Despite going 6-10 last season and missing the playoffs for the 7th time in the past 10 years, the Tennessee Titans look poised to bounce back and give their AFC Rivals and the Pittsburgh Steelers a reason to never count the Titans out.
Although this game may seem pretty cut and dry, there is much more that meets the eye.
Even with the mighty steel curtain defense (#1 ranked defense last season), the Steelers overall look as debilitated as ever.
With 2nd round pick Le’Veon Bell sidelined due to injury and Rashard Mendenhall off to Arizona, the Steelers feeble running offense will be led by former Bowie State prospect Isaac Redman (410 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2012).
When compared with the rushing offense of the Titans with Chris Johnson (1,243 yards, 6 touchdowns last season) and Shonn Greene, the Steelers unfortunately do not have a clear cut starter anywhere in sight.
Mendenhall had that ability, but due to injuries and contract issues, he took his talents to Phoenix.
With Issac Redman thrust into the spotlight we must ask; can Issac Redman be that guy for the Steelers?
Can Redman be that player that has the ability to take the reigns lead this Steeler team to victory? I’m not so sure.
Regardless of Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler’s receiving abilities, the Steelers will be playing this opening day game with their backs against the wall.
Besides Chris Johnson and Kendall Wright, don’t expect to see this game on the highlight reels anytime soon.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia
When: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Game Rewind
What’s at Stake
In an AFC North-South cross-division battle, the stakes are incredibly high. This is the first week of the Season. A week that will leave teams 0-1 and starting from scratch or 1-0 and looking to bigger and better things. Some skeptics may say week one may not matter, but in the case of both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans, it does.
After generally lackluster seasons from both teams in 2012, both new Coach Mike Munchack and 6-year Coach Mike Tomlin and QBs Jake Locker and Ben Roethlisberger will be fighting for their lives and attempting to prove that they still belong in a league as ferocious as Wall Street and as unforgiving as a cinder block.
For the Steelers, this game means taking a huge one game lead in the AFC North standings over fierce rivals the Baltimore Ravens and if everything goes according to planned, the preseason favorite Cincinnati Bengals. In reality, it is a test to see who will lead this team going forward. Will it be Issac Redman or will some other Steeler RB step up and deliver? No one can know for certain.
For the Titans this game is a huge step for QB Jake Locker who’s competing with veteran Bill’s QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job. If Locker can have a solid showing against the Steeler’s shut down defense, it could be a huge stepping stone for better things to come this season.
Titans Players to Watch
RB Chris Johnson
After a 1,243 yards, 6 touchdown season last year, many Titans fans are wondering whether or not they will see the 1,047 yard Chris Johnson from 2011 or the 2,006 yard, 14 touchdown Chris Johnson. Many skeptics think CJ2K could be grossly overrated and perhaps even non-deserving of the starting job, however after rushing for a 58 yard rushing TD against the Redskins in week one of the preseason, we can safely say with the utmost certainty that CJ2K is back for the long haul. His performance against the usually tenacious Pittsburgh D on Sunday should be a factor in determining whether CJ is the real deal this season. Considering that the Steelers allowed only an astonishing 90.6 rushing yards per game last season, I’m not expecting Johnson to explode however I would not be surprised if he pulls off an 80-yard blaze off the first play of the game. Realistically I’d expect a 60-yard, one touchdown performance from the 6th year veteran out of Eastern Carolina, definitely reassuring his dominance in Nashville.
Steelers Player to Watch
RB Issac Redman
After a turbulent 2012 season filled with injuries and splitting carriers with other Pittsburgh backs, Redman was given the starting nod just this past week from Head Coach Mike Tomlin. With such a huge responsibility, it should be interesting to see how Redman will handle the pressure against the 24th ranked Titans run defense. Knowing that Redman did go for 147 yards and 26 carries against the Giants last season, we know that he does have big play capability. The real question is when is he going to have another 100+ yard games? It all depends on how offensive coordinator Todd Haley utilizes Redman. Great thing about Redman is that he is as versatile a back as they get, with ability to bust out 20+ yard runs as well as turn innocent Roethlisberger check downs into first downs. Watch for Redman to have a healthy dose of carries against the Titans and if he’s lucky, really cement himself as the #1 back in Pittsburgh.
Matchup to Watch
Lawrence Timmons and OT Michael Roos
With 106 total tackles and 6.0 sacks last season, Lawrence Timmons was the most productive and stout LB on the Steeler’s resilient defense. This season should be no different as Timmons heads into his 7th year with the Steelers. A key for the Titans, if they want to be successful, is to neutralize Timmons and the Steelers pass rush. Once the offensive line can do this, the sky’s the limit for Jake Locker and RB Chris Johnson. In the off chance that Roos and the offensive line don’t stop Timmons, it will sure be a long day for this Titan’s offense.
This game will be definitely exciting with the explosive Titans and dog-pound Steelers.
The Titans look very dangerous this season, especially on offense with new veteran additions RB Shonn Greene (back-to-back season of over 1,000 yards rushing and 6 rushing touchdowns in 2011/2012), former Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (3,400 yards, 24 touchdowns in 2012), and TE Delanie Walker (344 yards 3 touchdowns in 2012 for 49ers). As well, the Titans will get a healthy, play-making wide out Kenny Britt (775 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2010) back after an injury prone 2012 season.
Along with Kenny Britt and former Steeler Nate Washington (1,023 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2011) will be 2nd year man WR Kendall Wright out of Baylor (64 receptions and 626 yards in rookie season).
With this combination of young and old talent the Titans have the opportunity to really make a difference in the AFC South.
Problem is, the Steelers defense is one of the most dominating defenses in the league and is especially tough against the run (one of the Titans strong suits). With that considered, I predict the Steelers will be out on top, although not by much.
Look for Antonio Brown and Heath Miller to have huge games receiving as the Titans will buckle under the pressure and ability of Ben Roethlisberger.