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VOL. 45 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 17, 2021

Titans at Steelers: What to watch

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Things are about to get tougher for the Titans, who snapped a two-game skid coming off their bye week with a shutout against Jacksonville last week. They now head to Heinz Field to play a desperate Pittsburgh Steelers team that is in danger of missing the postseason. Let’s look at the Titans’ mission for Sunday.

First down

Know the Steelers’ desperation. At 6-6-1, the Steelers have their backs against the wall, not only in the AFC North but also in the wild-card chase. For that reason alone, the Titans have to know they will get the Steelers’ best shot and cannot afford to come out flat, especially on offense.

Second down

Find the passing game. Ryan Tannehill was better, and the return of Julio Jones to the lineup probably helped against Jacksonville. Tannehill was 20 of 31 for 191 yards and did not have any turnovers. He scored a rushing TD on a scramble, but the explosiveness that had been a trademark of the Titans in the first half of the year has not been there in recent weeks. The biggest thing is that the Titans must protect their quarterback and not allow him to be under duress. He was sacked four times against Jacksonville.

Third down

Dictate with defense. The Titans’ defense, after two weeks of not having any takeaways, got four interceptions Sunday against the Jaguars. Ben Roethlisberger has lost much of his mobility at this stage of his career but can still be dangerous if he has time. The Titans have to bring their pass rush and rattle Big Ben when the opportunity presents itself.

Fourth down

Fix the kicks. After doing yeoman’s work early in the season, Randy Bullock has missed field goals in three consecutive games. Heinz Field is notoriously a tough place to kick with its tricky winds. Bullock has experience there from his days with the Bengals, seeing Heinz Field yearly as a visiting player. But he has to stay on track. A critical miss might be difference in the game.

-- Terry McCormick

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