John Russell / Associated Press
Safety Michael Griffin returned his seventh interception of the season for a touchdown to seal the Titans' victory.
When the last time the two teams played was back in week 16 in last seasons regular season finale at LP Field where the Titans routed the Steelers and took the #1 seed and carried home field advantage into the playoffs. It was the first time in the 2008 campaign that the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed a 300 yard game on defence. Ben Roethlisberger commited 4 fumbles and the Steelers fumbled the ball away and the Titans ended up winning 31-17... They locked up the first seed at a record of 13-2 with Pittsburgh trailing 11-4... Fast forward 8 months and it was not the Tennessee Titans who for the first time in 20 years locked up the first seed but the Pittsburgh Steelers and their #1 ranked defense for two straight years are defending Super Bowl Champions.
When the teams clash thursday night for what could refuel a old rivalry from when the teams use to clash in the AFC Central will have plenty of matchups and reminiscing memories from last Decembers trashing, Chris Johnson juking past Troy Polamalu to put the Steelers to bed and Lendale White and Keith Bullock stomping on the terrible towels. Prepare yourself for a hard hitting defensive encounter as the 2008 #1 ranked defence (237.2) will try to outplay the #7 ranked defence (293.6).
Chris Johnson vs Lawrence Timmons
Lawrence Timmons who will start for the first full season of career will have to have a big game tonight. The fast coverage linebacker will be looking to not only stop the run which was ineffective against Tennessee last year but will also have the shadow the one year pro in the open on passing and screen plays. It doesn't get easy for Lawrence Timmons as Chris Johnson ran a 4.24 at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. He used his deadly speed to amass 1,228 on 251 carries for a 4.9 yard average. In the first game he ever started he rushed 19 times for 109 yards and posses a bigtime threat against the Steelers. Timmons who started twice in the 2008 Super Bowl campaign recorded 5 tackles against Indianapolis it's clear who has the edge as Chris Johnson may cause some havoc if Timmons does not shut him down.
Justin Gage vs William Gay
For the first time in William Gay's 2 year career the best defensive Nickelback of 2008 will handle the starting duties with the departure of Bryan McFadden. It won't be easy for Gay as Justin Gage lined up against the Pittsburgh Steelers best Corner last season in Ike Taylor and recored 5 receptions for 104 yards which included a 34 yard touchdown. William Gay started 4 games last season allowed just 11 recptions for 132 yards and 0 touchdowns. In week 15's encounter for the AFC North divional title between Baltimore had the crucial interception in the endzone which ended the Baltimore Ravens hopes of the #2 seed. Gay totaled 41 tackles and 1 interception and saw significant increase in playing time even when starter Bryan McFadden came back from an injury. Although as impressive as William Gay was Justin Gage gets rightfully the clear edge in this head to head contest.
Jason Jones vs Willie Parker
The last time these teams met Willie ran 19 times for 31 yards for a dismal average of 1.6 yards per carry. On the other hand Jason Jones who filled in for Albert Haynesworth wrecked havoc on the offensive line and Haynesworth was not missed as he recorded 4 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Willie Parker will look to split carries with 1 year pro Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers will need to run the ball far more consistently this year if they want to defend their title appropriatley. It is not certain the 2008 Defense will be just as good and carry them through the season. The advantage goes to Tennessee.
Tennessee Titans vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Much could be said about this matchup. Alot will be said afterwards as one of the powerhouses in the AFC Conference will start 0-1. No team that starts 0-1 has ever gone on to win the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The Steelers have a pretty easy schedule and the only hard games will come against Balitmore, Green Bay and Minnesota and Tennessee who they will duel with later this week. If the Steelers win tonight it could implement them as serious contenders for another playoff run. The advantage overall goes to Pittsburgh with crowd advantage and the fact that no defending World Champion has lost it's opening game since the Kickoff game came into place a couple of years back.
Ones to Watch For
- Santonio Holmes
- Kenny Britt
- Mike Wallace
- Jason Jones
- Chris Johnson
- Troy Polamalu
- Rashard Mendenhall