The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are facing off in a heavyweight matchup this Sunday. The two undefeated teams are will play at Nissan Stadium in a battle where each team’s strengths will be going head to head. Here are my keys for the Steelers if they want to come out of the game with a 6-0 record.
- Contain Derrick Henry
Normally, a key would be to stop the run, but make no mistake, there is no stopping Derrick Henry. Henry led the charge last week, as his 212 yard and two touchdown performance powered the Titans past the Texans. The Steelers have an elite rush defense, but this is their biggest test to date. Without middle linebacker Devin Bush, the task gets more difficult, but if Robert Spillane can tackle like he did last week versus the Browns, the Steelers may have a chance.
While the Steelers may be able to stop him on the ground, Henry is also key in the pass game. Henry’s ability to take check-down passes and turn them into big gains is an underrated part of his game. Once again, the lack of Bush will hurt Pittsburgh. Bush’s speed was key in covering the running back and keeping him under check in the pass game. If the Steelers cannot stop Henry in the pass game, the chances that they win decreases dramatically.
- Ben Must Play Well
Ben Roethlisberger is having a great season. He is making good reads and is not turning the football over. However, playing in Tennessee has been an achilles heel for him in his Hall-of-Fame career. When playing at Nissan Stadium, Roethlisberger is 1-2 and has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions, and he has also lost two fumbles in the three games.
The Titans score a lot and take care of the football, so if Roethlisberger has a poor game and turns the football over a few times, the Steelers will not have a chance to win this game.
- Get Pressure on Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill has been lights out since taking over at quarterback for the Titans. This season, working off the play-action game, Tannehill has tossed 13 touchdowns while only throwing two picks. Pittsburgh’s pass rush has been great this season, as they average 4.8 sacks per game and have a total of 24 sacks. If the Steelers want to cool down Tennessee’s electric offense, they need to get to Tannehill.
If the Steelers can make Tannehill feel uncomfortable in the pocket, they can possibly force him into an errand pass. Pittsburgh’s defense has been very opportunistic so far this season, recording an interception in each game, and if they can get the very tidy Tannehill to make a mistake, they have a good chance of coming out of the game with a victory.
- Control Time of Possession
Time of possession is one of the most underrated aspects of a game. Normally, if a team wins the time of possession, they win the game. The Titans have the number one offense in the NFL, and if they get more time with the football, the higher chance they score. That is why it is so important to control the clock. Pittsburgh needs to keep the ball out of Henry and Tannehill’s hands.
Pittsburgh can do this by letting running backs James Conner and Benny Snell pound the rock and wear out the Tennessee defense. The Steelers have done this all year, and even complement the run game with their short passing game. If Pittsburgh can continue to do this, like they have all season, they will be a very difficult team to beat.
- Secondary Needs to Be on Point
Pittsburgh’s secondary just put in their best performance last week against the Cleveland Browns. They will need a repeat performance, or wide receiver A.J. Brown will bully the Steelers all game long. Steven Nelson and Joe Haden need to put in their best performance to date. Tannehill, like brought up before, has been pinging passes up and down the field. With a receiver like Brown and his large frame, Nelson and Haden will need to be able to make acrobatic plays to break up passes.
If the Steelers let the Titans wide receivers run open all day long, they will have no shot at winning the game. It is crucial for Pittsburgh to cover well on Sunday, or they will be going home with a loss for the first time this season.
These are my keys to the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. This is their biggest challenge to date, and if they cannot check these boxes, it will be very hard for them to win on Sunday.
My prediction: Titans win.