The Titans will face their toughest challenge yet on Sunday, facing the 5-0 Steelers. The Titans also sit at 5-0 after they decimated the Bills and came back against the Texans last week. Despite the Titans’ complications with Covid-19, they are back on track and playing very good football.
Steelers scouting report:
The Steelers are lead by their strong, well rounded defense and their playmakers on offense. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they lost linebacker Devin Bush to a season ending knee injury last week. Regardless, their defense is filled with very skillful players like linebacker, T.J. Watt, Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Defensive End, Cameron Heyward.
This season, Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger returned from an elbow injury that sidelined him for the majority of last season. Roethlisberger has bounced back pretty well, throwing 11 touchdowns in 5 games and throwing for 1,178 yards. While I am not scared of Ben Roethlisberger, I am scared of the playmakers around him. Roethlisberger has many weapons such as receivers Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster and RB James Conner.
Keys to the game
1. Run the ball against the Steelers’ tough defense
Derrick Henry and the Titans run game has been critical in every game for the last year. When Derrick Henry rushes for over 100 yards in a game, the Titans are an astounding 15-0. Henry has been dominant this season, most recently recording 256 total yards and 2 touchdowns. The Steelers defense has given up the least rushing yards in the NFL which will give Henry a difficult task. When Henry gets going, he really gets going. Also, as Henry runs better, that allows for ,more play action and screens, which often result in big plays for the Titans. Last week, the Titans lost LT Taylor Lewan to a season-ending knee injury. Lewan's injury will effect the run game though I am more worried about pass protection. Titans RB Jeremy McNichols has also provided a nice change of pace from Henry which is what we expected from 2020 draft pick, Darrynton Evans. McNichols has shown his speed and has had 16 carries this season.
2. Contain the Steelers Receivers
The Steelers have a very strong group of receivers led by rookie Chase Claypool who has emerged as of late. Claypool is 6’4, 238lbs and has scored 6 total touchdowns this season, 4 receiving and 2 rushing. Claypool is very difficult to stop and has played extremely well recently, scoring 4 touchdowns in Week 5. Claypool is accompanied by Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Ray Ray McCloud, and James Washington at receiver. Johnson, Washington, and McCloud bring dangerous speed while Smith-Schuster catches the ball consistently when targeted.
The Titans secondary has been one of the biggest problems through 6 weeks and they face a tough task in Week 7. Titans’ corner, Adoree Jackson, will not be returning from IR this week which leaves Malcom Butler, Kristian Fulton, Jonathan Joseph, and Chris Jackson at corner. The Titans must avoid giving up big plays and simply contain the Steelers, even if it means giving up decent yardage. While this is not a favorable matchup, containing the Steelers receivers will be paramount in Week 7.
3. Take care of the ball
The Titans lead the league in turnover differential at +6 with the Steelers close behind with a differential of +5. In last week’s game with the Texans, the Titans one turnover, a Tannehill interception, was nearly very costly. Since the Steelers are so well rounded, taking care of the ball will be very important as each possession will be major. The Steelers defense is filled with players who make plays and cause turnovers, making it very important to protect the ball.
This is one the Titans biggest regular season game in a long time. Not only is it two 5-0 teams but the winner of Sundays game will sit atop the AFC. Additionally, this game has had extensive media coverage which is something abnormal for the Titans. Notably, ESPN’s Ryan Clark questioned Derrick Henry’s “bravery” as well as claimed that Ryan Tannehill will struggle against Pittsburgh. He said that the the game “won't be close” and the Steelers will win by at least 2 scores. An important fact that has not been mentioned is that Ryan Clark played for the Steelers for 8 seasons. A bit biased, maybe?
The comments come around 3:05 and beyond
While this isn't very important, it is interesting to see the national media’s perception of the Titans when in all likelihood, most of them have not watched the Titans very much.
Other media members such as Max Kellerman, who is in the clip above, believes Ryan Tannehill is an MVP candidate and that Derrick Henry should also be in that discussion. Others think Tannehill's remarkable play is a fluke despite him playing at this level for an entire year.
QB Ryan Tannehill has been exceptional through 6 weeks. Tannehill has made some incredible throws but most importantly, has found a way to lead the Titans to 5 straight wins. He has spread the ball around well and for the first time since Week 12 of last season, Jonnu Smith, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries are all healthy and will play on Sunday. While Tannehill has not put up insane numbers, he has been extremely consistent and has had a great season so far.
It is time for players such as Jadeveon Clowney to finally make plays. As I mentioned above, each possession will be paramount and if someone like Clowney or Vic Beasley can cause a turnover, it'll be huge. The pass rush must expand beyond Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry and Sunday would be a perfect time for that to happen.
I am predicting a narrow win for the Titans on Sunday. I think Ryan Tannehill will prove the doubters wrong as he has done so many times this season.
Sunday's game will be a tough one. The Titans' have some serious momentum and are earning a reputation for themselves.