When the Titans have the ball: QB Jake Locker did not play last year when the Titans beat the Steelers in Nashville, so he will be something of a new commodity for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Titans like to get Locker on the move, using play action and bootlegs to take advantage of his speed. Locker has a deep and talented stable of receivers, led by Kenny Britt and former Steelers wideout Nate Washington. They also have Kendall Wright, last year's No. 1 pick, and rookie Justin Hunter from Tennessee, a long, lean but dynamic receiver who can be a problem in the red zone. The Titans added TE Delanie Walker in free agency and want to use him like they used to employ Frank Wycheck. Walker will line anywhere in the offense in an attempt to create matchup problems. The addition of rookie G Chance Warmack, their No. 1 pick, is part of a rebuilt offensive line that includes G Andy Levitre and C Rob Turner. The idea is to help RB Chris Johnson, who is only the eighth player in NFL to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons.
When the Steelers have the ball: The Titans have switched to a 4-3 defense and will probably be more aggressive with blitz packages under Gregg Williams, who was brought in to be a senior defensive assistant along with coordinator Jerry Gray. They needed to do something after giving up more points -- a franchise-record 471 -- than any team in the league last season. But they really didn't address the two areas that needed the most attention -- defensive end and cornerback. DE Derrick Morgan is their best pass rusher, but they're hoping to get more pressure from DE Kamerion Wimbley and strongside LB Akeem Ayers. Wimbley, though, is more suited as an outside backer in a 3-4; Ayers switches to defensive end in the Titans' nickel package. But the Titans did add three players who should help their run defense -- DE Ropati Pitoitua (KC), DT Sammy Hill (Detroit) and DT Antonio Johnson (Indianapolis). Their best player has been DT Jurrell Casey, a good penetrator who will disrupt plays in the backfield.
The Titans secondary: It finished 26th in pass defense and allowed the league's highest completion rate (66.3 percent) last season, but the unit remains largely unchanged. The only new player is safety Bernard Pollard (Ravens), whose specialty is big hits and run defense, not coverage. Otherwise, four of the top five defensive backs are the same. Aliquippa native Tommie Campbell was beaten out at cornerback by Alterraun Verner. Cody Sensabugh is the nickel back who comes in on sub packages.
The Titans haven't made the playoffs since 2008 and are 5-1 in six games at Heinz Field. Overall, dating back to when the franchise was in Houston, they are 11-24 in Pittsburgh. The Titans won last year's meeting in Tennessee, 26-23, one of nine games decided by four or fewer points for the Steelers. The Steelers were winless in the preseason for only the fourth time since 1965 and first time since 2006. What's more, they scored the fewest points (56) of any AFC team. The Steelers need to do a better job of winning games against teams they should beat, something they didn't do last year with losses to the Titans, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers.
To win, the Titans must ...
1. Unlock Jake. Locker is deceptively fast, and the Titans want to get him on the edge and make plays on the move.
2. Have Johnson be Chris(p). The Titans want to return to their roots and run the ball better with their one-time 2,000-yard rusher.
3. Make a point. The defense that allowed a league-high 471 points last season needs to show improvement under Williams.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Be Titan-ic on offense. After looking largely unproductive in the preseason, the offense needs to attack a defense that is allergic to preventing points.
2. Zone out. They get to try out their new outside blocking schemes, which can be effective against the Titans' 4-3 front.
3. Not be Britt(le) with Kenny. CB Ike Taylor not only gave up the tying TD to Britt in last year's loss, he also had two pass interference and one holding penalty.Steelers