Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 Preview: Who Has the Advantage?
Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers: Who Has the Advantage?
The long awaited opening week of the NFL regular season is upon us. Both the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers are anxiously waiting to get the nasty taste of mediocrity out of their mouths after not making the postseason with 6-10 and 8-8 records respectively.
Both AFC rivals are fairly familiar with each other. This Week 1 matchup will mark the sixth consecutive season that the Titans and the Steelers have squared off. Of the last five meetings between these two teams, Tennessee was victorious in 2012 and 2008, while three wins by Pittsburgh were sandwiched in between.
In addition to both teams trying to improve their records from last year, the Titans and the Steelers are also trying to climb up the rankings statistically as well. Tennessee was in the lower half of the league in pass defense (26th, 247.8 yards per game), run defense (24th, 127.2 ypg) and overall defense (27th, 374.9 ypg). The Titans’ offense was also in the bottom half of the league’s rankings.
Pittsburgh was ranked first in the NFL in overall defense and pass defense, and second in run defense, but lacked big plays in the takeaways department. As for their offense, the Steelers are looking to improve on their 26th ranked running game to help complement a passing attack that’s orchestrated by one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Tennessee and Pittsburgh have both made key additions to their roster in efforts to improve on last year’s campaign. Newly acquired free agents and draft picks are destined to have an impact on this Week 1 battle, as well as familiar veterans.
Let’s take a deeper look to see which players will be key in this game, and which team has the advantage.
You can check out the Steelers schedule from TicketCity if you're looking to buy tickets for this week's matchup against the Titans at Heinz Field.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+
Steelers pass offense versus Titans pass defense
Although the Steelers’ receiving corps looks a bit different from last season, the one glaring constant is the fact that they still have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Even without Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller, Pittsburgh’s aerial attack is armed with big-play receivers in Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Markus Wheaton.
The Steelers’ pass protection looked shaky in the preseason, and facing a defense that was tied for ninth in the NFL in sacks last year could be a concern. However, Roethlisberger’s ability to extend a play should be effective.
Steelers run offense versus Titans run defense
As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh had one of the worse rushing attacks last season. Furthermore, Tennessee’s run defense didn’t strike fear into the hearts of anyone either. Steelers running back Isaac Redman will get the nod to start and will get help by a committee of Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling. This matchup can go either way, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the home team.
Titans pass offense versus Steelers pass defense
Tennessee’s third-year quarterback Jake Locker was below average at best last season while starting 11 games for the Titans. It will be difficult for Locker to improve on his 74.0 quarterback rating against last year’s No. 1 pass defense.
As for Tennessee’s pass protection, they have three new interior offensive linemen to help revamp their offensive line, but their main concern will be containing Pittsburgh’s outside pass rushers LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones.
Titans run offense versus Steelers run defense
The number one concern for the Steelers’ defense will be containing Titans running back Chris Johnson. Since entering the league in 2008, Johnson has been the second-most productive running back in the NFL with 6,888 rushing yards. Unless Tennessee drastically improves on their 22nd ranked pass offense from last year, Pittsburgh’s dominant run defense will have no problem shutting down the Titans’ bread and butter.
This past preseason has been nothing short of a nightmare for the Steelers’ special teams. Their unit found it difficult to correct their mistakes, and are entering the regular season with a huge question mark looming over their heads. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh had trouble with Tennessee’s special teams unit in last season’s Week 6 matchup when the Steelers surrendered a blocked punt that was recovered by the Titans on the one-yard line.
Since becoming the Steelers’ head coach in 2007, Mike Tomlin has a record of 4-2 in opening day games. Titans’ head coach Mike Munchak, who is entering his third year as coach, seemed to have Pittsburgh’s number in last year’s victory. However, the Steelers have arguably the best defensive coordinator in the league in Dick LeBeau.