I exchanged emails this week with Andrew Strickert from Total Titans, Bloguin’s Titans blog. We each answered a handful of questions about this week’s matchup. Andrew’s answers are below and mine are over at his site.
Blitzburgh Blog: Chris Johnson: Should the Steelers even worry about him? Does he still have a piano strapped to his back?
Total Titans: There’s probably no reason to worry. CJ has four lousy games and one good one out of five this year, so there’s only a 20% probability he’ll have another good game. He hasn’t scored a touchdown at all this year and is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry, which includes his one good game. In his four lousy games, he’s averaged just 1.4 ypc. Even in his good game, when he gained 141 yards (5.6 ypc), he had some good runs but he wasn’t able to break a long one for a score. In his prime, he would have scored on several of those opportunities.
BB: The last time the Steelers made the trip to Tennessee, Jason Jones and the rest of the defensive line dominated the entire game and tormented Ben Roethlisberger. How is that unit looking nowadays?
TT: The guys from that game are gone and were not satisfactorily replaced. You wouldn’t recognize the new d-line at all. Big Ben has little to be concerned about this week – the Titans can’t generate a pass rush without blitzing and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is reluctant to blitz. I guess he’s afraid one less man in coverage will further expose an already suspect pass defense. The Steelers also shouldn’t be concerned about running the ball against the Titans’ d-line or front seven – teams have rushed against them at will this season.
BB: It’s still weird for me to not see Jeff Fisher on the Titans sideline. Mike Munchak is a PA and PSU guy. How has he done down there in Tennessee? What is the overall view of the fans towards him so far into his tenure?
TT: I believe a lot of fans like Munch, especially after last season. Despite new coordinators being unable to install their systems/playbook last summer due to the lockout, the team still overachieved with a 9-7 record and Munch got much of the credit. Now that the team is 1-4 and has been blown out in all four losses, the natives are getting restless. “What have you done for me lately?” is becoming a more prevalent attitude, though much of that is directed towards the players and coordinators instead of at Munch.
BB: Are there any players on the Steelers who you either love or hate (don’t even have to have a good reason)? Who sticks out to you as gametime approaches?
TT: Well, I don’t love or hate any of them but there are some players who stick out. I respect Roethlisberger – for what he does on the field. I like your receivers – I like what Wallace does and think Brown could be pretty good too. I also like Heath Miller – he seems like a guy who is a good all-around football player – not a great athlete but a throwback lunch pail-type who’s underappreciated. Speaking of underappreciated, there are some guys on defense I like too – Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Lawrence Timmons. Hampton and Keisel are getting up there in years and I’m a little surprised they’re still playing, especially Hampton. Nose tackle isn’t a position that’s known for players who maintain a high level of play for years. I liked Aaron Smith too and see he finally retired. I have no idea why Timmons doesn’t get more pub – he certainly deserves it. As far as players I dislike, James Harrison leaps to mind.
BB: What is your prediction for Thursday night’s game?
TT: The Titans are last in the league in scoring defense. They’ve given up 30 points or more in every game this year and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. Wallace and Brown should each have a TD. The Titans are the most generous defense in the league to tight ends, so Miller ought to get 100 yards and a score. Mendenhall should get 100 yards rushing and a score. Throw in a couple of field goals and the final score will be about 34-10. I’d like to see the Titans score enough points to at least have a chance to win, but recent history suggests the scenario above seems pretty likely.