday and Brown was out on Thursday.
On defense, they will be without cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Knee) and defensive back Dane Cruikshank (Undisclosed), who were both placed on the IR.
Derrick Henry vs. Steelers front seven, who wins?
Much of the Titans’ success this season has been due to their offense. They are currently second in the league in total offense with 422 yards per game and 32.8 points per game. This offense has been led by yet another outstanding season on the ground by league-leading rusher Derrick Henry.
With no truly reliable backup, Henry has received the workload out of the backfield with 123 carries for 588 yards and six touchdowns.
While Henry has been incredible this season, he hasn’t faced a front seven quite like the Pittsburgh Steelers have. The Steelers currently rank second in the league at stopping the run, allowing only 66.2 rushing yards per game and three total rushing touchdowns so far. T
heir front seven will be without inside linebacker Devin Bush but Robert Spillane did a great job of stepping up in his place last week. Luckily for Spillane, he also has a great supporting cast around him to help slow down Henry.
As good as the Titans have been in the run game, they have also found some success throwing the ball. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has continued where he left off during the Titans’ playoff run last season, throwing for 1,368 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions so far.
His top target this season has been tight end Jonnu Smith who has 19 receptions for 234 yards and five touchdowns. Star receiver A.J. Brown returned from injury last week and had a huge game so they Titans will hope that he can play this Sunday as well. Receivers Adam Humphries and Kalif Raymond will also contribute in the passing game.
Tannehill is facing a Steelers secondary that got off to a shaky start this season but has picked it up the past couple weeks. They are currently eighth in the league against the pass, allowing 219 yards per game and nine total passing touchdowns while coming away with eight interceptions. Their secondary is clicking at the right time and the true talent is starting to shine.
The true test for the passing game will be against the pass rush of TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. With Lewan out, the Titans will be turning to Ty Sambrailo on the left side and Dennis Kelly at right tackle to handle this very dangerous duo.
Tennessee’s defense must step up to win this game
While their offense has been incredible this season, the same can’t be said about the defense of the Titans this season. They rank in the bottom half of the league in total defense, allowing 409.8 yards per game and 36.3 points per game this season.
The Titans’ secondary has been exposed in the passing game so far this season. They 28th in passing defense. giving up 272.8 passing yards per game and 13 passing touchdowns but have come away with six interceptions.
Their secondary has been led this season by veteran cornerback Malcolm Butler who leads the team with two interceptions. He is joined in the secondary by Johnathan Joseph at the other corner with Kenny Vaccaro at strong safety and Kevin Byard at free safety. Rookie Chris Jackson will play in the nickel.
They will be facing a Steelers passing attack that has been off to a hot start this season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 1,178 yards with eleven touchdowns and only one interception so far. The Titans will also have to try to find an answer for rookie receiver Chase Claypool who has 17 receptions for 335 yards and four touchdowns.
As bad as they have been against the pass, the Titans have been almost as bad at defending the run. They currently rank 26th in run defense, allowing 137 rushing yards per game and four total rushing touchdowns.
Their front seven has been led this season by inside linebacker Jayon Brown who leads the team with 35 total tackles. He is joined at linebacker by Rashaan Evans on the inside with Harold Landry III and newly acquired Jadeveon Clowney on the outside. In front of them, the defensive line is led by a promising talent in Jeffery Simmons at tackle with DaQuan Jones at the nose and Jack Crawford at end.
This front seven will be facing a Steelers rushing attack that has come into their own lately. James Conner is proving that he is worthy of being a workhorse back in this backfield with 75 carries for 369 yards and four touchdowns so far. It also helps that they have two reliable young backs in Benny Snell Jr. and rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. that can come in and be productive when needed.
The matchup between the Steelers and Titans this Sunday will arguably be one of the biggest games of the year so far. It will be a very hard fought battle until the very end between two physical football teams. While Henry will still likely get decent numbers due to a high carry volume, this Steelers defense is special and will slow him down when they are needed the most this Sunday. Also, I see the loss of Lewan hurting the Titans severely as their two tackles will not be able to handle this Steelers pass rush. On the other side of the ball, I see this being a big game for Big Ben against this secondary as he will be able to spread the ball around to his variety of weapons. Make no mistake about it, Tennessee is a good football team and will make plays to keep this one close but the Steelers simply have the better team. I have Pittsburgh pulling away late and leaving Nashville with a 31-17 victory to continue their undefeated season.