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Friday, October 7, 2011

Sportaholic Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 12:00PM CDT

TV: CBS






The Titans made it look easy last week against Cleveland as they put a 34-13 beat down on the Browns. Matt Hasselbeck was the man once again, as he passed for 220 yards on only 10 completions and had three of those go for TDs. Even Chris Johnson got on track somewhat as he had his first game of over 100 yards finishing with 101 on 23 carries. The offense has looked downright dominant at times so far this season. On the other hand Cleveland’s offense sputtered and couldn’t get anything going besides dinks and dunks for from Colt McCoy who finished with a good statistical game going 40/61 for 350 yards and a TD pass. If you pass 61 times you should throw for a bunch of yards so I see no fault in that from the Titans defense. They limited the Browns big plays and took advantage of the lack of playmakers that Cleveland had. Jonathon Babineaux’s 97-yard TD return all but sealed the game for Tennessee.



Speaking of big plays, the Titans have been getting them all of the field from multiple sources. With Jared Cook, Nate Washington and now with Chris Johnson getting back in the mix, the Titans have explosive play capability. As long as Matt Hasselbeck is able to stay upright, then he will deliver the ball accurately. The Titans now take their show on the road with all this momentum in what is a great time to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the reeling Super Bowl runner-ups. The Steelers suffered more than just a loss to Houston last week as a number of their key players suffered injuries. Intimidating LB James Harrison broke his orbital bone and won’t play, Rashard Mendenhall is questionable and the biggest banged up star of them all Ben Rothlisberger has been in a walking boot all week but will likely give it a go. This current version of Pittsburgh is not what most football fans are use to seeing. The marauding defense has looked flat out old at certain points this season. The Pittsburgh offensive line has been in shambles as they have suffered a rash of injuries to their linemen that led them to sign former starter Max Starks. I guess you have to pull out all the stops when your QB by 14 sacks, third most in the league. Big Ben in response to all the pressure has probably played some of the worst football of his 8-year career in return posting an 80.2 QB rating with 5 Ints and 4 fumbles so far.



The Titans should be out for a taste of revenge after last season’s 19-11 defeat at the hand of these same Steelers. They physically imposed their will on Tennessee last year and had Vince Young so flustered he had to be taken out of the game for Kerry Collins. This year is almost a 180 degree difference at QB with Matt Hasselbeck in the saddle. He is familiar with facing defenses and this shouldn’t be but another game for the 13 year vet. The Steelers also allowed Houston RB Arian Foster to rush for over 150 yards. That’s unheard of against a Mike Tomlin coached team. It has a lot to do with the injuries they have on that side of the ball but it also means that Chris Johnson should have a favorable match up this week. The addition of Ahmard Hall should boost Johnson even more as he comes back from a 4-game performance enhancement suspension. He will have his chances with no Harrison coming his way but Harrison’s fill in Lawerence Timmons isn’t a slouch either.



Let’s take a look at the keys for the Titans to win the game:



1. The Titans need to get after Big Ben: As I stated earlier in this column, Roethlisberger has been sacked 14 times so far this year and as a result his stats are among the worst ever in his career. To top things off, he suffered a sprained foot rather if the Steelers want to admit it or not. He’s been in a walking boot all week after being taken down multiple times by the Texans last week. The Titans will need to continue the harassment of Ben to be able to disrupt the Steelers offense. Rashard Mendenhall is questionable so that puts even more pressure on Roethlisberger and the passing game if he is not able to go. The Titans defense already has 10 sacks so far this season and if they want to take down Pittsburgh they will need more of the same.



2. Who steps up for Hasselbeck this week? The loss of Kenny Britt has forced the entire receiving corps to step up their game. Last week it was Jared Cook who stepped up and made big plays in the passing game including a game breaking 80-yard TD haul that displayed his speed and athleticism. You could tell the defender underestimated Cook’s speed and he paid dearly for it. Nate Washington just needs to keep doing what he is doing. This four game stretch is the most consistent I’ve seen him play in a Titans uniform. All of the receivers seem to be benefiting from the stability Hasselbeck has brought to the QB situation as it was a revolving door open the past few years with Vince Young and Kerry Collins. He also has brought the big play with him as the Titans are making plays in the passing game and not just relying on big runs from Chris Johnson. They have to keep it up to maintain a level of unpredictability on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Johnson will get involved more but for now the passing game is clicking and if its not broke don’t fix it. Look for Hasselbeck to continue to spread the wealth.



3. Will the Titans come out and make this there statement game? Lets be honest here, most people, pundits and predictions didn’t have the Titans being 3-1 at this point of the season and many still don’t believe this team is legit. This is a chance for the Titans to lay claim to being one of the best teams in league in dramatic fashion. They can dismantle the team that has generally dominated the AFC with New England in recent memory and bury them even deeper in the loss column. This game will go a long way in determining if the Titans have what it takes to contend with the top teams. They have every reason to win this game with the injuries that Pittsburgh is facing and all of the momentum they have going into this one. You have to win the ones your suppose to in this league. If Tennessee wants respect then they have to earn it and there is no better place to go take it then in Pittsburgh. We will see what the Titans are made of after this game.



NOTES:

TITANS: Seek 4th consecutive win…In past 2, QB MATT HASSELBECK has 5 TDs vs. 1 INT & 119 passer rating. Hasselbeck aims for 5th consecutive game with 100+ passer rating. Has 8 TD passes this season – his most in 1st 4 games of any of his 11 seasons as starting NFL QB…RB CHRIS JOHNSON (101 yards) record 25th career game with 100+ rush yards last week. Johnson (5,907) needs 93 scrimmage yards to reach 6,000 career…WR NATE WASHINGTON spent 4 seasons (2005-08) with Steelers…TE JARED COOK had career-long 80-yard TD rec. last week – longest TD catch by Titans/Oilers TE sinceWILLIE FRAZIER on 11/6/64 (80). TE CRAIG STEVENS posted 1st TD catch in ’11 last week…Defense allows NFL-low 14 points per game in ’11…LB BARRETT RUUD leads team with 27 tackles…DE DERRICK MORGAN has sack in 2 of past 3…Rookie LB AKEEM AYERS (2nd round, No. 39) recorded 1st career sack last week...S JORDAN BABINEAUX had 97-yard INT-TD return last week, 3rd-longest in franchise history…STEELERS: Club has won 4 of past 5 at home…In 3 career games vs. Titans, QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is 2-1 & has completed 67 of 93 passes (72 pct.) for 910 yards with 5 TDs & 102.9 passer rating. Roethlisberger has 18-7 (.720) record as starter in Oct…RB RASHARD MENDENHALL has 6 rush TDs in past 7 games…WR HINES WARD (11,838) needs 67 rec. yards to surpass HOFerMICHAEL IRVIN (11,834) for 19th-most in NFL history. Has 100+ rec. yards (109, 103) in 2 of past 3 vs. Titans. WR MIKE WALLACE averages 113.5 rec. yards per game this season (454 total). Aims for 4th consecutive game with 100+ yards at home (102, 104, 126). 11 of WR ANTONIO BROWN’s 15 rec. have been for 1st downs (73.3 pct.) this season…TE HEATH MILLER (298) needs 2 catches to become 1st Pit. TE with 300 career…Defense allows 277 yards per game, 2nd-lowest in NFL this season (BENGALS, 275.5)…In last game vs. Ten., LB JAMES HARRISON had 2 sacks, 2 FFs & FR…S TROY POLAMALUhas 3 INTs in 5 career games vs. Titans



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