The Pittsburgh Steelers currently find themselves in a three-way tie for last place in the AFC North division after the Cleveland Browns fell to 6-4 and the Cincinnati Bengals advanced to 6-3-1. With the Baltimore Ravens idle and the Steelers set to play tonight, all teams in the division have lost or tied in four of their 10 games played.
If Pittsburgh does win against the Tennessee Titans tonight, they will not be in first place—a 7-4 record would give them a winning percentage of .636, while the Bengals are at .650—they would seize sole possession of second place heading into their bye week, and would technically be temporarily slotted into the sixth seed in terms of playoff positioning.
And of course the Steelers still have two games against the Bengals later this year. But in order for that to matter, they have to get through the Titans in their home first. They may be a two-win team, starting a rookie quarterback, but this is a team that has already lost to two teams that currently have only two wins, one being against them.
In order to do so, they will need to have a better game on offense than they did last week, and that won’t be easy considering the way the offense has played on the road this year, scoring 13 points or less in four of five games outside of Heinz Field.
Of course, the real killer last week was all the turnovers, with Antonio Brown losing two fumbles and Ben Roethlisberger throwing two interceptions. It’s not often that the two best players on your team combine for four turnovers all on their own, and I don’t expect to see a repeat of that oddity.
The Titans don’t quite have the defensive front that the Steelers faced this week. They also fell behind 17-0 early, and that led to them abandoning the run. But Tennessee has not been good against the run this year.
Long-time Titans/Oilers player and coach Mike Munchak is bringing his new line back home, and they’ll be hungry to do some damage on the ground, which is an area in which they are conscious of their recent struggles.
Roethlisberger had been carrying the offense for a few weeks through excellent performances, but the offense needs to get more balanced with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount on the ground if they want to establish themselves as a playoff team. This seems like a good time to accomplish that—and maybe even see the team’s first rushing touchdown since Week Three.
At wide receiver, Martavis Bryant’s role seems to be expanding little by little every week. There doesn’t appear to be a clear number two receiver between himself and Markus Wheaton now, but six touchdowns in four games could do that.
We saw the good and the bad from him last week, rounding out a route that allowed the cornerback to play the ball, allowing the pass to be intercepted. He also failed to come back on a deep ball, but then did so later in the game for 45 yards, and ended the game with an 80-yard touchdown for the first 100-yard game of his young career.