We have reached the final four games of the 2021 NFL season. This week 15 matchup features the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Tennessee Titans. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
What: Tennessee Titans (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)
Where: Heinz Field Pittsburgh, PA
When: 1pmET Sunday, December 19th 2021
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 38 degrees at kickoff
Line: Titans -1.5
Last Week: The Titans blanked the Jaguars in Nashville 20-0 while the Steelers rallied from 29-0 down only to lose 36-28 in Minnesota.
TV: CBS Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analysis), Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
TV Coverage in Your Area: Check 506sports.com for coverage in your area.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Craig Wolfley with Missi Matthews and Max Starks on the sidelines. (RIP Tunch Ilkin)
ESPN National Radio: Marc Kestecher (play-by-play), Mike Tannenbaum (analysis), Dan Graziano (sideline)
Head Official: Brad Rogers. Rogers is a college professor who attended Lubbock Christian. This is his third season as a head official and it will be his second time with the Steelers. His first assignment was in week five when they defeated the Denver Broncos in Pittsburgh.
Key Injuries/Game Status (courtesy steelers.com) PIT: LB Buddy Johnson (Foot) – Out, CB Joe Haden (Foot) – Questionable, TE Kevin Rader (Hip) – Questionable, DE Isaiah Buggs (Ankle) – Questionable TEN: FB Troy Carter (Ankle) – Out, CB Jackrabbit Jenkins (Ankle) – Out, LB David Long Jr. (Hamstring) – Out, DL Larrell Murchison (Knee) – Out
G Rodger Saffold III (Shoulder) – Out, DT Teair Tart (Ankle) – Out, OL Aaron Brewer (Toe) – Questionable
Injury Notes: The Steelers overall look pretty healthy but guys like T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Joe Haden aren’t 100%… Tennessee has a lot of guys out but I still expect the Mike Vrabel led team to be ready to go.
2021 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 21st TEN 17th Passing Offense: PIT 13th TEN 23rd Rushing Offense: PIT 28th TEN 5th
Total Defense: PIT 27th TEN 12th Passing Defense: PIT 14th TEN 22nd Rushing Defense: PIT 30th TEN 2nd
AFC North Rankings: Baltimore 8-5, Cincinnati 7-6, Cleveland 7-6, Pittsburgh 6-6-1
This Week in the AFC North: Las Vegas at Cleveland 430pmET (SAT), Cincinnati at Denver 405pmET, Green Bay at Baltimore 425pmET
What You Need to Know: Mike Tomlin is 6-3 all-time against the Titans… Najee Harris has 1,270 yards from scrimmage which ranks number one all-time for Steelers rookies… The Steelers have won 27 games in the month of December at home dating back to 2007. That’s the most wins in the league over that time… Tomlin is 11-3 on nine days rest and is 5-1 at home in such situations… Ben Roethlisberger needs 28 yards to pass Philip Rivers for fifth in all-time passing yardage… Big Ben needs one TD pass of 80 yards or longer to move into first place with ten such passes. He is currently tied with Brett Favre…
Tennessee Titans Names to Know: QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Julio Jones, RB D’Onta Foreman, S Kevin Byard, TE Anthony Firkser, K Randy Bullock, LB Ola Adeniyi, LB Bud Dupree
What’s at Stake: With both Houston and Jacksonville no threat, the Titans have to hold off the surging Colts in order to win the AFC South. They are also in contention for the top seed as well so it’s an important game. For the Steelers it’s simple. Win and you keep hope of a playoff spot alive. Lose and you can start making vacation plans for warmer weather.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 47-32 and lead all-time at home 27-12
Last Meeting: October 2020 in Nashville. Steelers 27 Titans 24
Check out the latest Steel City Blitz Steelers Podcast for more on the Steelers.
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
1. Go No Huddle From the Start. Mike Tomlin would never admit it but he doesn’t like to utilize the no huddle offense because he doesn’t want his defense getting worn out. That’s a cop-out and he knows it. No huddle is vastly different than “hurry up” offense. You can take the same amount of time as if you huddled by doing the ‘muddle.’ This is where instead of huddling, the offense gets to the line of scrimmage and awaits the formation and play. While it limits your ability to rotate players it does the same thing to the defense. At this point, you’d have to be a fool to not recognize that Ben Roethlisberger operates best in this situation. It’s time to do it from the get-go.
2. Force Turnovers. It’s no secret this defense can’t stop the run. Even with Derrick Henry out, the Titans are still going to run the football. Therefore, the Steelers’ D has to create turnovers. Whether it’s punching the ball out or creating interceptions, the defense has to find ways to limit how badly it is getting beaten. This is easier said than done to be sure but at this point, the Steelers have little other options. Another loss ends the hopes of a postseason berth so take the risks and live with them.
3. Get Out of the Blocks. For whatever reason, this team has not only struggled offensively in the first half of games but it has struggled mightily in the second half as well. The Steelers need to find that same sense of urgency they showed in second halves and apply it to the start of games. There is however, no magic elixir that will do this. We talked on the podcast this week about how Matt Canada likes to use those opening 15 plays or so to see exactly what the defense is doing. That’s all fine and good when you can control the ball and actually run 25-30 plays in the first half. That hasn’t been happening. Getting off to a good start is every team’s goal but this team needs it desperately.
Prediction: We’ve already seen this team rise up a bit when their backs were against the wall. They seem to be a bit healthier after the mini-bye so hopefully that benefits them. The Titans will not lay down in any way this weekend and any Steeler that thinks so is going to get punched in the nose. Every single guy in Black and Gold knows what the next four games mean. I can’t speak for the other three but I think it will guide them just enough to scrape past Tennessee heading into Christmas.
Steelers 23 Titans 20
Season Prediction Record: 7-6