In part II, our roles were reversed, with Jim asking the questions and yours truly providing the answers.
His inquiries and my responses are after the jump.
1. Without Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch on the line, how will the Titans’ defense change, and what will the Titans do to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger?
The Titans have been adequate without the services of their energizer bunny, Kyle Vanden Bosch. Role players such as David Ball and Jacob Ford have been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks during KVB’s absence. He’s seen better days, but Jevon Kearse can still get after the quarterback on occasion.
However, the loss of Haynesworth may serve as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Last season, during a three-game stretch when Albert was injured, the Titans surrendered a ton of rushing yards.
In addition to his run-stopping abilities, blocking Big Al requires extra attention, which opens things up for the rest of the Titan defensive line to make plays.
Against Pittsburgh, expect the Titans to continue to depend mostly on the ability of their front four to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. As you’ve mentioned in your answers, Jim, the Steeler offensive line is far from dominant, so I envision guys like Tony Brown, David Ball, Jevon Kearse and Jacob Ford putting decent pressure on Ben.
However, as I alluded to a couple of paragraphs ago, Haynesworth’s absence will be felt the most on run defense.
2. Kerry Collins is struggling over the past couple of weeks. Does he have any chance against the Steelers defense, and if he doesn’t, might we see Vince Young in this game?
Collins has had his share of troubles as of late. Against Houston last week, KC failed to connect with open wide receivers and if one or two of those throws are made, your probably looking at the Titans being 13-1 instead of 12-2.
Against a talented Steeler defense, I’m not expecting Collins to be a world-beater. His role should be to merely manage the game, avoid mistakes and make key passes. Of course, this is easier said than done against your D.
This game reminds me a lot of the Titans-Ravens matchup earlier in the year. In that contest, Collins struggled mightily, but came up big when his team needed him the most as he completed a touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler in the 4th quarter of the Titans’ 13-10 win over the Ravens.
As for Vince Young, barring injury, I doubt if you’ll see him on Sunday.
3. Give Steelers’ fans three reasons why you think the Titans offense can move the ball against the Steelers top ranked defense.
Chris Johnson: He’s an explosive player who needs to get the ball out in space. Hammering him into the line of scrimmage isn’t going to work against Pittsburgh, so hopefully, the Titans will showcase their scintillating rookie in a variety of different ways this weekend. Maybe he can do to your defense what Tashard Choice was able to accomplish a couple of weeks ago.
Taking advantage of Big Ben’s mistakes: Big Ben’s a good QB but as you know, he’s more than capable of throwing an interception or two. If the Titans can force Ben into mistakes, especially in his team’s part of the field, moving the football would be a whole lot easier for the Titans as a result of a potentially shorter journey to the endzone.
WR’s must win one-on-one matchups: As the case with most Titan opponents, I expect the Steelers to key in on Tennessee’s running game. As a result, the Titan wide receivers should see their share of one-on-one matchups.
Though a bit inconsistent (an understatement) Justin Gage is a big guy who can make plays down the field. When he does catch the football, he’s averaging 18.9 yards per grab.
I’d like to see Gage get a deep throw or two in his direction Sunday.
4. You mentionedin my interview questions. He’ll likely be covered by All-Pro Cortland Finnegan, which should be an entertaining match-up. I’ll ask you the same question of Finnegan: Is he a dirty player, or a helluva competitor?
I think I’ll go with the latter: Finnegan’s a helluva competitor. The 5’10” Finnegan is chihuahua-like as he pesters receivers that are usually bigger than him.
I love his tenacity, even if it does cross the line at times (last week’s spearing penalty). However, like Ward, he’s one of those guys that you love if he’s on your side and hate with a passion if your going against him.
Finnegan vs. Ward should be a war between two passionate players who love the game of football.
5. Who will win the matchup, and why?
I’m anticipating a rather low-scoring contest between two well-coached, physical football teams. Losing Haynesworth will be a tough obstacle for the Titans to overcome and I expect the Steelers to have some success running the football.
If the Titans can force Big Ben into a mistake or two while avoiding the turnover bug when they have the ball, I can envision a close Titan victory.
Tennessee 16 Pittsburgh 13
A big thank you goes out to Steel Tradition for participating in this week’s Q&A exchange.