It’s been made very clear how neither players nor fans like Thursday Night Football, but the angst towards the late-week contest won’t stop the event from taking place. In Week 11, it’ll be the Steelers and Titans kicking off the week of NFL action when the two AFC teams go head-to-head at Heinz Field.
What’s shocking to me is how back-loaded the Steelers’ schedule is with home games. Of their final seven games, five of them will be in the friendly confines of the Big Ketchup Bottle.
But the comparisons between this team and the magnitude of the contest certainly go beyond where the game is being played. The Steelers (7-2) and Titans (6-3) have a lot riding on this game when it comes to the AFC Playoff standings. A Steelers’ win would not just move their record to 8-2, but would give them the head-to-head win over the Titans, in case tie-breakers were necessary for seeding. And on the flip-side, if the Titans are able to come away with the win, it would propel them above Pittsburgh in those standings.
If the Steelers have hopes of a first-round bye, taking care of the Titans on Thursday night will go a long way towards realizing them. Doing so won’t be easy, however. Both teams are coming into this game sporting 4-game winning streaks, and both teams have a similar way of playing football.
The Steelers’ defense has impressed, but their offense has somehow stumbled their way to a 7-2 record, while the Titans’ offense has struggled to gain yards, especially through the air, relying on a ground attack to get the job done. On defense, the Titans’ unit is stout against the run but mediocre in other areas.
Enough talking about rankings and units. It is time to talk predictions.
The Steelers at home are a different beast, and this might be tough to remember, considering this is only their fourth game at home all season. For some, it’ll be odd to see the Steelers in their black (albeit color rush) uniforms. On a short week, I always tend to like the home team, even though only four of 10 home teams have won on Thursday nights this season.
I see the Steelers as the superior team and, although I don’t think the offense will explode like many think they will, I expect some no-huddle to be used early and often to help get the team in a rhythm. Defensively, if the team can keep Marcus Mariota from beating them with his legs, I like this defense’s chances of stopping the Titans’ offense.
Thursday night games are tough to predict, but I like the Steelers to win this game, and improve their record to 8-2.
Steelers - 27
Titans - 17