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The Steelers should give their receivers opportunities to make plays tonight after a two-game stretch where their performance dipped below their outstanding abilities.
The Steelers may have gotten to The Candy Bar, Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin, at the end of the game, but Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and the Steelers passing game left plays and points on the field in Week 5.
Brown and Wallace have never had issues with their hands, but they've both stumbled into a funk of drops over the last two games. Having dropped six passes between the two of them in their last eight quarters of play, they must weather a mini mental storm, and focus on making the catch.
Wallace's biggest drop came on a shorter pass in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger floated a pass over his shoulder on an out-route in which he had Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie facing down field, not looking at the ball. Wallace could have had big yardage if he was able to haul it in.
Brown let a touchdown pass fall off his hands in the end zone. Like Wallace, it appeared his focus was more on his actions immediately following the assumed catch. He was close enough to the back line of the end zone and appeared to shorten his stride just as the ball arrived, pulling his hands off it just as the perfect pass hit his hands.
Both correctable issues, and both prolific receivers know it.
Despite offensive coordinator Todd Haley's overarching goal of maintaining possession, it's a good game to give both of them opportunities to rectify those mistakes, and continue establishing themselves as the best receiving combination in the NFL.
The Steelers shredded Tennessee on play-action in their 38-17 win over the Titans in Week 6 of the 2011 season, and this game looks like a chance to do that again. Safety Michael Griffin is playing sloppy football for the Titans through five games, and his over-aggression against the run can be exploited. Playing mostly in zone with 1-deep look, the Steelers can run combo routes between Emmanuel Sanders and either Brown or Wallace to help one of the two outstanding playmakers get the ball in space, and allow them some room to make a move.
Roethlisberger is playing as well as any quarterback in the game, and, if afforded protection, should be able to pick the Titans' secondary apart.
Writing that is easier than doing it. The Titans' coverage has been the stronger point of their team. Stopping the run has been the issue, allowing over 140 yards rushing in five games. Their overmatched offense hasn't given them much rest, either. Expect the Steelers to pound the ball between the tackles early, and pepper the Titans' front seven in short field coverage, all the while looking to set up a deep ball.
Considering the goal is possession, the Steelers won't run a simply fly route, but rather, give Roethlisberger a deep option on a few passing plays, and try to work in play-fakes as the game progresses.