Week 6 kicks off Thursday night with two teams trending in opposite directions as the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Tennessee to take on the reeling Titans.
Tennessee has been absolutely awful thus far in 2012. They’ve only surpassed 14 points just once this season, and that came against the Detroit Lions. Key running back Chris Johnson is working on yet another abysmal season, while they’re still getting nothing at the quarterback position. On defense this team struggles to stop the run and pass, and to be perfectly honest, this is one of the NFL’s worst teams. Once considered a lock for second place in the AFC South, if Tennessee doesn’t improve they’ll be hard-pressed to finish out of the basement. The Titans are coming off a blowout defeat to an average Vikings squad, and if they don’t respond Thursday evening, it’s going to be a very long final 10 weeks for this team.
Pittsburgh meanwhile is starting to get rolling. Though it was a struggle last week, they found a way to knock off a dangerous Eagles side in a big rivalry game, and will look to keep it going against a bad Tennessee team. Short weeks typically favour the home team and skew preparation, but coach Mike Tomlin is as intense as they come and his team will be ready. The Steelers need to keep pace with the Ravens in the AFC North, and despite the quick travel in Week 6, this is a winnable game for Pittsburgh and anything less would be a major disappointment. Pittsburgh has a solid defense, but it will again be without it’s leader in the secondary, Troy Polamalu. Polamalu remains out with a calf pull and the timeline on the injury has yet to be determined. Though his absence won’t mean much against an anaemic Titans’ attack, the Steelers know he is vital to their chances at post-season qualification.
Steelers vs. Titans Spread & Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers -6.0 (-110)
@ Tennessee Titans +6.0 (-110)
Over 43.5 (-110)
Under 43.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Steelers vs. Titans Pick:
Though these early Thursday encounters have historically titled the edge toward the home team, backing the Titans in any spot just doesn’t seem like a wise bet at the moment. Tennessee isn’t getting anything at the moment from the running back position, while the switch from Locker to Hasselbeck at quarterback has yet to produce results as well. Going against a fierce Steelers defense should only complicate matters as well. Last week, Pittsburgh’s defensive line held LeSean McCoy to just 53 yards on 16 carries so Chris Johnson fantasy owners may want to keep him glued to the bench for another week.
On the other side of the football, expect Big Ben to move the chains with regularity Thursday evening. This Titans team is just awful, unable to move the football, and equally as bad when they’re without it. The Steelers just saw a fresh Rashard Mendenhall return to the line-up last week and he looked amazing. Roethlisberger said “our saviour is back” in reference to Mendenhall’s return and look for him to shred the Titans’ porous run-defense this week. Ball control is paramount to Todd Haley’s offensive scheme for the Steelers and that will be the main theme Thursday night. Look for the Steelers to dictate the pace of the game through establishing the run. A steady ground and pound attack will wear down Tennessee and set up perfectly for deep balls from Roethlisberger to the speedy Mike Wallace.
It’s tough to imagine this game being anything but a mismatch. The disparity remains so great on both sides of the football, and despite the inconsistencies the Steelers have shown this season, the Titans have just been consistently brutal. Pittsburgh has struggled on the road of late, losing four of their past five contests, but this is a veteran-laden group filled with pride that knows the importance of every game from here on out. Expect a motivated, business-like outing from the Steelers in Tennessee in what should be a convincing victory for the black and yellow.
PICK = Pittsburgh -6 (-110)