Tennessee Titans (3-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
When: 1:00 p.m. | Where: Heinz Field
TV: CBS | Radio: 102.5 WDVE (Locally)
Odds: Pittsburgh minus-3
What’s on the Line: The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering a five game stretch where they play four of five games at home. Four of those games, all at home, are conference games. At the quarter mark, pressure is mouting on the Steelers as the team has already lost 2 conference games. They need to take the next two home games before a tough three game stretch @ Arizona, vs New England and Baltimore at home.
Personnel Changes: Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Chris Kemoeatu and Mewelde Moore have all been ruled out of today’s game. Rashard Mendenhall is expected to be sidelined (not active) or very limited if he’s active, due to a hamstring injury.
On offense, Isaac Redman will start at running back and Jonathan Dwyer is expected to be the team’s primary backup.
Doug Legursky will start at left guard, while Max Starks who was just signed on Wednesday morning, is expected to start to left tackle based on the practice reps on Thursday and Friday
On defense, Ziggy Hood will start at LDE and Chris Hoke will start at NT. Brett Keisel returns to game action.
Lawrence Timmons will start at ROLB and Larry Foote will move into Timmons starting spot inside.
Where’s the Pressure Coming From? While the Steelers rush defense has been poor through four games, the team’s inability to get to the quarterback and provide pressure has been alarming and concerning, playing a big part on the Steelers having just one takeaway.
The Steelers have just 30 pressures through four games and a player who has to step up is LaMarr Woodley who has just 2 pressures in four games.
ROLB Timmons vs Michael Roos
Like LaMarr Woodley, through four games Lawrence Timmons has not been the playmaker he has been in the past. Timmons has 26 tackles and 0 sacks, a big drop off from 51 tackles and 1 sack in his first four games in 2010.
Timmons today starts at Right Outside Linebacker, replacing James Harrison and while he has great athleticism and speed to the outside, he has struggled against big offensive tackles when rushing from the outside in the Steelers blitz schemes.
The Titans have a good, huge left tackle in 6-foot-7, 320-pound Michael Roos, a seventh-year pro from Eastern Washington. Timmons who set out a goal of 10 sacks this season, is looking for sacks.
“In certain defensive packages, I rush outside,” Timmons said on Thursday. “So, I’ve gone against some pretty big guys in the past. It’s not like I’m out of my realm on the outside, so … it’ll be all right. I’ve played inside more often the past few years, but I’ve gotten a lot of work on the outside.
“I guess you can get more tackles playing inside, too, but you can rush the passer more and get more sacks on the outside. And I like sacks, but it doesn’t matter.
Johnson breaking out: Star running back Chris Johnson is off to the worst start of his career, rushing 199 yards on 69 carries this season. Johnson appears to be ready to breakout, rushing for over 100 yards last week, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Steelers have struggled mightily at containing mid tier to elite running backs this season and today they see argubably the NFL’s best. Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, Joseph Addai and Arian Foster all averaged over 5 yards per carry vs Pittsburgh. Foster become the first running since Curtis Martin in 2003 to rush for over 150 yards against the Steelers.
Steelers Offensive Line: Can Max Starks be the missing link for the Steelers on offensive line. Not likely but he will provide an upgrade for the team.
High Percentage Passes from Ben?: Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a foot injury and the Titans will be bringing pressure as they have 10 sacks on the season. What the Steelers have to go to more and get better at is high percentage passes. Roethlisberger has the weapons at receivers for it to become a weapon in their offense. We’ll see if the Steelers go that route to attack the Titans.