Biggest Questions Facing Tennessee Titans in Week 1 Contest with Steelers
There are tons of questions swirling around both of these teams, with the Steelers not getting nearly the amount of hype that they usually get.
As for the Titans, they're looking to surprise everyone with an eye-opening road win in Pittsburgh with a team that has several new pieces.
This is a huge game for the Titans to get 2013 off on the right foot. There's still a sour taste lingering around after a 6-10 record in 2012.
There would be no better way to get rid of that nasty taste than to defeat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and prepare for a matchup with the Texans in Week 2.
Here are some of the biggest questions heading into the Titans' very important season opener with the Steelers.
Will the Defense Be Improved with Gregg Williams?
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Despite the additions of Bernard Pollard and George Wilson in the secondary, the defense still looks very similar to the defense that got shredded for a franchise record 471 points.
That embarrassing total was last in the NFL.
There is nowhere to go but up for this defense. The question is how much will they improve, because they have to show vast improvement to give this team a chance in Pittsburgh.
Another key addition that should help the run defense is the addition of Sammie Lee Hill, and he'll need to make an impact to shutdown a Steelers running game that is stoppable.
The Titans can't afford to struggle against the Steelers running back trio of Isaac Redman, Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling. It could end up being another long season if the Titans get shredded by these three guys.
Mike Wallace is also no longer in Pittsburgh, so the Titans will need to key in on containing Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. That's certainly not a tall task with what figures to be a much improved secondary.
Better pass coverage, and no Wallace, should allow the Titans pass rush to put some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.
It also looks like the Steelers will be without Heath Miller in this game, who had six catches for 67 yards in their meeting last season.
The Titans defense should be able to keep the Steelers below 20 points if they have improved in any way.
Is Jake Locker Ready to Lead?
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Plenty of excuses could be made for why Jake Locker's first full season as a a starter went the way it did. Injuries plagued the offensive line, the defense was horrendous and the running game was unreliable.
The list could go on and on as to what went wrong, but it's now time for Locker to prove his worth as a NFL starting quarterback.
Locker doesn't have to wait long at all to show everyone that he's ready to lead this offense as he has to go on the road to take on a Steelers defense that still needs to be highly respected.
A loss won't necessarily condemn Locker as not being ready to lead this team. However, Locker does have to manage the game effectively, and avoid the big mistakes that can change the outlook of the game in seconds.
Locker has the pieces around him to be successful, and it starts with the new offense that has been installed to tailor to his strengths.
Expect Locker to use his legs a few times in this game, as well as his arm.
If Locker gets out of this game without any ugly turnovers, then there will be reason for optimism for him this season.
How Will the Touches Be Divided out in Running Game?
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Not only is Shonn Greene in the mix for some of Chris Johnson's offensive touches, but you have to give Jackie Battle some possible opportunities as well.
It will be very interesting to see how the flow of the game dictates how the touches are divided out between these three guys.
Johnson is still going to be the guy that carries the bulk of the load in the running game, but Greene could also end up getting several carries if he's having success.
In a recent interview done on the Titans official website, Greene seemed completely on board with backing up Johnson and accepting his role on the team. Having that understanding between two running backs that will be sharing the load is a huge plus to how successful they can be working together.
It's been completely Johnson's show since his rookie year when LenDale White was still on the team. How effectively Johnson is used with the other running backs will be a significant key to the Titans' success in this game, and the entire season.
What Should Be Expected from Justin Hunter Early On?
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Justin Hunter has frustrated coaches all throughout training camp with stupid mistakes, according to a piece done by Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean back in August.
A strong performance in his first regular season game in the NFL would silence all of that noise.
The Titans will be a tough team to stop for an opposing defense if Hunter has a smooth and quick transition to the NFL. He could really end up stretching the field for a Titans offense that has had trouble with that in recent memory.
We'll get a good idea of how far along Hunter actually is by how he plays in this game. He probably won't put up huge numbers, but a couple catches to help the offense will be a promising sign of things to come.
If Hunter does manage to snag a touchdown and tally up some big yardage, then there will no shortage of excitement about what this offense may be able to accomplish in 2013.
Can Delanie Walker Replace the Production Lost from Jared Cook?
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Delanie Walker won't be confused for being a tight end that is going to push for 1,000 yards and catch a bunch of touchdowns. He's just not that type of player.
With that said, the Titans still plan for him to have a huge impact on this offense. He's a great blocker, and will also chip in on special teams.
This tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says that Walker is finally ready to go after having his knee scoped just a month ago.
Titans announce TE Delanie Walker has passed his physical and was taken off the physically unable to perform list.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 19, 2013
The Titans will need production from their tight ends in this game against the Steelers. Cook was a guy who could light up the box score on any given week. Can Walker be relied upon on as a receiver as well, or will guys like Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson contribute more as receiving tight ends?
Keep on eye on Walker to see how the Titans use him in this game. He should get plenty of targets from Jake Locker.