The bout was initially scheduled to be played Week 4; however, due to the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak, it was postponed. The long-awaited matchup is finally here, and it may have Super Bowl implications.
There have been five matchups between undefeated teams with at least six wins in the Super Bowl era. The winner of each of those matchups has gone on to represent their conference in the Super Bowl.
The Titans running game finally found their groove last week against the Texans. Derrick Henry ran for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. Prior to the Texans game, the Titans rushing attack was only averaging 3.9 yards per rush which ranked 25th in the NFL at the time.
Going up against one of the worst rushing defenses proved to be remedy for Tennessee.
Henry and the offense led the Titans to another comeback victory. Ryan Tannehill also threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. However, the Titans defense was abysmal once again. Deshaun Watson had a near-perfect quarterback rating and torched the Titans secondary, throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans converted 50% of their third downs and had zero turnovers.
If the Titans wish to beat another undefeated team, then their defense will either have to button up on the back end or win the turnover differential.
Steelers Defensive Line vs. Titans Offense
The Titans offense will face a top-ranked defense come Sunday. With the loss of Taylor Lewan to a season-ending ACL tear, the offensive line will have to hold its own against an impressive Steelers front-seven. The Steelers allow the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL. They also happen to be second in fewest rushing yards per attempt at 3.3 yards. This defensive line will be the toughest task that the Titans have faced so far this season.
It should be noted that, before Derrick Henry’s monster game against the Texans, the Titans rushing attack was struggling. They were ranked in the bottom-half of the league in yards per rush. After facing the league’s worst rushing defense, Henry now leads the NFL in rushing yards and is second in rushing touchdowns.
Was the Texans game just an anomaly? It will be interesting to see how the Steelers’ defensive line plans to contain Derrick Henry.
Not only do the Steelers boast an impressive rushing defense, but they also get after the quarterback very well. With talented outside linebackers such as T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh’s defensive line poses a threat against any offense. The Steelers lead the league in sacks per game at just under five sacks. They have three defensive players who rank in the top 12 sack leaders in the NFL. Taylor Lewan’s absence will be massive. The Titans offensive line must protect their MVP candidate quarterback and continue their momentum in the running game for Derrick Henry.
Big Ben vs. Titans Secondary
After missing the majority of last year due to a season-ending elbow injury, Ben Roethlisberger looks like his old self this season. Big Ben is completing almost 70% of his passes this year and has thrown 11 touchdowns to only one interception. He has the sixth-best quarterback rating in the NFL.
The Titans secondary has been poor all season and it does not look like that will change anytime soon. Deshaun Watson threw for over 300 yards last week, and the Titans have allowed a 100-yard receiver in three straight games. Adoree’ Jackson’s absence has really hurt the Titans. They have had inconsistent play from their cornerbacks, and their talented defensive line has not alleviated their issues. The Titans only average 1.4 sacks per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Jadeveon Clowney has yet to register a sack so far this season.
At the moment, Clowney has yet to fulfill the expectations the Titans have had, especially after signing him for $15 million this year.
One factor that has helped the Titans defense is creating turnovers and gifting more possessions to a potent offense.
They are tied for first in turnover differential at +6. It is the one area on defense where the Titans excel, and it makes up for how many yards they allow per game. However, the Steelers are right behind them in that category. Pittsburgh is second in the NFL in turnover differential at +5.
Although it may sound cliché, the team that wins the turnover battle will win the game.
If the Tennessee Titans’ first five games are any indication, this game will come down to the last possession.
Both teams pose a threat on the offensive side of the ball, and we have two quarterbacks who are playing efficient football. I expect another high-scoring game from the Titans, but the Steelers have a significantly better defense equipped to win this game.
I believe the Steelers’ defensive line and secondary will create more turnovers and present their offense with a late-game drive to edge out a victory.
Pick: Steelers 31, Titans 30
(Featured Image Credit: TennesseeTitans.com)