The Steelers and Titans face off at Heinz Field this Sunday afternoon. These teams met last season, and the Titans came out victorious that night. Like last year, the Steelers are undoubtedly the more talented of the two teams. Of course, that didn’t mean much last year, so this could be a toughly contested match-up.
Jake Locker started 11 games for the Titans in 2012. Locker threw for 10 touchdowns, 11 picks, and 2,176 yards. Locker’s accuracy as a passer is very inconsistent. He’s also very poor at handling pressure. And it’s also been said that Locker could be used in the read option; that’ll be something interesting to watch.
Ben Roethlisberger is entering his 10th year of his NFL career. I’ve said this 1,000 times, or at least that’s how much I’ve felt I said it: Roethlisberger must have a big year in 2013 in order for the Steelers to be successful. And for that to happen, he must remain healthy for at least 13 games. Ben was playing like an MVP until he was injured against the Chiefs last season.
Edge – Steelers
Steelers Offensive Line Vs. Titans Front Seven:
The Steelers have a very young offensive line. Their oldest player on the line is 27 years of age in LG Ramon Foster.
The Titans play in a 4-3 scheme, and they have two talented pass rushers in defensive ends. Steelers LT Mike Adams will be handling Titans DE Kameron Wimbley. Wimbley is a gifted pass rusher, but he’s not great against the run. Adams has to protect the edge, otherwise, Wimbley will have his way with him. Wimbley recorded 7 sacks and 47 QB hurries in 2012.
On the other side, Marcus Gilbert will have his hands full with Derrick Morgan. Morgan can generate a lot of pressure; Gilbert could be in for a long day. Morgan is also good against the run. I believe this a huge match-up advantage in favor of the Titans.
The Titans have 3 very effective defensive tackles. Sammie Lee Hill is the team’s starting left DT. He has good quickness, but lacks power. RG David DeCastro will the be Steeler handling Hill most of the game. Against DeCastro, Hill will not be an issue for the Steelers.
The Titans starting right defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, could cause problems for the Steelers. LG Ramon Foster will be lining up against Casey. Casey is a force against the run, but he’s not going to be very effective in passing situations.
Also keep an eye out for Titans DT Mike Martin. He will be subbed in the game every now and then. Martin made a lot of plays as a rookie with his little playing time.
The Titans’ linebacker corps is very lackluster. Their middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is very non-threatening. Their weakside linebacker Zach Brown can make plays, but he’s not a very good run defender. Akeem Ayers, starting strongside linebacker, is the star of this mediocre group. Ayers is a threat as a pass rusher, and he can play against the run.
Thanks to the Titans very good defensive line, they edge out the Steelers in this category.
Edge – Titans
Titans Offensive Line Vs. Steelers Front Seven
We’ll start off here with the most interesting matchup: Titans LT Michael Roos versus ROLB Jason Worilds/ Jarvis Jones. Worilds and Jones are currently co-starters for Sunday’s game, so expect a lot of rotating between the two. Roos allowed just 4 sacks last season. He’s one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Roos knows how to shutdown speedy edge rushers; that will be a problem for Jarvis Jones. It doesn’t look like the Steelers will be getting much pressure against Roos.
RT David Stewart is also an excellent offensive tackle, but he’ll have his hands full with OLB LaMarr Woodley. This is going to be a dog fight between these two players. Woodley has had two rather down years in a row. If Woodley were to come up with a sack or two in this game, that would be huge.
It’ll be interesting to see how center Rob Turner will do in his first game as a Titan. He will get a heavy dose of Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon. Both guards will see their first game in a Titans uniform as well. RG Chance Warmack was selected by the Titans in the first round in April. He’s going to be a huge difference maker for this team in 2013.
Edge – Steelers
Titans Receivers Versus Steelers Secondary
Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are the Titans’ starting wide receivers. Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen are the Steelers’ starting cornerbacks. The Steelers have an obvious advantage between those four players. Ike Taylor is going to be the shutdown corner he always is. And Cortez Allen boasts the ability to create turnovers, especially against a young quarterback such as Jake Locker.
The Titans could create problems in the slot with Justin Hunter or Kendall Wright. Hunter is a big physical receiver that can go vertical.
TE Delanie Walker is also going to be in a Titans’ uniform for the first time this Sunday. Walker is going to have his chance in 2013 to prove he’s a No.1 TE.
Of course, the Steelers have one of the best safety combinations in the NFL. Ryan Clark has been one of the most consistent players on the Steelers defense for a couple of years. And Troy Polamalu looked exceptionally well in preseason play. Perhaps we could see Polamalu like his old self again in 2013.
Edge – Steelers
Steelers Receivers Versus Titans Secondary
CB Jason McCourty is very solid. He’ll have his hands full covering the Steelers receivers. Alterraun Verner is also a good cornerback, but I think the Steelers receivers are going to be too much for the Titans. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are going to make plays.
At the safety positions, the Titans have Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin. Bernard Pollard is a big upgrade for this defense, but Griffin is still not very good.
The tight end situation is a mess for the Steelers right now, but I don’t think it’s going to matter.
Edge – Steelers
Titans Keys to Victory:
1. Pressure Big Ben
The Titans have two very good edge rushers. I doubt the Steelers are going to get very much out of the run game, so the Titans must find a way to get Roethlisberger on his back.
2. Feed Chris Johnson and Hope For the Best
Jake Locker isn’t going to win this game passing the ball over 25 times; it’s just not going to happen. Chris Johnson has to be effective in this game, but unfortunately I don’t see that happening.
Steelers Keys to Victory:
1. Ben Roethlisberger Must Have a Good Game
This isn’t just a key for the game, but it’s a key for the entire season. This is the last time I will put this in a game preview article, because it is set in stone for every game as of now.
2. Don’t Turn the Football Over or Make Stupid Mistakes
The 2012 Steelers made so many dumb mistakes, it is ridiculous. I saw many shades of the 2012 Steelers in the 2013 preseason. It is time to turn a new leaf or face the consequences.
3. Stop Chris Johnson
The Steelers have done a good job of stopping Chris Johnson over the years, and that must continue on Sunday. Jake Locker is not going to throw for 300 yards on the Steelers defense. Johnson is the Titans’ only hope.