I don’t think my contempt for preseason games three and four can be overstated. Teams don’t care about these games, players don’t care about these games, and fans don’t care about these games. Who are they for exactly?
Oh riiiiiiiiiiight, the owners who get to charge full price for tickets and concessions for games.
Team Health: Winner
The Titans got out of preseason game three healthy which is always the primary objective of any preseason game. So in at least one sense, tonight was a smashing success.
The Titans will likely not play a single player of note in the preseason finale on Thursday night, so barring a new injury popping up in practice or whatever has been causing Harold Landry to miss action proving to be serious, the Titans are poised to have all 22 projected starters available for Week 1 when the regular season begins.
*knocks on wood*
Almost the entire offensive line: Loser
The Titans quarterbacks were under siege all night, getting sacked 7 times, including a safety early on. The offensive line just looked overmatch by a tough Steelers front. In fact, this game reminded me a LOT of last year’s preseason matchup with Pittsburgh when Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward wrecked shop.
I will have to go back and watch the game again to get a better feel for where the major errors came from, but I can tell you this much... the offensive line stunk in this one.
Ryan Succop: Winner
When I’m listing team health and the kicker at the top of the winners category, you know it’s been a rough night. The Titans were able to get Succop on the field for the first time this preseason and he converted two short field goal attempts.
I did notice that Austin Barnard handled the kickoff duties tonight which is significant because if Succop can’t take on that job, it could force the Titans to keep Barnard on the roster as a kickoff specialist. That seems patently absurd, but it really could be in play. Hopefully the team is just being careful with Succop, trying to make sure he doesn’t re-injure that knee while exposed in kickoff coverage.
Austin Pasztor: Loser
But didn’t you just cover him as part of the offensive line blurb above? Yes, but he deserves his own category. The Titans have a major problem behind Dennis Kelly — who didn’t have a great night himself — at tackle.
Amani Hooker: Winner
The Titans fourth round pick had 3 tackles and his first NFL (preseason) interception. The pick was a pretty easy play as Mason Rudolph overshot his intended target who stopped running the route and let Hooker just step in and run it for him. The catch was nice though — a diving stab near the sideline — and it’s good to see the rookie making a play.
Titans Defensive Line: Loser
While it was good to see Cameron Wake make his (very brief) two-tone blue debut, Tennessee’s pass rush was anemic, failing to get Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, or Josh Dobbs on the ground even once.
The Steelers controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball handily, something I feel like I’ve said about every Titans-Steelers matchup of all time. On the ground, the offensive line cleared room for an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
Darius Jennings: Winner
Jennings got a nice kick return in tonight, taking a 46-yard return out towards midfield to set up the Titans first field goal of the night. His return ability continues to be his strongest case for making the roster and that case got a little stronger tonight.
Kalif Raymond: Winner
Raymond led the Titans with 5 catches on 5 targets for 58 yards through the air. He made a nice diving grab near the sideline for one of those 5.
Jeremy McNichols: Winner
McNichols not only had another nice game out of the backfield, collecting 43 yards on 9 carries, but he also registered a special teams tackle. That ability to contribute on teams will be huge for his case to make the 53-man roster. After some early buzz from Raymond, I think McNichols and undrafted rookie defensive tackle Isaiah Mack have become the preseason darlings among the fan base. I’m not sure whether either will make it, but they’ve earned some fans in Nashville over the past few weeks.
Logan Woodside: Winner
Woodside bounced back from a rough outing against the Patriots and went 11 of 15 for 117 yards. Despite some of the pressure leaking from the offensive line, he was able to hang in and deliver accurate passes throughout the night.
Brett Kern: Winner
Kern is fantastic. He boomed an 81 yard punt that ended up getting called back due to penalty, but it was an incredible boot either way.
He followed that up with a 70-yarder that didn’t get called back. Kern is one of — if not the — best punter in the league.
Not having their best player announce his retirement during the game: Winner
Again, the important thing here is that the Titans got in and out without a major injury and didn’t have disaster strike them like it did the Colts last night. Regardless of how bad the offensive line looked — and it was really bad for most of this game — I’ll take those issues over what the Titans division-mates went through this weekend.
This is a good opportunity for Mike Vrabel and his staff to correct some issues prior to the Week 1 kickoff against the Browns in two weeks. They’ll have plenty of things to work on coming out of this one.