(KDKA)- The Steelers have one of the biggest matchups on the Week 7 schedule as they travel to Nashville, to take on the similarly 5-0 Titans. The winner of Sunday’s game will be the sole remaining undefeated team in the AFC making the Week 7 contest even more higher stakes than usual.
Evan Washburn, reporter for the NFL on CBS, will be on the call for Sunday’s game at Nissan Stadium and he sees this battle as one of strength vs. strength.
“You have an offense in Tennessee that’s one and two in a lot of key areas. Most notably, total offense and points per game. Their rushing offense, led by Derrick Henry, is arguably right behind Baltimore in a lot of ways as one of the most difficult to deal with,” said Washburn in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “Then, on the flip side, you have a Pittsburgh defense that has proven to be able to stop the run consistently. They did it last week against Cleveland, a good running team. That strength vs. strength matchup there is really easy to digest if you’re a viewer or fan watching this game.”
To Washburn’s point, the Steelers allow the second-fewest yards per carry this season (3.3) and have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league (331). The Titans have accumulated the eighth-most rushing yards (789) and have the ninth-best yards per carry mark (4.8) in the league.
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Leading that Steelers rushing attack is Derrick Henry. The fifth year man out of Alabama has been punishing on the ground this season and exploded for over 200 yards last week.
The Steelers defense took a blow last Sunday when linebacker Devin Bush was lost for the season to an ACL injury. So, the question on Washburn’s mind is can the Steelers still slow the run game with Bush out of the lineup?
“Then, within the game and within those areas it comes down to Derrick Henry and can he continue to do what he’s done over the course of the first five games of the season,” said Washburn. “And, how does Pittsburgh manage the loss of their leader defensively, at least at the linebacker position in Devin Bush who goes down with the ACL. It’s not an area where Pittsburgh has a lot of depth and it’s going to be tested because they’re going up against a team that loves to run the ball.”
If the Steelers are able to slow that rushing attack, they may find some success in getting after Ryan Tannehill. The Titans lost left tackle Taylor Lewan to an ACL injury of his own last week leaving Ty Sambrailo to man the left side of the Titans line. That’s not exactly the ideal scenario against T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.
“It’s the worst case scenario if you’re a member of the Titans or a fan of that team if you’re forced to make this a passing game because of the fact that they have two guys coming off of the edge in Watt and Dupree and they’re down their left tackle,” said Washburn.
But, he also notes that it’s unlikely the Titans leave Sambrailo by himself against those pass rushers instead offering him help with chip blocks from tight ends and running backs. Plus, the design of the offense is to get the ball out of Tannehill’s hand quickly if possible. Teams have been able to get pressure on Tannehill about as much as opponents have been able to pressure Ben Roethlisberger which is to say, not much.
That’s what makes this defense vs. offense battle so interesting heading into Sunday. And, it’s why the game currently sits as essentially a pick’em with the Titans a -1 favorite at home.
The Steelers host the Titans Sunday, October 25 at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.