Previewing Toughest Matchups for Tennessee Titans in 2017

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Game: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers on November 16th (Thursday Night Football)

NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 17: Ben Roethlisberger
NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 17: Ben Roethlisberger /

The Steelers represent what the Titans should strive to become: A perennial playoff contender capable of competing for a Super Bowl every single year. The Steelers had one of the most explosive offensive attacks in 2016, but it might be even more formidable in 2017. Martavis Bryant is likely to be reinstated soon and return from suspension to rejoin Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell to form the “Killer B’s” that will give opposing defensive coordinators fits.

On the defensive side, the Steelers’ linebacking corps should be the strength of the team with Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, first round pick TJ Watt, and the ageless James Harrison forming a very athletic defensive front. Like the Titans, the Steelers have struggled in recent years with their secondary play. Last year’s first round pick Artie Burns was brought in to be the team’s number one cornerback, but he had a very rough first year. The remainder of the cornerback room consists of an aging William Gay and various other unproven cornerbacks. Sean Davis, a second year safety, might be the Steelers’ most threatening secondary player.

One key for the Titans in this matchup is to exploit the weaker pass defense with three- or four-wide receiver sets. Due to the talent of the Steelers’ linebacking corps, running room will be harder to come by in this matchup and the linebackers will be athletic enough to run with Delanie Walker. When the defense is spread out, there will be fewer players in the box, so the Titans should consistently rattle off short four-yard gains and wear the defense down while keeping the Steelers offense on the sideline.

On the offensive side of the ball, it will be imperative that the Titans are able to contain Bell. the Steelers don’t have a premier offensive line like the Titans or the Cowboys, but Bell’s trademark “patient” running style means that Pittsburgh doesn’t really need that level of play out of their offensive line. If the Titans can force the Steelers to become one-dimensional, the Titans stand a better chance of forcing more turnovers and stalled drives. With an offense as explosive as the Steelers, you can only hope to limit their offensive output rather than stop it completely. By playing a ball-control game while forcing the Steelers to become one-dimensional, the Titans can avoid a shootout and pull out a statement win against a perennial playoff contender.