Road Cautious Pittsburgh Steelers Visit Tennessee

By: Michael Robinson | Monday, October 8, 2012

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had any success outside of Heinz Field this season. They’ll need to stop their road slide with short rest at the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football.

The Don Best Pro Odds have released NFL Week 6. Pittsburgh is a 6-point favorite with a total of 42½-43. The NFL Network will broadcast from LP Field in Nashville starting at 8:20 p.m. (ET).

The Steelers (2-2 straight up, 1-3 against the spread) are coming off a 16-14 home win over Philadelphia, benefitting from two Michael Vick fumbles. It was a failure to cover as 4-point favorites, but coach Mike Tomlin is happy to see them avoid starting 1-3 for the first time in his 6-year career.

Tomlin’s guys need to show similar resiliency on the road. The team is 0-2 SU and ATS with losses at Denver (31-19) in Week 1 and Oakland (34-31) in Week 3. The ‘over’ is 2-0 in those contests with the 32 ½-PPG allowed. The ‘under’ is 2-0 at home (12 PPG surrendered).

The defense has major question marks heading into Thursday. Safety Troy Polamalu retuned against Philly after missing two games, but re-injured his calf in the first quarter. He’s listed as doubtful. James Harrison (knee) played for the first time this season, and while he looks fine, fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is questionable after getting hurt.

The offense also got a weapon back with Rashard Mendenhall. He had 81 rushing yards on 14 carries and adds balance to the offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (100.6 rating, ranked seventh) has played well even without Mendenhall, but can use the help.

Pittsburgh needs to clean up the penalties with the 86.5 YPG the most in the league. That ends up being more costly on the road where the margin for error is slimmer.

The Titans (1-4 SU and ATS) are off to a poor start in the second year of coach Mike Munchak (9-7 last year). They got blown out their last two games at Houston (38-14) and Minnesota (30-7) with both the offense and defense struggling.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck started yesterday against Minnesota and played almost the whole game against Houston after Jake Locker separated his shoulder. The rookie from Washington is doubtful at best for Thursday.

The 37-year-old Hasselbeck is certainly past his prime and has just a 73.6 rating. The receiving options are limited and Tennessee’s 6.6 yards per attempt passing overall is more telling than the 240 YPG (ranked 16th).

Munchak is a Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman, so it has to kill him to see Tennessee rank 30th in rushing (65.4 YPG). Chris Johnson was once considered a future Hall-of-Famer himself, but he’s averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and was completely shut down by Minnesota. Backup Javon Ringer (knee) is also out indefinitely.

Tennessee will start attacking the Pittsburgh run defense with Johnson, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Hasselbeck will also throw over the middle of the field to tight end Jared Cook and rookie slot receiver Kendall Wright, with Polamalu’s expected absence a key.

The Titans defense ranks 29th in the NFL in total yards (423.8 YPG) and last in points (36.2 PPG). Even in their one win this year, they let up 41 points at home to Detroit (44-41 OT final). Pittsburgh should score in at least the mid-20s and it will be up to Hasselbeck and company to keep up.

These teams met last October with Pittsburgh winning 38-17 as 3-point home favorites. Roethlisberger tied a team record with five touchdown passes, while Hasselbeck (262 yards, 1 TD) was behind center for the visitors.

 
 
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