The headline is not a typo. Despite the putrid state of recent affairs for Tennessee, there are some advantages the team can cling to as they face the Steelers in the national spotlight on Monday Night Football. There will be plenty of zeal in the stadium seats from both teams, but where can the Titans expect to find some added advantages in this prime time match-up?
1. Tennessee Have Offensive Talent Ready to Rebound
The Titans have been deeply unimpressive this season on the offensive side of the ball, ranking dead last in many categories. They averaged less than 4 yards per offensive play last week against Baltimore (yes, that's per play, not per rush). Justin Hunter has been much more quiet than expected, and the team has had to lean on Delanie Walker and, given the day, Kendall Wright. The running game has also been an up and down affair, seeming to follow an odd schedule of solid-awful-solid-terrible, you get the idea. While this is more of hunch than an advantage, the Titans are due to roll out some production this week. Zach Mettenberger enters his third start after being beaten up last week, against a squad that delivers plenty of punishments to QB's, so I think Ken Whisenhunt finds a way to get him going early with some easier short passes (and tells his young QB to throw the ball away if nothing's there).
Justin Hunter is due to his breakout game, and now is as good a time as any. Bishop Sankey also gets his first game in the national spotlight, and I think he impresses too.
2. The Steelers have lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets
The Steelers are 6-4, and on the edge of a playoff spot. It sounds rosy, until you find that while they have slain their personal dragons in the Baltimore Ravens (and the Indianapolis Colts no less), two of their losses have come against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who haven't won since), and the bumbling New York Jets last week, where the Steelers had more turnovers than yards in the first quarter. This has given unease to Steelers fans, who notice the threat of playing down to yet another struggling squad, and one with nothing to lose.
3. Ben Roethlisberger has never won at LP Field
In the "Battle of the 'Bergers", most would definitely side with Pittsburgh's signal caller over the rookie. After all, only a few weeks ago he was tearing up defenses like never seen. But it is worth noting that the Steelers are traveling to Nashville to play on Monday Night, and that LP Field is one of only two places that Ben Roethlisberger has never won a game. Maybe that's semantics. Maybe it's not. But while there will no doubt be plenty of Steelers fans in attendance, the Titans have a tendency to play the Steelers hard, regardless of how both club's seasons have been going.
4. The Titans Usually Play The Steelers Close
We spoke about this on last night's radio show with the crew at Behind The Steel Curtain, agreeing that the Titans-Steelers may be one of the more underrated NFL rivalries. Both teams have a history of playing close, hard-fought games, and there is more than enough bad blood to elicit hatred from both sides of the line. Of late, the Titans have had the Steelers' number, and even with both clubs in very different positions in the standings, I expect a grinding game with plenty of hard hits and likely plenty of yellow laundry (and I'm not talking about the ridiculous Terrible Towels either). Will the Titans pull of third third-in-a-row against the Steelers? Maybe not, but they'll have every chance to do so, and embrace the roll of spoiler they'll have for the rest of the year.