The Titans host the Steelers at home with Zach Mettenberger at the helm, recording his third start as a pro. Mettenberger has polarized much of the fan base so far, with his ability to dazzle on some beautiful throws outside the numbers, and then hold onto the ball and take a big sack on first down to put the team behind schedule. Mettenberger has plenty of traits that make it readily apparent that he is a rookie playing the hardest position in team sports. He will have to learn to throw the ball away when the play is not there and live to see another down. When comfortable, Mettenberger has shown he can throw with anticipation and accuracy, leading to a solid QB rating through two starts.
He will likely face a lot of physical punishment against Pittsburgh, who have inflicted plenty on opposing QB's this season, regardless of the final score. Michael Vick took a beating last week in the Jets stunning upset, for instance. While Mettenberger is obviously not going to be scrambling for the sticks, he will need to show that he can be mobile inside the pocket, and avoid the back-breaking sacks when possible.
The Titans wideouts have been unimpressive this season, and instead the team has leaned on tight end Delanie Walker, who suffered a nasty hit last week that took him off the field with a concussion. He has thus far missed two days of practice, and his status for Monday is unknown. The Titans surely could use him. Walker has ranked in the top echelon of tight ends in the league this year, both as a pass catcher and as a blocker. His presence across the middle of the field will be missed if he can't suit up.
Beyond Walker, the Titans will look to take advantage of Justin Hunter's speed and Mettenberger's cannon arm. Hopefully this is the week we see some increased chemistry between the young QB and his targets. Kendall Wright has also been more quiet than usual this year. He will match up with talented Steelers CB Cortez Allen, which will be an important battle to watch. If Wright can outpace Allen inside and create some separation, Mettenberger will be able to get the ball out quickly.
Like most elements of the 2014 Tennessee Titans, the offensive line has been less than stellar. Taylor Lewan continues to shine despite the fire around him, allowing the Titans to run the ball off tackle on the left side, and generally providing solid protection for the QB. Less can be said of his line-mates. The right side has been particularly disappointing, with both Chance Warmack and Michael Oher struggling. They will need resurgent performances against the Steelers front seven, though they will have relief in not having to face standout rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is out with an injury.
Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene will be taking most of the carries. That much is clear by now. However, it's Sankey and McCluster who would seem the best fits to take advantage of open space against the Steelers. Regardless of who's carrying the rock, the backs need to find ways to make big plays. There has been a distinct lack of dynamism in the running game, and defenses take note of that. A better performance throughout the position group would go a long way in opening things up for Mettenberger and the receivers. This is a task easier said than done though; with the Steelers allowing just a hair over 100 yards per game this season.
The Titans will need some improved performances throughout their offensive lineup in order to avoid the same result as they faced last week against Baltimore. Increasing the volume of short passes and dump offs would go a long way in making Mettenberger more comfortable, and we've seen that the Steelers are beatable when you play sound, turnover free football. The goal for the Titans offense this week should be to simply stay on the field. If they can help their defense out and get some better play from the offensive line, the Titans will have a chance.