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Six Things to Watch in Titans-Steelers Game on TNF

Posted Nov 15, 2017

TitansOnline.com Senior Writer and Editor Jim Wyatt offers six things to watch in Titans-Steelers game on Thursday Night Football.

PITTSBURGH – The Titans face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night at Heinz Field.

Here’s a look at six things to watch:

Marcus Mariota

The Titans quarterback has looked more like himself of late. Following a month of scaled back play-calling and limitations, Mariota has been on the move, and made more plays. He ran for more yards against the Bengals (51) than he did his previous three starts combined (14). Mariota still couldn’t escape four sacks last week, however, so the Titans will have to do a better job protecting him against a tough Steelers defense.

Topple Big Ben

I’m flipping it here, and stressing the importance of harassing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is a big man, and hard to corral. This week, Titans defenders talked about the importance of gang tackling him, and getting him to the ground. The Titans don’t want Roethlisberger, who has been sacked just 11 times this season, getting comfortable. Allowing Roethlisberger to keep plays alive to find his dangerous receivers downfield would be painful to see as well.

Dick LeBeau’s return

The last thing the Titans defensive coordinator wants in his return to Pittsburgh is a lot of fanfare, and you can be sure he won’t bring any attention to himself as he returns to the city that loves him so much. As DC of the Steelers for so many years, LeBeau enjoyed making life miserable for opposing offenses. Well, his plan Thursday night will center on trying to slow down the Steelers, and keep the Terrible Towels from waving.

Adoree’ Jackson

The rookie cornerback pretty much does everything for the Titans. Jackson has not only turned into a solid player in the defense, he also returns punts and kicks, and he now lines up in the offense. Jackson played seven snaps against the Bengals, and he made an impact when he was in there, whether he touched the ball or not. Jackson ran for 30 yards on three carries, but when he was a decoy, others on offense took advantage of the extra space he helped create. Will the Titans use him on offense for the third week in a row?

Running game

DeMarco Murray scored three touchdowns last week, and his 42 rushing yards were part of a 170-yard rushing attack by the Titans. Of course a lot of those yards came from Mariota, and a chunk also came from Jackson. Derrick Henry led the way with 52 yards on the ground. To take pressure off of Mariota and the defense, the Titans need to be able to run the ball with success against the Steelers. That’s easier said than done, of course – the Steelers are ranked 11th in the NFL in run defense (but second overall vs the pass).

Defense, defense, defense

The Titans have looked like a different team on defense since the team’s 57-14 loss to the Texans. That performance in Houston clearly embarrassed defenders, and ticked them off. Since that game, no team has scored more than 22 points against them. Well, the challenge is much different here Thursday night against a Pittsburgh team with plenty of playmakers, from running back Le’Veon Bell to receivers Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. The Titans will need to play well on defense – from the pass rush to the secondary -- against one of the most dangerous offenses they’ll face all season.