As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in today’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
My prediction is at the bottom.
THE STEELERS WILL WIN IF…
1. They Win (Or At Least Compete) In The Trenches
In other words, don’t get their doors blown off the way the Minnesota Vikings did to them on both sides of the football. Derrick Henry’s absence sure helps, but right now, it feels like an opposing offense could pull anyone off the street and have them rush for a hundred. On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh must find a way to show efficiency against a stingy Titans’ run defense, a top-five unit. Pittsburgh is 30th in first down yardage and it’s really hurting them on later downs.
2. Pass Pro Is Better Equipped To Handle Aggressive, Blitz Looks
You can bet the Titans poured off that Vikings tape and how Mike Zimmer’s group got to Ben Roethlisberger five times. Tennessee doesn’t blitz a lot but when they do, it’s from creative looks that are similar to what the Steelers have done in the past. Stunts, twists, DBs coming, and the Titans run those “double barrel” looks with LBs in the A gaps, which gave the Steelers’ fits in Week 14.
3. Secondary Handles The Over
Just like with blitz looks, the Titans surely saw the success Minnesota had with their two-man over routes. Pittsburgh tried to play man and got out-leveraged repeatedly. Those over routes are very much part of Tennessee’s personality, and they mix up looks by breaking off routes or running double-moves off them (for example, a corner instead of the post/over). Most of those looks come off play action, so Pittsburgh must have disciplined eyes.
THE STEELERS WILL LOSE IF…
1. RB D’Onta Foreman Gets YAC
Foreman is the team’s lead runner with 55 carries since Henry went down. He hasn’t been terribly efficient and lacked big plays, but he’s a bruising runner who can push the pile forward if the Steelers let him. That’ll happen if the D-line can’t get off blocks and if they can’t gang tackle with multiple guys bringing him down. The worst feeling is when you think you have the back stopped for a one-yard gain on 1st and 10 and he squirms and fights his way for three more yards. Turns 2nd and 9 into 2nd and 6. Big difference.
2. WRs Can’t Win Their 1v1s
If there is a weakness for this Titans defense, it’s probably their cornerbacks, especially with Jackrabbit (Janoris) Jenkins not playing in this one. Receivers have to win their matchups, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Especially if the ball needs to come out hot against the blitz. Those guys need to make big plays. All the more if the run game is again stuck in the mud.
3. Defense Doesn’t Pick Off Tannehill
Tannehill isn’t having nearly as strong of a season as he did a year ago. He’s up to 13 INTs on the season, nearly double what he threw in 2020. Pittsburgh’s done a slightly better job creating turnovers lately, but they’re still far off the pace of what they did in 2019 and 2020. One or two interceptions feels like a must in a game like this.
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