In a week six Thursday night match-up, the (2-2) Pittsburgh Steelers, fresh off a win against the Philadelphia Eagles, travel to LP Field to take on the (1-4) Tennessee Titans (8.20pm ET, Thursday October 11).
The Steelers are coming off that 16-14 victory over Philly that saw quarterback Ben Roethlisberger orchestrate a two-minute drive culminating in a time expiring go-ahead field goal. With the win, the Steelers improved to 2-2 on the season but at the same time, saw two huge pieces of their defense go down to injury.
The Titans meanwhile are completely reeling. Coming off a bad loss at the hands of the undefeated Houston Texans, the Titans went on to get crushed by the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 30-7. In giving up 30+ points in each of their five games so far, the team is on pace to set an NFL record for most points allowed in a season.
On top of that, the Titans received news that quarterback Jake Locker, wide receiver Kenny Britt and second string running back Javon Ringer, could miss significant time. None of the three are expected to go against the Steelers.
Currently ranked third in opponent’s passing yards with 184.8 and 11th in opponent’s rushing yards with 95.3, the Steelers have proven this season that when their defense is good, it is really good. Unfortunately, the team has also proven in two losses, that when the defense is bad, it is really bad.
Pittsburgh opened their season banged up as both safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison were unable to go. With Harrison out, the Denver Broncos run game had some breathing room, allowing running back Willis McGahee to go for 64 yards. The absence of Polamalu proved to be more costly however as with him out of the game, the Broncos were able to utilize single coverage on their receivers. Not having to worry about Polamalu and his 29 career interceptions, Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had a monster day. He caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos beat the Steelers 31-19 in Denver.
It was against the Oakland Raiders that Harrison’s presence up the middle was sorely missed. Even though the Steelers kept up with the Raiders score for score, it was the inability of the team to stop the run game that really hurt them. Raiders’ running back went for 113 yards on 18 carries and scored a TD as the Raiders got their only win of the season by a score of 34-31.
In their two wins this season however, the Steelers have put up a great defense.
Against the NY Jets, the Steelers frustrated Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez. They sacked him twice and had pressure on him all game allowing him to complete just 37 percent of his passes. The Steelers also forced and recovered a fumble in this game.
Facing the Eagles, with both Polamalu and Harrison back on the field, the Steelers played their best defensive game all season. They limited Michael Vick and the Eagles offense to just 14 points, all in the second half. They forced Vick to fumble twice and sacked the QB another three times. They held the Eagles to just 78 yards on the ground and 168 in the air.
At this point in the season it is fair to say that the Titans don’t have much of a defense. They are ranked 25th in opponent’s passing yards and 28th in opponent’s rushing yards. The Titans have faced, in order: Tom Brady (9th ranked offense), Philip Rivers (19th), Matthew Stafford (2nd), Matt Schaub (20th) and Christian Ponder (24th). They have been beaten by good quarterbacks but at the same time, have given up huge games to middle of the road QBs.
In addition, the Titans are dead last in the league in points allowed averaging 36.2 points a game. They are also 29th in total yards allowed at 423.8. The Titans are 28th in recorded sacks at just seven in five games and they are 20th in defensive interceptions. Unlike the Steelers, the Titans have no real play maker on defense and it has cost them this season.
The edge on offense clearly goes to the Steelers. Pittsburgh boasts one of the best wide receiver combos in Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, who on the season have combined for 44 receptions, 577 yards and four touchdowns. Pittsburgh also has a top five quarterback in Roethlisberger who has begun his 2012 season with a 100.6 rating, 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns.
They have the 11th best passing offense averaging 265 yards a game and with Rashard Mendenhall, who last year ran for 928 yards and nine touchdowns, back from injury, Pittsburgh should get a shot in the arm in the running game as well. The Steelers average 23.2 points a game which is 16th best and 347.8 total yards which is 18th best.
When a team is 1-4 with their only win being a 44-41 shootout that they just as easily could have lost, it is safe to say that team doesn’t really have much on offense. When you combine that with the fact that the Titans averaged just 11 points in their remaining four losses, then it really does not bode well for Tennessee.
Against the Steelers, the Titans will have an uphill battle. They ran 16th in the league in passing yards with 239.6 a game and are 30th in rushing yards with just over 65. Their top weapons in wide receiver Kenny Britt and quarterback Jake Locker are injured and running back Chris Johnson has not even been close to what has been expected of him. Needless to say, the Titans have limped out of the gate and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
Steelers at Titans Betting Picks
With both teams banged up and with short rest from a Sunday game to a Thursday game, the battle between these two teams will really be one of the walking wounded.
The Steelers are favorite and have to concede -5.5pts on the spread against this Tennessee team. Despite their own injuries on defense, the Steelers are my pick in this preview to easily cover this handicap.
- Bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is slightly worse value at -6pts for the same odds with Bovada. Non-Americans should bet with Bet365.