A short week ahead for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they travel back home and prepare to welcome the Tennessee Titans for this week’s edition of Thursday Night Football. While many players and football pundits are not fans of a short week, Thursday’s matchup has the potential to be a good one between two of the AFC’s hottest teams. The Steelers (7-2) and Titans (6-3) have both won four straight games heading into their clash. Thursday’s matchup could play a huge part in the AFC playoff picture and below is all you will need to know for this crucial matchup.
Thursday Night Football has not been kind to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in recent years as the quarterback has only won one of his last five Thursday night contests. Since starting his career 6-1 on Thursday night, Roethlisberger has slumped to 1-4 since then. Though the wins have been few in recent years, Roethlisberger has put up impressive numbers on Thursday night. Roethlisberger is carrying a 16 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio and a 100.4 passer rating on Thursday nights, hopefully foreshadowing what is to come this Thursday against the Titans.
With a crowded backfield, the Titans are an offense built upon their ground game. That is why it is no surprise that the Titans are 4-0 this season when rushing for over 100 yards. The Steelers defense will have to negate the Titans rushing game if they hope to cruise to a comfortable victory. Thankfully the Steelers defense has been rounding into form as of late, holding their last four opponents to under 100 rushing yards. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler will have to find a way to extend this streak to five even with a short week ahead.
The Titans defense has only allowed 13.5 percent of third and 10+ attempts to be converted. Out of 37 plays run from third and long, only five have been successfully converted to move the chains. The Titans defense is especially stout against the pass on third and long, allowing only 46.4 percent of opposing quarterback’s passes to be completed. While the Steelers were able to squeak out a victory after facing many third and longs last Sunday, they may not have the same luck this Thursday.
Roethlisberger spoke earlier Tuesday morning about the potential for increased use for the no huddle offense Thursday due to the short week ahead. While the no huddle has had a reduced role in this year’s offense, Roethlisberger is currently carrying a 76.0 passer rating when operating in the no huddle offense this season. Roethlisberger’s no huddle numbers also include a 60-percent completion rate and no touchdowns to one interceptions. Though Roethlisberger’s average no huddle numbers likely have to do with a small sample size rather than consistent poor play as the quarterback has only attempted 60 passes in the no huddle compared to 246 when huddling.
While the short week has caused uproar from many players, one player who it has seemingly not affected is running back Le’Veon Bell. The NFL’s current leading rusher, Bell has rushed for 381 yards in four career Thursday night contests, averaging over five yards per carry as well. With many players still ailing from the bruising of Sunday’s victory, Bell could be expected to pick up the workload again during this short week.