Tennessee Titans: 4 Reasons Why They Will Beat the Pittsburgh Steelers
This season, Pittsburgh has been far from impressive. Boasting a 2-2 record, the Steelers can't help but look at this game as a must win.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans are rocking a 3-1 record and a team full of confidence. While they have been looking better each week, many still doubt the Titans ability to win games.
This Sunday, the Titans are put to the test and have a chance to prove their win over the Ravens was not a fluke.
Here are the four reasons they can, and will, beat the Steelers.
1. Pass Rush
The Titans defense has been nothing short of phenomenal this season.
Ranked first in points allowed, this defensive unit has a reputation for getting after the quarterback while producing turnovers in key situations.
All of this starts with a very underrated defensive line.
Headlined by guys most people have never heard of, the Titans defensive line has been playing outstanding so far.
In four games, the Titans d-line has forced seven of the team's 10 sacks. However, when they aren't recording sacks, they are creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Naturally, this hurries the quarterback and forces him to make mistakes.
On Sunday, the Titans should have a field day against Pittsburgh's weak offensive line. Coming into Week 5, the Steelers have allowed 14 sacks—tied for third most in the NFL.
Not to mention, starting guard Chris Kemoeatu is out on Sunday with a knee injury. This just increases the Titans chances of hitting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and hitting him early.
If the Steelers can't come up with a game plan or a magic wand to make this offensive line better at pass protection, they stand no chance against this Titans pass rush.
2. All-Pro Secondary
It is well known the Steelers have a ton of big play ability.
With receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers are more than capable of stretching the field.
Tied in the NFL at 10th in both passing plays over 20 yards, and passing plays over 40 yards, this offense has shown it is not afraid to throw the ball down field.
However, this may be difficult against the Titans who possess a secondary that often goes unnoticed.
There are only three teams in the NFL who have let up zero passing plays for over 40 yards in 2011. Ironically, two of these teams happen to be the Steelers and the Titans.
Additionally, the Titans have allowed the second least amount of plays over 20 yards through the air with nine. Who has allowed the least amount? Once again, it is the Steelers.
What I am trying to say here is, the Steelers have a reputation for having one of the best defenses in the NFL every year. This season, the Titans are right there with them in every defensive category.
Tennessee does not give up plays for huge gains, something the Steelers offense sometimes relies on. The Titans secondary features all-pro safety Michael Griffin and all-pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
While both players are known as physical, they both have the unrelenting ability to go and get the ball. While Griffin and Finnegan headline this secondary, third year cornerback Jason McCourty has quietly become one of the best players on this defense.
Accounting for a team leading 25 tackles and two interceptions, McCourty has done more than enough to show why he is starting for this Titans defense.
Due to the Titans capability of stopping the deep ball, look for the Steelers to struggle through the air and turn to their run game for support.
3. Chris Johnson
It is a well known fact Titans running back Chris Johnson has struggled this season.
After just reaching his first 100 yard rushing performance this season, Johnson has accumulated only 199 yards rushing on 69 carries.
This week, Johnson gets back an old friend.
According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Titans fullback Ahmard Hall has been reinstated by the NFL after serving a four game suspension for violating the league's policy for performance-enhancing substances.
While this may not seem like a big deal, it really is. Hall's absence is a huge part of why the Titans run game is ranked last in the NFL. What better way to come back and make an impact than by playing the Steelers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh's defense seems to have one weakness, and that weakness is their run defense. Allowing 119.5 yards per game on the ground, the Steelers have struggled to bottle up opposing running backs this season.
Against the Steelers, running backs have averaged 4.8 yards per carry. While also allowing three rushing touchdowns this season, the Steelers are tied for the fourth most runs allowed over 20 yards, and have allowed one run for over 40 yards.
This is something a big play running back, such as Chris Johnson, can thrive on.
Last week, the Steelers let Texans running back Arian Foster to run for 155 yards and a touchdown against them. This week, the task gets no easier when Chris Johnson comes to town, who is looking for a big game to get him back on track.
4. Steelers Injuries
Last, but not least, the reason the Titans will beat the Steelers on Sunday is because the Steelers are decimated with injuries.
When looking at the injury report for Pittsburgh, a few big names are listed as out for the game on Sunday.
Offensively, Rashard Mendenhall is listed as questionable, while backup running back Mewelde Moore is out.
This could hamper the Steelers offensively, as their last resort would be third string running back Isaac Redman.
On the defensive side of the ball, nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker James Harrison, and defensive end Aaron Smith, are all listed as out for Sunday's game. James Harrison's backup Jason Worilds is out as well.
This is huge for the Titans as these players, excluding Worilds, are all starters. While they all have a huge part in stopping the run game, they have a significant part in stopping the passing game as well, especially Harrison.
Without Harrison, the Steelers lose a majority of their pass rush and force linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons to move around into positions they may not be comfortable with.
It will be interesting to see how the Titans can take advantage of these injuries and if Chris Johnson can get things rolling against this banged up defense.
When it comes down to it, the deciding factor for this game will be who can run the ball more effectively. As I said earlier, both teams have great pass defenses.
Although the Titans do have a great passing game with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, expect them to run the ball a lot against an already struggling Steelers run defense.
Even if Rashard Mendenhall does play for the Steelers on Sunday, he will be going against the eighth best run defense in the NFL.
If the Titans play to their best capabilities defensively, they will shut down the Steelers run game on Sunday, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to drop back behind his shaky offensive line.
Offensively, Tennessee will run the ball a lot and hope Chris Johnson breaks a big run or two.
In the end, I see the Titans winning this game 24-14, in what is sure to be a defensive battle.