clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pregame Zone Blitz: Titans at Steelers

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Tennessean had a great quote to describe this game from Pittsburgh's viewpoint: "For one team, this is a coronation. For another, this is a chance for a dose of redemption. Welcome to Steelers-Titans '09. Better tighten your chin strap.

That sounds about right. The NFL made a great choice to open the 2009 season.

A dual-headed monster rushing attack (one much fatter than the other, even though he claims to have lost weight) awaits the defending champs tonight. The Titans plan to use Chris Johnson in space, is spot-starter Keyaron Fox up to the challenge?

Here's what our opponents are up to.

Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch can't think of a better way to start the 2009 season than a game against the Steelers.

A Titans fan posting on thinks it'd be a good idea for RB LenDale White to draw a 15-yard celebration penalty by doing lewd things to the ball after he scores a touchdown. Does Coach Fisher agree with that philosophy?

I'm not sure what "Whack-a-Steeler" is, but wasn't Nashville the same market that had a radio station host a contest to race dummies of injured quarterback Tommy Maddox to the hospital? Stay classy, Nashville.

At least some Titans fans have some creative ability.

Opponent Spotlight: RB LenDale White

"I'm a professional towel stomper. My nickname is LenDale ‘The Towel Stomping' White. I've seen the big Ben Roethlisberger sandwich on TV. So if anybody wants to freeze it and send one over, I'll be more than happy to eat it." - Titans RB LenDale White, in reaction to he, DE Jevon Kearse and LB Keith Bulluck's towel-stomping episode at the end of their 31-14 victory last season.

It's tough to determine exactly what White is saying in reference to the sandwich, but his story this off-season was more about the avoidance of such foods.

White shed a few pounds this off-season, and is expected to be playing at 234 pounds - down from around 250 that he'd been playing at for the first three years of his career.

It's safe to say the outspoken White feels confident it will give him an edge - only the foolish would believe White's lack of a contract after this season has nothing to do with his desire to finally get into game shape. He rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2007, only to watch the team draft Chris Johnson in the first round the following year. White is on the edge of a big contract, and his dedication to physical fitness as well as a productive year as a short-yardage back will depend on the value of that contract.

It starts tonight, as he'll not only face an extremely hostile crowd who will likely be using all of Thursday's 19 hours before kickoff to build up a frenzy of hatred toward the self-proclaimed towel-stomper.

White, of course, doesn't see this as a big deal. Per the Nashville City Paper, White seems to be more concerned with towels being thrown at him from the stands, as opposed to the multitude of defenders ready to force-feed him a towel themselves.

"I think we made it a lot more fun for this year. With all that being said and everything we did last year, the towel stomping, whatever, it definitely made it fun in the setup for this year."

It certainly made it fun. Not that the season-opener can be any more fun than it already is, but Steelers fans expect to have a lot more fun against the Titans this year, thanks in part to Mr. White and his mouth.

Steelers Spotlight:

Very simply, it's tough to perform better in Week 1 than Roethlisberger has in his career. In his first Week 1 start, in 2005, he was 9-for-11 for 218 yards and threw for two touchdowns (a perfect passer rating of 158.3) in dismantling tonight's opponent, Tennessee, 34-7.

His Week 1 performance in 2007 was almost better. He completed 12-of-23 passes for four touchdowns (tying a career-high TD passes in a game) in a 34-7 rout of Cleveland. Last year, it was a razor-sharp 13-of-14 with two touchdown passes.

Interspersed with those two games were a non-start in 2004 (his rookie year) and an injury in 2006 (back-up Charlie Batch beat the Dolphins in the Steelers' last appearance in the season-opening game).

After a strong preseason from the two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger looks poised to enter his prime as one of the league's best quarterbacks, and is ready to wipe the slate clean of one of his lesser-heralded performances of 2008 - a 34-17 loss at Tennessee.

With the marked improvement from third receiver Limas Sweed, he has perhaps the best compliment of physical talent around him. With a healthy stable of running backs and an improved and experienced offensive line, Roethlisberger looks like he's able to give a strong Titans defense fits.

I See You

I see you, Keyaron Fox, your preseason efforts not only justified the contract extension you got this off-season, but it also earned you the distinction of being the first 6th captain coach Mike Tomlin has had on his team since taking over in 2007. You and K Jeff Reed are the special teams captains (it was just Reed last year), joining LBs James Harrison and James Farrior on defense, and QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Hines Ward on offense.

You've won the admiration of Steeler Nation this preseason, and provided a strong presence of depth at the inside linebacker position. That depth will be tested tonight, when you make an unexpected start replacing the injured Lawrence Timmons. Whether it's crushing a ball carrier on a punt return, or smashing one of the Titans' well-reputed running backs as the mack linebacker, you've earned our respect.

Key Stats

Since its inception in 2004, the defending champions have not lost the Thursday Night season-opener. Pittsburgh defeated Miami 28-17 in the opener in 2006.

The Steelers defeated Tennessee 34-7 in their season-opener in 2005.

Pittsburgh has won six consecutive season-openers, dating back to 2004.

Quick Hitters

The Other Brady: It seems the Browns are going with Brady Quinn over Derek Anderson in their Week 1 game against Minnesota. I'm sure everyone' happy that got figured out. What's more fun in that game is QB Brett Favre essentially got new Browns coach Eric Mangini fired in New York, and his first game back is against Mangini, who was dog-housed and had to go to Cleveland.  

Remember The Nate: Former Steelers and current Titans WR Nate Washington spoke of Titans WR Justin Gage, "I have a lot of respect for him. He is humble, his work ethic is good and he prides himself in being an underdog, and that's what I am. ... We don't have to have the spotlight." Is he as inconsistent as you, Nate?