The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Tennessee Titans to open up the Week 9 game slate on Thursday Night Football. Can this team bounce back on a short week following a brutal loss to the Jaguars? Maybe if they check off things on this to-do list; here are the Steelers’ keys to victory for Week 9 against the Titans.
Key #1: Run the football
Pittsburgh coaching needs to figure it out. Somehow, some way, the Pittsburgh Steelers must find a way to run the football or Kenny Pickett may never show up. And the Steelers may never be more than a .500 football team.
It doesn’t make sense. How can a team so filled with playmakers and solid veterans not scheme together an offense that can move the football in the first half? Or the second half, if one looks to last week.
For every yard the Steelers gain, they seem to lose two. Coaches, fans, and even sports commentators have become frustrated with this Steelers team, as they have all the makings of a contender, on paper, as well as on film, but they are unable to put together an offensive game plan that complements not just the defense but also itself. Very simply, it has become inept.
The only way out of the hole dug by the current coaching staff is to one day, somehow, someway, establish the run. Until that happens, the elite Pittsburgh defense will be nothing more than a playmaking defense that keeps the team in games while the offense fails to win them.
If Pittsburgh can learn to run the ball to the tune of 100 yards a game consistently, this defense will win them games. Until then, every week, for the rest of the season, the first goal of this team should be to establish the run.
Key #2: Stop Titans RB Derrick Henry
The Steelers need to stop Derrick Henry... or, at the very least, slow him down. Most would agree that this is easier said than done, but if Pittsburgh allows Henry to reach the second level consistently, this writer will guarantee a 150-yard outage.
Much like Pittsburgh, touchdowns have been scarce for the Tennessee Titans this season. With subpar quarterback play, the team is trying out their rookie draft picks. Will Levis impressed with a 4 touchdown start to his career, but this offense still goes through Henry.
As long as Henry keeps the offense on schedule, it will not matter who is at quarterback, as it will open up areas in the secondary. One could guess that the Atlanta Falcons had a similar mindset in last week's contest with the Titans, and all Henry did was keep the team moving the chains consistently to the tune of 100 yards, which opened up the receivers downfield allowing Levis to have a monstrous debut.
It’s very doubtful Tennessee will attempt to scheme a pass-happy day for their quarterback against the T.J. Watt-led pass rush which brings it all back around to stopping Henry. It’s a must if Pittsburgh wants to walk out of this game with a victory.
Key #3: Blanket Titans WR Deandre Hopkins
If you are a Steelers fan, is there any more need to be said about this week's contest? This team must contain All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins if they have any hope of a win, and with a banged-up secondary, Pittsburgh has their work cut out for them. At first glance, the Titans might look like an easy opponent. They are not — at all!
Hopkins will most likely be in the Hall of Fame one day, and to date this season, Pittsburgh has struggled mightily covering elite receivers. Hopkins is the elite of the elite, even in his waning years, having reeled in three of Levis’s 4 touchdowns just last week.
The main thing about Hopkins is that even when he’s covered, there is a high probability that as long as the ball is within reach, Hopkins can come down with it. This being said, Pittsburgh will need to blanket the receiver and play two deep, which is difficult to do if Derrick Henry gets going.
The Pittsburgh defense played very well last week versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the offense not allowing the defense any time to rest, however, the team wore down. It was a valiant effort, but it still was not enough. They’ll hope to change that here this week against the Titans.