As I said earlier this week, it is always fun when these two teams get together, and I don't expect this game to be any different. The Titanshave obviously caught a break in this game with Ben Roethlisbergerbeing suspended. Say what you want about him off the field, but Roethlisberger is a really good quarterback who torched the Titans defense last year for 363 yards. Dennis Dixon isn't terrible, but I also don't expect him to pass for 363 yards. In the game last year the Steelersran the ball 22 times with Rashard Mendenhallonly getting four of those carries. Since then Mendenhall has proven to be one of the better work horse backs in the league, so the Steelers will probably look to get him 25-30 carries in this game to shorten the game, keep the calls simple for Dixon, and keep Chris Johnson and Vince Young off the field.
The other player that really hurt the Titans in that game, Santonio Holmes, will also not be playing in this game because he was traded in the offseason. Mike Wallace, the second year receiver from Ole Miss, is who the Steelers have pegged to replace Holmes's role in the offense. Wallace had a 52 yard catch against the Falcons last week, so it will be important for the Titans safeties to not get caught peaking in the backfield and let Wallace get behind them.
Hines Ward also had a big game against the Titans last year, 8 catches for 103 yards, and proved with his week one performance this year, 6 catches for 108 yards, that he isn't over the hill quite yet. It will be fun to watch the match-up between he and Cortland Finnegan on Sunday. They have both spoken this week about how they have respect for each other, but you know that they will be doing their best to get the upper hand against each other between the lines in this game.
Offensively the key to this game is VY taking care of the ball. Vince has struggled in his career against 3-4 defenses, and he has never faced the Steelers defense which happens to be arguably the best 3-4 in the league. I have no doubt that the new VY has been in the film room all week getting ready for this game, and I think he will play well on Sunday. Expect Mike Heimerdinger to keep things pretty simple for him early in the game to get him in the flow of the game before really opening it up.
Pittsburgh will obviously be loading up to stop CJ, so it is going to be imperative that Vince hit some throws down the field or make some plays with his legs to open things up in the run game. We have talked all week about what we think CJ will be able to get against this defense. The key to whether or not CJ gets his 13th straight 100 yard game on Sunday will be the big run. He isn't going to average 5 yards a carry on 20 carries with a long of 10 or 15. The interior of the Steelers defense is too stout for that. We all just take for granted that he will rip off a 60+ yard run in every game, but it won't be as easy this week as it usually is. I am by no means saying that he won't be able to do it, but it also isn't a given that he will.
The Titans are the better team in this game, and they will win the game if they take care of the ball. I expect it to be a low scoring affair that goes down to the wire that Rob Bironas wins on a late field goal.