When people talk about the Tennessee Titans, they understandably focus on running back Derrick Henry, who over the span of his past 16 games played dating back to last season, including the playoffs, has rushed for over 2000 yards with 20 touchdowns. He has 123 rushing attempts in five games already this season for a league-leading 588 yards.
But focusing exclusively on the running game does yourself a disservice if you choose to overlook Ryan Tannehill and how efficient their passing game has been. He has the third-highest quarterback rating in the league right now, completing 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 1368 yards with 13 touchdowns to two interceptions. Only Russell Wilson’s absurd 11.2 touchdown percentage is higher than Tannehill’s right now at 7.5 (Ben Roethlisberger is eighth at 6.7 percent, which would be the second-highest of his career).
“This guy’s making great decisions. He’s taking care of the ball. He’s spreading the ball around to a variety of eligible”, head coach Mike Tomlin said of the veteran quarterback yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “He’s utilizing his athleticism and mobility whether it’s by design or impromptu very well and very prudently. They’re utilizing it very prudently. They give you a lot of things to work on. They possess the ball. They dominate the game, and they control the game over the course of 60 minutes. Man, we have a full day’s work”.
Tannehill was originally the eighth-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. While he showed a lot of life here and there, inconsistency and injuries saw many ultimately write him off as a long-term solution for any franchise, but he has rejuvenated his career in Tennessee.
Over the past 15 games in the regular season, he has completed 322 of 456 passes for 4110 yards with 35 touchdown passes to eight interceptions and a quarterback rating of 116.0. Statistically, he has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league during this stretch.
Now, at the same time, a lot of his success is built around the run game and exploiting the play-action pass. The Steelers’ goal will still be to stop the run and put the ball in his hands. That is always the plan against every team.
But this team has weapons, now with Corey Davis back at wide receiver. He caught 15 passes for 206 yards and a score in just three games earlier this year. A.J. Brown has returned from injury and has caught 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns this year in three games.
They do have a situation with leading tight end Jonnu Smith nursing an ankle injury. It’s unclear if he will be a go Sunday. They also lost left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season. But none of that will matter if they can’t stop Tannehill and Henry.