Titans vs Steelers Game Preview
Former division rivals meet as the Pittsburgh Steelers renew their rivalry with the Tennessee Titans in what will be their only meeting in 2018 outside the postseason. The Steelers have won their last two meetings including a 40-17 blowout last year.
The Titans re-tooled this offseason bringing in new coaches led by Mike Vrabel (HC) and Matt LaFleur (OC). Fourth-year quarterback Marcus Mariota is expecting to bounce back as Tennessee looks to build on their playoff run in 2017.
The Titans returned to the playoffs in 2017 despite injuries and a coaching staff that couldn’t figure out how to use their star quarterback. That cost Mike Mularkey his job and Vrabel and LaFleur hope to create a proper offence for Mariota.
Tennessee also brought in reinforcements signing a pair of Patriots in running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler as well as drafting great linebackers. They could make a big leap in 2018.
Pittsburgh had another disappointing end to an otherwise thrilling season in 2017. They won 13 games and were looking forward to finally beating their archnemeses, the Patriots but couldn’t get past the Jaguars.
Keeping their team mostly intact, the Steelers return hoping for another strong season. They’re still loaded and still very much a Super Bowl threat. They just have to finally deliver on this promise.
The Titans and Steelers usually combine for high-scoring games despite traditionally having strong defences. This trend is sure to continue as the Steelers have one of the most prolific offences while the Titans have the potential to be high-powered if they get in sync with the new offence. But at this juncture, the Steelers are readier to compete and they get the edge.
Titans vs Steelers Head-to-Head Records
This is one of the AFC’s traditional rivalries. The Steelers and Titans have met 78 times in total with Pittsburgh controlling the series and winning 46 times. They used to play against each other in the AFC Central, a division the Steelers ruled over.
Their rivalry began in 1970 when the Titans were still the Houston Oilers. They won their first game but the Steelers would dominate winning most of their meetings during the rest of the ’70s and the early parts of the ’80s and ’90s including three straight playoff wins.
But the series would become more even when the Oilers relocated to Tennessee in the late ’90s. The Titans would go on a seven-game winning streak, the longest in the series, from 1997 to 2000. They would also win their first playoff game against the Steelers in 2003.
Since 2009, the Steelers have regained control of the rivalry winning five of seven games including the last two in 2014 and 2017. They don’t meet as often now thanks to the divisional realignments but with both developing playoff-calibre teams, they are likely to tangle in the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans Recent History
As the Houston Oilers, the franchise started quickly. They won two AFL Championships in their first two seasons then made it to back-to-back AFC Championships 16 years later in the late ’70s. They would go through a brief period of futility before becoming playoff contenders again under quarterback Warren Moon in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
The Jeff Fisher era began soon after and the franchise would relocate to Tennessee in 1997. They would become the epitome of a mediocre NFL team consistently winning around six to eight games save for a handful of division-winning seasons plus a losing Super Bowl in 1999.
The franchise would go on a playoff drought leading to Fisher’s resignation in 2010. A pair of head coaches later and the Titans returned to the postseason. With a franchise quarterback in tow, they are set to contend once more.
Pittsburgh Steelers Recent History
Few teams can boast the same winning history as the Steelers. They started out rough having only eight winning seasons and two playoff appearances in their first 38 seasons. But things quickly changed in the early ’70s. The Steelers became a dynasty winning four Super Bowls in six seasons and seven division championships in eight years.
This Steelers team was iconic for its “Steel Curtain” defence as they brutalized opponents while Terry Bradshaw was nigh-unbeatable during the playoffs. The ’80s were mediocre but Pittsburgh would be revitalized in the ’90s once again controlling the division and returning to the Super Bowl, albeit in a losing effort.
The new millennium also saw the Steelers win two more Super Bowls in three appearances. They have consistently been a division champion and have won at least 10 games in 12 of the last 17 seasons. Their defence remains solid but they have since switched into becoming an unstoppable offence.
Tennessee Titans Outlook
The good news is, the Titans have a solid foundation. Their defence boasts one of the best secondaries with safety Kevin Byard and now Butler coming over from the Pats. Their linebackers got a huge boost adding promising players like Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. And their d-line ain’t half bad.
Offensively, Tennessee has Mariota. The second-overall pick is a capable passer or scrambler and he has yet to flash his full potential. To added Lewis, a crafty running back who will split carries with Pro Bowl-calibre Derrick Henry.
The bad news is, Tennessee has one of the toughest schedules in 2018 and the rest of the division have also upgraded. Andrew Luck and DeShaun Watson return as quarterbacks for the Colts and Texans, respectively. The Titans have the personnel to win the division but it will be an uphill battle.
Pittsburgh Steelers Outlook
The Steelers of today are the greatest offensive team they’ve assembled. Led by Ben Roethlisberger (QB), Antonio Brown (WR), and Le’Veon Bell (RB), the Steelers are a top-three offence when healthy. They’ve won double-digit games the last four seasons but have only advanced past the divisional round once.
The fans grow restless as “Big Ben” continues to age. On paper, Pittsburgh’s offence is good enough to win them games but their defence isn’t what it used to be. Losing linebacker Ryan Shazier also hurt the team and they haven’t found a replacement.
Pittsburgh’s defence will be a liability, especially during big games. That sounds weird considering this team’s history but if Roethlisberger and the offence aren’t humming, this team could be in trouble. They’re fortunate the AFC North isn’t what it used to be but their Super Bowl dreams could remain just that. Dreams.
This is the type of game Pittsburgh wins, at least their first unit. The Titans are still adjusting to LaFleur’s new offence, which could be drastically different from Munchak’s unimaginative smashmouth style. They have new players on both sides of the ball while Pittsburgh has stayed the same.
Roethlisberger and the offence won’t exactly light up the defence thanks to the presence of a solid Titans secondary but they’ll move the ball effectively against them. Pittsburgh could go up early and it will be up to the second unit to keep the lead or win the game.
Landry Jones is a capable backup, especially against second teams. Blaine Gabbert will ball for the Titans and while he’s been the butt-of-the-joke as a starter, he should suffice as a backup.
Pittsburgh’s defence isn’t as fearsome as it was and Gabbert could move the ball effectively against them. But the game could be over at this point. All Jones and the offence need to do is play efficiently. The Steelers should win handily.