The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fourteenth regular season game of 2021 at home on Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans, and they’ll likely enter that contest marked as either a slight favorite or underdog. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field to come away with a much-needed seventh win of 2021 season.
Chase Buster – Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has faced quite a bit of criticism since a week ago Thursday night for his actions in the team’s Week 14 road loss. Those childish actions aside, Claypool still had a good receiving game overall in that Thursday night loss. On Sunday against the Titans, the Steelers offense will face a starting Tennessee cornerback in Buster Skrine, who not only is 32 years old, but is just 5’9” to boot. There will be several times on Sunday that Skrine lines up opposite Claypool in man-coverage and that will provide a huge advantage for the Steelers 6’4” wide receiver. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should look to go after Skrine quite a bit on Sunday and not only to Claypool, but to fellow wide receiver Diontae Johnson as well as he also matches up nicely against the Titans older and undersized cornerback.
Stop The Dadgum Run – The Steelers run defense has been atrocious this season. Not only has the defense allowed an average of 139.5 rushing yards per game so far this season, but the unit has also given up over 1,000 yards on the ground in total in the last six games. On Sunday at Heinz Field, the Steelers defense will face a Titans offense that will be looking to run and run a lot. The Steelers defense will get a break of sorts on Sunday, however, as Titans running back Derrick Henry, fullback Tory Carter and left guard Rodger Saffold will all miss the contest with injuries. The Steelers defense should have fresh bodies on Sunday as well in the form of defensive tackle Carlos Davis and inside linebacker Robert Spillane. The Titans offense just cannot be allowed to run 125 or more yards against the Steelers defense on Sunday.
Thirds Of Tannehill – The Steelers defense must get the Titans offense in as may third and long situations as possible on Sunday at Heinz Field. Why? Because Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been great in third and 6 or longer situations this season. In fact, Tannehill has not only been sacked nine time with one fumble on 3rd and 6 or longer plays so far this season, but he’s also thrown five interceptions as well. The Titans offense is one of the worst in the NFL this season when it comes to third down conversion percentages when 6 or more yards are needed. They have seven total turnovers this season on third downs when 6 or more yards are needed to boot.
Balls Out Quick – The Titans have a super formidable pass rush that the Steelers offense will face on Sunday. That pass rush group includes defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons defensive end Denico Autry,, and outside linebacker Harold Landry, just for starters. Those three players alone have combined to register 24.5 of the titans 32 total sacks on the season. The Titans also get back outside linebacker Bud Dupree on Sunday and the Steelers former first round draft pick will certainly be looking to remind Pittsburgh about what kind of player he is in his return to Heinz Field. The Titans front figures to be too much for the Steelers offensive line to handle for most of the game so Roethlisberger better make a very concentrated effort to not hold on to the football too long. Max protection should be used whenever Roethlisberger wants to drop back and go deep or wait for something to develop more than 12 yards down the field. Roethlisberger was sacked five times in Week 14 with a few of those being extremely hard hits. He cannot continue to take those kinds of hits on Sunday and that will be easier said than done because of how good the Titans pass rush is.
Clash The Titan Insiders – The Titans defense won’t have inside linebacker David Long on Sunday as he’ll miss the Week 15 game with an injury. Long being out could result in the Titans new defensive addition, inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, seeing his first action with his new team and thus logging snaps alongside fellow inside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown. Quite honestly, Evans, Brown and Cunningham all haven’t been overly impressive so far this season and the Titans defense really misses Long in the middle. The Steelers need utilize inside run game schemes in an effort to make those Titans inside linebackers be solid in gap integrity. Additionally, the Steelers offensive plan should force those inside linebackers to cover the likes of running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth as much as possible on Sunday. If used right on Sunday, Harris could potentially have his best game of the season if they properly attack the Titans inside linebackers.