Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) +1.5 @ Tennessee Titans (5-0)
Time and place: 1 p.m. at Nissan Stadium
Tidbit: The Titans have scored 30 points or more in each of their last four games. The Steelers have scored 30+ in their last two.
KEY #1: Gang tackle
It's no secret that the most imposing challenge the Steelers will face on Sunday will be to slow down Derrick Henry, who amassed 264 yards of total offense in Tennessee's Week 6 game against the Texans. Pittsburgh will be without stud middle linebacker Devin Bush and often deploy two undersized defensive backs in Joe Haden and Mike Hilton, so it will surely take a team effort to bring him down.
Although he'd eventually go viral for getting rag-dolled by Henry later in the game, this was a good rep from Bills corner Josh Norman, who forces Henry to break down and work for to get to the next level as his teammates rally to the ball. The Steelers will need to gang tackle in a similar fashion in order to avoid a long afternoon chasing Henry.
KEY #2: Re-establish Diontae Johnson
With the recent emergence of Chase Claypool in Johnson's absence, it's easy to forget that Johnson actually led the Steelers in targets by a healthy margin before getting sidelined with a back injury. Johnson is a twitchy athlete and presents a unique threat to complement Claypool's raw size and athleticism, as well as JuJu Smith-Schuster's abilities from the slot.
Much like Claypool, it doesn't take much to get Johnson going. Just get him in space and see if he can create.
And if you leave him 1 on 1 he'll burn you. It'll be fun to see how the Steelers utilize their talented receivers against the Titans.
KEY #3: Control the clock and let the defense rest
Slowing down Henry will take an incredible amount of effort and attention to detail, and so it's crucial that that the Steelers offense is successful on 3rd downs and keeps the chains moving so that the defense can rest. The Steelers have been pretty efficient on 3rd downs this season, converting 45.95% of the time and 51.06% over the last three games.
Here's a dime from Big Ben to James Washington in man coverage to convert a 3rd and 5.
And take a look at Maurkice Pouncey and Kevin Dotson clearing the way on this zone run for James Conner to pickup the 13 yards on 3rd and 1.
KEY #4: Set the edge
Tennessee will be without Pro Bowl tackle Taylor Lewan, who tore his ACL against the Texans. At this point we know that you do not want to be deficient at tackle against Pittsburgh, who sports the best duo of edge defenders in the league in T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. It will be critical for Wat and Dupree to set the edge defensively in order to funnel Derrick Henry back toward the middle of the field. Additionally, Henry is at his best when he can get momentum going, meaning you want to force him to cut and get hands on him before getting to the second level.
This play against the Eagles is a great example of Watt setting the edge in the run game. Notice how he uses his hands to generate leverage and force Sanders to stay inside the tackle box, where he and Tyson Alualu greet him for a loss of three yards.
KEY #5: Capitalize on shot plays
In early weeks Ben Roethlisberger didn't quite have his deep ball up to his usual standards, but he's settled into making these throws more consistently recently. Roethlisberger loves to give his athletes chances outside the numbers in 1 on 1 situations. When the Steelers generate big gains, this is usually how it happens. On this play, Roethlisberger sees that the Browns only have one single high safety and manipulates him with his eyes while Claypool runs and out and up. Using the free space he created, Roethlisberger delivers a strike against the sideline to Claypool, who is simply a mismatch for most corners on an island.