Not even Hawkeye and Trapper John could patch up the Steeler roster this week
The Tennessee Titans will visit Heinz Field on Sunday to play our Hometown Steelers. The Titans are a much different team than in recent years. Gone are Jeff “sunglasses at night” Fisher, LenDale “I fought the towel and the towel won” White and “Dream Team” member Vince Young. The brash and whiny squeal of Fisher, a constant complainer to referees, has been replaced by the calm, cool and collected Mike Munchak. Munchak was born and raised in Scranton PA and was an offensive lineman at Penn State. Munchak continued his career in the NFL playing for the Oilers, then coaching for the Oilers and Titans. The Titans have maintained a very business-like attitude so far this year, letting their on-field play do the talking. Although they are only ranked 18th in scoring (22 points/game), they have been efficient on offense. Matt Hasselbeck is the new sheriff in town and he has been resurrected with a strong offensive line. He is ranked 6th, 7th or 8th in most passing categories but the key might be that he has thrown 8 TD’s and only 3 interceptions. Chris Johnson has been very quiet this year, rushing for only 199 yards in 4 games. But this week, he gets his fullback back in the lineup. Ahmad Hall served a 4-game suspension for putting something naughty in his Cheerio’s. He returns this week to lead Johnson against the Steeler defense.
The Titan defense is lethal, allowing only 14 points/game which is the best in the NFL. They allow only 87 yards rushing and 212 yards passing per game. Gone are the big mouth’s like Albert Haynesworth and Keith Bulluck and a more win-first, talk-later mentality is led by Barrett Ruud, Will Witherspoon and Jason Jones (who has had some great days against the Steelers). Yes, Cortland “Andre Johnson’s beotch” Finnegan is still on the team and running his mouth. Hopefully, a couple of teeth-rattling blocks from Hines Ward will shut him up. The Titans have a handful of former Steelers on the roster, including: Chris Hope; Nate Washington; Anthony “I guarantee a win” Smith; and Patrick Bailey.
It, quite possibly, couldn’t be a worse time for the Steelers to play the best scoring defense in the NFL. The first line in a Yahoo Sports article about the Steelers injuries started like this, “Counting the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have used nine different combinations of starting offensive linemen in nine games this season.” And people wonder why the offensive line is playing poorly? Heck, most Steeler fans last longer in bed than the weekly starting offensive line for the Steelers. Here is this week’s list of casualties:
Max Starks will start at Left Tackle after signing this week
Doug Legursky will start for Chris Kemoeatu at Left Guard
Casey Hampton (shoulder), Aaron Smith (foot), James Harrison (facial surgery) and Mewelde Moore (ankle) are out of the lineup
Jason Worilds is out but no one can figure out how a guy who doesn’t play can be hurt all the time.
Rashard “twinkletoes” Mendenhall is listed as questionable (I think he could play but they want to give Isaac Redman the start).
Big Ben will play with something resembling a steel-toe boot on his foot.
Following up my blog article on Monday, it was interesting to see Mike Martz, the Bears offensive coordinator (who just so happens to be Bruce Arians’ mentor), used a fullback last week to block for Matt Forte. Forte had one of the best games of his career, rushing for 205 yards and catching 4 passes for another 23 yards. Hmmmmm, I wonder what the Steelers could do if they had a fullback to block for our running backs? Just in case you are scoring at home, the Steelers have won all 6 of their Super Bowl titles with a fullback blocking for the tailback. Bruce Arians says that his offense does not have a fullback position. Typically, tight ends are forced to block in place of fullbacks in the Arians offense. One other offensive mention this week was interesting to me. Ron Jaworski said that the lockout affected offensive line play most of all in the first quarter of the season. He said that the timing and cohesiveness that is key to offensive line play has been a glaring weakness throughout the league this year. Whether you like Jaws or despise him, you would be hard-pressed to find another analyst who watches more game film than he does.
I spent a lot of time talking about the Titans and not much time about the Steelers. That’s because I think we all know where the Steelers are right now. They aren’t desperate for a win but you hate to lose home games to a conference opponent. Those losses tend to bite you in the backside when it comes to making the playoffs and who plays where if you earn a berth. Can the Steelers win this week? Of course. Will they?
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