The Steelers are rounding into form at the perfect time. Through the first five weeks, the Steelers survived each game through a combination of good fortune and strong offensive play.
When Week 6 kicked off, the hope was the defense would at least hold the Browns in check, to an extent.
How it happened
Instead, we got a glimpse of why the Steelers’ defense was so hyped coming into this season. The Steelers played a complete game from start to finish. One key to the Steeler’s success was James Conner. Conner had been decent up to this point of the season, but in Week 6, Conner was crucial to keeping the Browns pass rush at bay. The defense was also critical to putting the Browns in a negative game script right out of the gate.
Anticipating a heavy passing game from the Browns, the Steelers mixed their defense well, holding the Browns to 165 yards passing and 75 yards rushing. The Browns also barely broke 50 percent on their completion percentage. It was a landslide victory in the end. The only sour part for the Steelers was the loss of Devin Bush.
As rough as the loss of Devin Bush will be to this defense, the Steelers appeared to have found their footing on defense. Though it’s a short sample size, it was a step in the right direction for the Steelers. Going forward for Pittsburgh, it looks like they have a promising defense, a healthy, deep, and balanced offense.
Steelers vs Titans preview
The Titans profile similar to the Seahawks. Their offense may be the most well-balanced offense in the league. I say that because Henry is one of the best running backs in the league, and Tannehill is great and very efficient.
This team is playing great football from the offensive side, and their defense, though bad from a yardage standpoint, is plus six in the turnover department. Both these teams have benefitted from good fortune at critical points in games, so this may be a game of who comes out more fortunate.
The Titans are 28th against the pass and 26th against the run. It’s pretty awful on paper, but consider the Titans have a plus-six turnover margin and it explains a lot. The good news for the Steelers is that Ben has been pretty safe with the ball this year.
There are major injury concerns for both teams. For the Steelers, the loss of Devin Bush really hurts. It will especially hurt against a guy like Derrick Henry. Expect the Titans to be able to run the ball relatively successfully this week. This means the play-action is going to open up a lot for the Titans through the air as well.
On the other side, the Titans are going to be without Taylor Lewan at tackle. That’s going to be a big loss for the Titans, as Lewan has been critical for them this season. The Titans also may be without AJ Brown. Brown suffered a knee injury during practice this week, so his status is in question for Sunday.
The Steelers absolutely need to run the ball and use play-action frequently in this game. I think the Titans are aware the Steelers are likely to get the ball out quickly, and the Steelers can take advantage of those defensive fronts by essentially playing the short and deep game (short for runs and deep with passes).
Defensively, the Steelers need to stay focused on stopping Derrick Henry. With a banged-up line, the Titans will be susceptible to the pass rush, but hitting the wrong gaps could result in big holes for Henry. They need to sit back, and hope the pass rush can get to Tannehill.
I expect this game to be a closely contested, narrow game with quite a few big plays. I don’t expect this game to be quite the shootout some people imagine, as I expect both teams to run the ball considerably in the game. I think both teams have the ability to make comebacks since the quarterbacks are so talented.
I expect any gap in points in this game will trigger more aggressive play from the opposing quarterback. I like for this game to come down to a late game-winning field goal for the Steelers.
Final Score: Steelers 30 Titans 27