Much to the chagrin of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will take the field on Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. Roethlisberger made some comments earlier this week that he hates Thursday Night Football. That comment is echoed by other players in the NFL, along with fans, so it’s not really anything new. The product does seem watered down at times, and players do not seem interested in being there.
For every Chiefs-Raiders game we have on Thursday Night Football, there’s ten other doozies like the Dolphins-Ravens. On a side note, the Dolphins really need to let Adam Gase go if his players don’t start responding before the end of the season. They don’t look motivated in playing, and coaching does deserve a lot of the blame in those cases. Yeah, Jay Cutler is their quarterback and he’s been awful, but what should be a decent defense isn’t getting the job done.
Speaking of awful, the Steelers were pretty awful against the Colts this past Sunday afternoon. They didn’t want to be in Indianapolis, but good teams find ways to win those sort of games. I was debating on making a play on the Colts at +10, I didn’t, and regretting it now, of course. With a short week coming up, and the Titans coming to town, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the Steelers going through the motions. The Steelers ultimately pulled out a win, but barely, with a final of 20-17. Big Ben seems to choose games he wants to show up and play in this season. With all of the talk around him retiring at the end of the year, it’s easy to see why Roethlisberger isn’t going all out in games like last week.
Roethlisberger has 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2017. 5 of those interceptions coming against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That one had outing really skewed his numbers, but there is another example of a game where the Steelers didn’t care to show up and play. They had the Chiefs the following week, so it was another lookahead situation. The Steelers sent the Chiefs a 19-13 loss, so it didn’t carry over to the next week. We’ll see if Pittsburgh comes up short after sleeping through their Colts matchup a week ago. Head below for our free Titans vs. Steelers pick.
Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Odds:
vs. Steelers -7(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Titans vs. Steelers Pick:
JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t slack off last week, as he’s been out to prove that he’s the clear number 2 in Pittsburgh. Ever since Martavis Bryant publicly stated on twitter that he’s better, Smith-Schuster has been exploding in the Steelers’ offense. He beat the Colts for 97 yards and a touchdown. That coming after his coming out party against the Lions with 193 yards and 2 touchdowns. Defensive backs are going to need to respect him just a little bit more, because he does have an incredible burst of speed that can come up on you quickly. Safeties will of course be drawn to the side of Antonio Brown, leaving Smith-Schuster with plenty of opportunities to make plays.
While Roethlisberger hasn’t been at his best, and the offense is finding flashes of success, the defense has been turning back the clocks. I can’t remember a Pittsburgh defense that has been this good since the Troy Polamalu era. The Steelers rank 2nd in the NFL with 284.4 yards allowed per game and are allowing just 16.4 points per. They’ve been a tough team to pass on, as they’re surrendering only 181.8 yards per game. Mike Mitchell and Joe Haden will be absent on Thursday night, however. Haden has done a nice job improving the Steeler secondary.
The question is whether Mariota can exploit the secondary in this matchup. Mariota was expected to bust out in 2017 and make the jump to the next level. It hasn’t been the case, as Mariota enters with 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 62.1% completions. He needs to be better, especially when he has a running game that features DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Murray has been battling a hamstring and shoulder injury this season, but is still playing well. Mariota’s greatest asset is his legs. He’s rushed for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Teams must honor his running ability.
He is one knee injury from his career being drastically different. Mariota hasn’t showcased the ability to be a pure pocket-passer, yet anyway. The Titans’ defense has done a good job defending the run, as they’re 6th in the NFL with 91.9 allowed per game. They face a stiff challenge in slowing down Le’Veon Bell, though. Bell has rushed for 840 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Steelers should be able to get big performances out of Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster. Tennessee are 19th in the NFL defending the pass. Despite the fact he hates Thursday night games, I like Roethlisberger to have a vintage Big Ben kind of performance on Thursday night. After failing to cover the spread, the Steelers have responded and covered the following week every time this season. Pittsburgh were coming off a bye going into Indianapolis. They played the Colts like they were more focused on the Titans, and I think what we’ll see is a much better performance from the Steelers. Mariota has been incapable of taking over games, which I think they’ll need in this one. Steelers win and cover 28-17 or something thereabout.
PICK: STEELERS -7 (-110)