As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) tonight’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 7 battle of undefeateds versus the Tennessee Titans.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They Keep Tennessee Off Script/Schedule
As obvious as obvious gets. They’ve mad essentially every team this season one-dimensional. But the heart and soul of the Titans is that ground game with Derrick Henry. Win the battle of the trenches and you put a lot of pressure on the rest of the team. Fail to do so and this win is going to be a lot more difficult. On paper though, I like the Steelers’ front seven against the Titans’ offensive line, especially now they’re without LT Taylor Lewan. Pittsburgh is of course missing Devin Bush but Robert Spillane’s calling card is playing the run.
2. AJ Brown Doesn’t Run Wild
Make no mistake. Even if the Titans can’t run, their offense isn’t shut down. There’s weapons across the board. Most notably Brown, the freaky WR overshadowed by DK Metcalf at Ole Miss but breaking out in the NFL. Steven Nelson will likely most often be matched up against him and it won’t be an easy one to win. When the Titans need a big play, they turn to Brown. But if Nelson and Keith Butler’s scheme can contain him, life will be much easier today.
3. Ben Roethlisberger Picks Apart The Titans’ Zone Defense
I don’t have the hard data to back it up but my eye test says the Titans play as much zone defense as anyone. Lot of spot drop zone too. They work hard to disguise things and don’t show the same coverage every time but a veteran, mentally sharp (even moreso than 2018) Ben Roethlisberger should be able to pick it apart. This is the type of game where you throw short, an offense centered around death by a thousand paper cuts. Deep ball could be tough to pull off but a guy like JuJu Smith-Schuster is poised to have a big game.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Steelers’ Struggle Vs Titans’ Zone Runs
Overall, the Steelers have an excellent run defense. We all know that. But if there’s a scheme they struggle with more, it’s zone runs. Try to straight up man-block and Pittsburgh will kick your butt. Just a more physical and stronger unit. But zone schemes? Sometimes this defense shows cracks, literally, a crease for a back to hit and get vertical. It’ll be harder to plug those holes without Devin Bush.
2. There’s Too Many Communication Errors
Following the lack of Devin Bush theme. Though he was new to being the team’s signal caller, it was a simple flow of information. Bush played every single snap so he wore the green dot and was always the QB of the defense. That changes starting today. If Robert Spillane or Vince Williams gets the green dot, they’re unlikely to be on the field 100% of the time so that responsibility will likely be held by multiple people. More people, more shuffling, more chances for miscommunication. That could prove costly.
3. Kevin Byard Comes Up Big
Byard’s been a star, ball-hawking safety since his days at Middle Tennessee State, balling out against Alabama. He’s their Minkah Fitzpatrick. Big-play safety offenses are smart to throw away from; according to Pro Football Reference, Byard’s been targeted just 15 times, awfully similar to Fitzpatrick’s 11. Byard hasn’t been too impactful this season, zero interceptions, but he has 17 over the previous three seasons. If Roethlisberger doesn’t know where he’s at, Byard will make him pay.
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