The Pittsburgh Steelers are only 2-2 going into week 6, but the weakness of their opponents for Thursday Night, the 1-4 Tennessee Titans, makes them overwhelming favorites to go above .500 for the first time in the 2012 NFL season.
The only thing the Titans have going for them is that the Steelers have lost both of their road games this season to the Broncos and the Raiders. Still, both of those AFC West teams weren’t as bad as the Titans have been so far this year. With Jake Locker they weren’t very good, but with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, years past his prime; with Chris Johnson who has lost all speed and ability to get anything from the outside; there simply isn’t much to be afraid of.
The Titans average 239.6 yards per game through the air; Durign their 30-7 loss to the Vikings last week, Hasselbeck threw for 200 yards, but the Titans had just 96 yards of offense through the final three quarters. Chris Johnson had the embarassing number of 24 yards on 15 carries, 1.6 per game. So far this season he has only 210 yards on 73 carries, 2.9 per game. He has run for 24 yards or less on four of the five games this season.
Cause for hope? The Steelers have allowed 3.1 yards per rush before contact, fifth-worst in the NFL, while Johnson is averaging only 1.8 yards before first contact this season. The Steelers have gotten to their opponents’ quarterbacks only 8 times this season, while the Titans have allowed only 8 sacks. The Steelers can stop the run (allowing 95 yards per game), but there won’t be much of it from the Titans, unless something unpredictable happens.
It’s pretty much up to how Ben Roethilsberger performs, which has been fantastic for him. The Steelers offensive line is doing a relatively good job in protecting Big Ben after their week 1 loss at Denver, and the quarterback has responded by throwing only one interception to his nine touchdowns, while completing 65.8% of his passes and ranked third with a 102.9 rating this season. The Steelers, the epitome of smash mouth football in the past, are a passing first and sometimes second team right now.
The Titans are terrible at stopping the run, allowing 144.8 yards per game. Being behind their opponents for most of the season probably has something to do with it, but still, this can be a fantastic opportunity for Pittsburgh, averaging only 79.5 yards per game so far on the ground (26th in the NFL) to get some kind of running game going – Rashard Mendenhall, back from injury, should get more touches than he did last week, which should help boost the lagging numbers a bit.
Prediction – The Steelers have won the last three between the teams, going back to 2009. Too much needs to happen that isn’t supposed to for the Titans, with a bad defense, bad quarterback an bad running game, to get their second win of the season.