Thank God Next Week Is the Bye Week: Steelers-Titans Preview

So this last week has been fun, hasn’t it?  I’m not sure what I’ve enjoyed more–reading countless news stories about the effect Justin Bieber had on the Steelers; calls for Mike Tomlin’s head after a bad loss that followed three great wins; or the general childishness and unprofessionalism of (most of) the local Pittsburgh media when talking about the loss to the Jets.  Actually, I enjoyed all of these things equally!  And by “enjoyed” I mean I thought to myself repeatedly, “I’d rather be dressing a patient’s gangrenous wound than be a Steelers fan anymore, because we are the worst!  Worse than gangrene!” (I want to clarify that I think Steelers fans are worse than both gangrene AND Gang Green, the ridiculous name the Jets fanbase chooses to call themselves.)

I didn’t lose my mind after the loss to the Jets, unlike many Steelers fans.  I think the 3 previous wins had led some to believe this is a much better team than it actually is.  This is still a team who is regularly starting 5-6 guys on defense who would be backups on any other team.  This is still a team who has great potential and talent on offense, but has been inconsistent for the majority of the season.  This is still a team that still has a terrible average starting field position.  There are big weaknesses in all three phases of the game.  But with three big wins, it was easy to ignore those weaknesses.  Expectations got higher with each subsequent win, but the Steelers and their fans came crashing back to earth in MetLife Stadium last Sunday.

The loss to the Jets didn’t worry me.  It had all the makings of a trap game, and that’s what it wound up being.  However, I’ll start worrying if the Steelers lose to the Titans.  It’s not a “must-win” game–it’s still too early to be using phrases like that (Side note: I always love in the local media where they call early season games “must-win” pretty much if the Steelers lose one of their first three games of the season. I believe I heard that phrase a few times before the Carolina game this year).  But back-to-back losses to bad teams would disappointing. I t’d be disconcerting to see the Steelers lose to a team that has much less talent than the Steelers do.  Say what you want about the Jets, but they have some talent on their roster.  The Steelers still should have beat them, but there’s talent on that team.  However, the Titans will be starting 6th round rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger against the Steelers.  He’ll be making just his third NFL start.

This is Zach Mettenberger. I'm not convinced this isn't Ashton Kutcher wearing a bad wig, doing some bizarre James Franco-esque performance art. This is Zach Mettenberger. I’m not convinced this isn’t Ashton Kutcher wearing a bad wig, doing some bizarre James Franco-esque performance art.

Mettenberger has moved ahead of the other two QBs on the roster to win the starting job, so you might think he’d be good, but then you realize the other two QBs are Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst.

I honestly don’t know a whole lot about the Titans.  Nate Washington still plays for them. There’s some familiar faces on the coaching staff in Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, Ray Horton, and Nick Eason.  I know the Titans are bad enough that questions about them tanking the season have recently surfaced.  Which means the Steelers should put this game away early, but I think we can all agree that probably won’t happen.  A game where Steelers fans can relax and enjoy a beatdown? Blasphemy!  Plus, if the Steelers put this game away early, that won’t allow for callers to The Fan to say,  “durrr the Steelers should’ve hired Whisenhunt over Tomlin, they would’ve totally won like six more Super Bowls with Whiz” (and mentioning who was the losing coach in SBXLIII or Whisenhunt’s record as a head coach won’t deter the caller).

I think Steelers fans just like Whisenhunt because if they squint, he kind of looks like Bill Cowher. I think Steelers fans just like Whisenhunt because if they squint, he kind of looks like Bill Cowher.

The Titans defense is statistically close to the Steelers in points per game allowed.  Both teams are at a -2 turnover differential.  I think turnovers could very well play a role in this game.  This season especially, the Steelers have had a much easier time winning when they’ve had a positive turnover differential (which can be said anytime, but the numbers this year particularly stand out).  If the defense can force a turnover or two, this will be a much easier game to win.

The offenses of these two teams are very different.  The Steelers are scoring 10 more points per game than the Titans are, which makes sense because the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell and the Titans have blond Ashton Kutcher Zach Mettenberger, Nate Washington, Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey.  The Titans offense stinks.  But they’re going against a Steelers defense that will again be without Troy Polamalu and Ryan Shazier, so they’ll have their opportunities on offense.

I like the Steelers to win, but I don’t think it’ll be a dominant win.  I think they get it together for this one.  It’s hard to make predictions other than that.  I know the stats about rookie QBs going against Dick LeBeau’s defenses, but this isn’t a typical Dick LeBeau defense.  Mettenberger could have his best or worst game against the Steelers.  Like I said in an earlier post, nothing the Steelers could do this season would shock me, including them losing out or winning the Super Bowl.  It’s just been that kind of season.

Ben doesn’t throw an INT.  Defense forces a late turnover to seal it.

Steelers 27, Titans 21

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