7 Keys to Victory (Titans)
How far the Titans go will largely depend on their quarterback play. Jake Locker doesn’t have to post Peyton Manning-esque stats. He just needs to protect the football, make a handful of plays down the field, complete drives with touchdowns and slide whenever a defender approaches him.
Efficient Ground Game
Through three preseason games, Chris Johnson had 20 carries for 155 yards. That’s a 7.75 yards-per-carry average.
Is the pre-2011 Johnson back or was that the showing of a preseason superstar? The Titans need more than a “1-for-10 with a homer” type of performance. In addition, Shonn Greene must continue his nearly unstoppable approach on 3rd-and-shorts.
Winning the Trenches
The Steelers are moving to a zone-blocking scheme. There are concerns about how both of their offensive tackles—Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams—fit in it. Senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams may try to take advantage of the weakest link on the Steelers team. Is Akeem Ayers healthy enough to contribute as a pass-rush specialist?
Could the Titans have their own offensive line issues? A calf injury means that David Stewart is questionable. Mike Otto would start in his place at right tackle. Playing alongside Otto is Chance Warmack, a rookie offensive guard who’s making his first NFL start.
Tackling Big Ben
That sounds easy enough. Key word “sounds.” At 6-5 and 241 pounds, few quarterbacks are better than Ben Roethlisberger at dodging defenders, escaping tackles and turning a sack into a downfield completion.
One of the worst things about playing the Steelers in Week 1: Troy Polamalu will start the game healthy. From the defensive backfield to the line of scrimmage, Polamalu lines up all over the field trying to confuse the offense. Locker must account for him at all times.
Locker earned some praise after he threw zero interceptions during the preseason. At the same time, the offense had far too many drives end with three points. The Titans offense mustn’t kill drives with dropped passes, turnovers or blown blocking assignments.
Strong finishes to drives. A strong fourth quarter finish. Those two elements will help the Titans end the Steelers’ 10-game home-opener winning streak.
Titans vs Steelers matchups often come down to the foot of the kicker. That happened last season when Rob Bironas nailed his fourth field goal of the game en route to a 26-23 Titans victory. Both teams combined for seven field goals.
That was at LP Field. Bironas will attempt to kick at Heinz Field, a stadium that’s notoriously difficult for opposing kickers. Bironas must battle the windy elements of the stadium that’s located right across from the river.