Tennessee Titans: What to Make of the Loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers?
The short answer is "not much," but that doesn't tell you an awful lot.
The longer answer requires looking at all the games this season and it starts at the offensive line. The Titans offensive line appears to be an absolute conundrum. At times, they play at an elite-level altogether, then at other times, they look like they did against the Steelers.
An example of the good O-line is the Ravens game. Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was described in NFL Network's Top 100 players special as "unblockable." That says it all.
Ngata is the best tackle in the game and he usually dominates his competition. Not so against the Titans.
Ngata rarely got any form of penetration and didn't even get a quarterback hit, much less a sack. That whole game, despite Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Terrell Suggs playing in the front seven, the Titans gave up no sacks and only two quarterback hits.
Fast forward to the Steelers. Despite being decimated by injury and age, the Steelers hit Hasselbeck seven times and sacked him three.
Why the inconsistency? The Steelers are not as good as the Ravens, even though the Ravens had a bit of an off day against the Titans.
Inconsistency strikes in another area as well: Penalties. The Titans have 39 penalties that were called against them so far this season. 11 of those came against the Broncos and 10 came from the Steelers.
What I take from this is that the Titans play with their hearts on their sleeves. Kyle Orton called the Titans "dirty" a season ago and so the Titans came out in anger and racked up defensive penalties. The Steelers took a big, early lead, so the Titans got angry and started getting more penalties. To make things worse, Mike Heimerdinger died the week before the Steelers game and you can't tell me that it didn't affect the team.
What will the Titans' record be this season?
Whatever the reason, I see all this inconsistency as a positive thing.
So why are the Titans playing with so much emotion right now, and with such inconsistency? How could I possibly see such wild inconsistency as a good thing?
Mike Munchak has been with the Titans for a long time, but he's filling a new role now. The offensive linemen are playing with a new coach over them. Sometimes, they get out there and play like they've been playing together with the same guys for four or five years.
Other times, they play like a squad under a new position coach. That happened against the Jaguars and the Steelers.
What I see from the line is that when they get used to their new position coach, Bruce Matthews, they'll be one elite, cohesive unit again. Until then, there'll be off games.
What about the penalties? Well, guess what group you don't see the penalties from? The rookies.
The Titans most recent draft class continually impresses me. Munchak has definitely started to change the culture of the Titans locker room by going after high character leaders before ultra-talented guys with off the field issues.
The Titans are going through a cultural shift right now that will make them a better team in the end, but will hamper them a little bit here and there until they get "there." They aren't there yet, and everyone knows it, but where some see inconsistency as a negative thing weighing down a good team, I see flashes of greatness elevating a mediocre team.
Against the Steelers, there were simply fewer of those flashes. Against the Ravens, there were a lot more. As the Titans settle into their new coaching staff and players, expect more games to look like the Ravens game.
Good things are coming for the Titans. They won't be ready this season, but if you look for it, you can see that they're on their way.
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