Last week was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest game of the season to date, facing their first quality opponent and division rivals in the Cleveland Browns, who entered the game with a 4-1 record. Now this week will be the biggest game of the season to date—and the game after this against the Baltimore Ravens will be even bigger than that, but we’ll get to Ravens week after we get through the day.
Up next is the Tennessee Titans, and when you think of this team, you think of Derrick Henry and the running game. This is the most prolific running back in the NFL right now who has rushed for nearly 600 yards so far this year in five games. He will certainly put the Steelers’ second-ranked run defense to the test.
And they will face him without Devin Bush for the first time since he was drafted. The former first-rounder suffered a torn ACL a week ago, and his primary replacement will be former college free agent, second-year man Robert Spillane, who played 30 snaps after the injury last week.
While his teammates are confident in his ability to step up and fill in, everybody else will be paying close attention to see what kind of job he does. He is also expected to be given the green dot, but of course communication is a full team responsibility, not just one man.
Offensively, on the other hand, the Steelers have gotten some reinforcements, with David DeCastro returning after missing another game. Diontae Johnson has missed most of the past three weeks, so he will certainly be a welcome addition to the passing game.
In fact, this should be the first game in which we really kind of see the passing game running at full strength, now that everybody has kind of settled in. Chase Claypool was a rookie, of course, and is still learning, but Eric Ebron was also a new face, and Ben Roethlisberger is beginning to learn everybody’s rhythms.
Another exciting aspect of this game is the fact that the Titans’ defense can be run against, and the Steelers have been at their best so far this season when they have been able to run the ball. If they can manage to grab a lead, James Conner and company can get to work settling this one out and trying to keep the ball out of Henry’s mitts.
As always, the defensive pass rush will be critical. The good news is that the defense has defended the play-action pass well this year, which Ryan Tannehill relies upon nearly as much as any other quarterback in the league.
The Steelers also like to run blitz, and that has been an important part of their run defense in and of itself. Overall, I think they are well-positioned to counter this Titans team, but at the same time, they haven’t been on the road in a long time, or in front of hostile fans since 2019.