On paper, the Tennessee Titans should scare the Steelers.
Their offensive and defensive ranks all sit in the 20s - the same areas where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets languished before and after defeating the Steelers in Weeks 4 and 10, respectively.
The Titans should feel confident. The Steelers have individual matchups across the board, particularly with their skill position players against Tennessee's secondary. The Titans' offensive line should be feared by no one except the Steelers. Outside of Jurrell Casey, who profited more than any other player in the league last season after center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a knee injury in Week 1 (he feasted on tackle-turned-center Kelvin Beachum), the Titans' defense lacks significant performers, and shouldn't be capable of winning 1-on-1s consistently.
Oh, and the game is in Nashville, the Steelers' second consecutive road game and third primetime game this year outside the confines of Heinz Field.
Anything to produce something of an underdog mentality as the Sawtooth Consistent 2014 Steelers prepare to take on the 2-7 slumping Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers' struggles with the have-nots of the NFL is the single-most scrutinized topic among the franchise that's sitting at 6-4 and within striking distance of the NFL. Had they simply found a way to bat down a few more passes at the end of a 27-24 loss to the Bucs in Week 4 (the Bucs haven't won since), they're sitting at the top of the division, and have the No. 3 seed in the AFC North. Perhaps a few less turnovers and they beat the one-win Jets last weeks, sending them to a dizzying 8-2 mark - the best record in the AFC.
Underdog wins over the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts came in the comforts of home, but so did a dismal performance against Tampa Bay. Is that the ticket, then? Just get the team to assume it has no right beating the Crest-colored Titans and ensuring them of a season no better than the all-too-familiar 8-8 mark of mediocrity?
It would be hard to deliver that message with a straight face, but the Steelers need to come up with something this week. The team returns to practice Wednesday, looking to move past a brutal loss and into a game they should, by all rights, win.
Upon reviewing the TItans, one might come to the conclusion they're a worse team all around than the Jets are. Their defense lacks the kind of explosive ability the Jets have, and while the Jets' secondary really wasn't expected to play to the level they did against the Steelers last week due to a significant lack of talent, Tennessee's isn't far from that.
The Steelers probably are better off not knowing the six-point opening line in their favor is fairly well justified. They really shouldn't know they are, in some ways, holding significant personnel advantages over a floundering and embattled Titans team. A team knowing its ability is a good thing and, by and large, nearly every team in the league could watch the Titans and deduce their team is better. It isn't much of a confidence-booster but being forced to prove to their coaches, their fans and even themselves they're fully capable of beating a two-win team (remember, their struggles have been with the one- and no-win teams, the two-win teams are off the board at this point) after the middle point of the season.
Can they grasp that message?