The 2009 NFL regular season starts off with a bang as the Tennessee Titans travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle for early bragging rights to AFC supremacy.
Last year, the Titans seized home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a statement 31-14 win over the Steelers. Unfortunately, the grudge match in the AFC Title game that wasn’t meant to be never materialized, thanks to the hated Ravens.
It’s only one game in the marathon also known as the NFL regular season, but Thursday’s opening night battle will likely jumpstart one team’s possible journey to Miami next February.
Let’s preview this marquee matchup, shall we?
The Albert Haynesworth-less era begins
Heading into the 2009 NFL season, in the minds of many, the biggest question mark surrounding the Titans is whether or not they will be able to cope without the presence of Fat Albert. Against the Steelers, we’ll soon find out whether or not #92 will be missed.
We should expect the Steelers to test the Titans’ ability to stop the run early and often. In the passing game, “Big Ben” is likely to take a few shots downfield as he performs his mandatory Houdini-act (thanks to a putrid offensive line) by trying to escape the grasps of relentlessly pursuing defenders.
Of course, we’ve seen what the Titan defense is capable of against the Steelers without Big Al last year, as Jason Jones and others stepped up in his absence in the team’s dominating defeat of the Steelers. However, that reality appears to be lost in the minds of national prognosticators, who are suggesting that Al’s departure will lead to a less-than-stellar regular season for the Titans.
Will the Titan defense prove the critics wrong by playing well without Haynesworth, or will a poor performance against Pittsburgh serve as fuel to the naysayers’ fires?
Calling all Titan-playmakers!
As a result of lingering injuries to newcomers Nate Washington and Jared Cook, the Titans may be missing a few offensive weapons against the Steelers. If they’re unable to go, someone’s going to have to step up and make some plays on offense.
Making plays is exactly what Justin Gage did against the Steelers last December, as he caught 5 passes for 104 yards and a score. Hopefully, Justin can come through with another strong game against Pittsburgh.
Of course, making plays is sophomore sensation Chris Johnson’s specialty. The running back formerly/currently known as Dash is a threat to take it to the house on any given play, so it’s paramount if he can break a big play or two on Thursday night.
Last but not least, rookie Kenny Britt will be looking to get his NFL career off to a great start by making an impact in the Titans’ passing game. With his impressive size and speed, look for a Kerry Collins’ deep pass or two in the rook’s direction against the Steelers.
Dont believe the hype
One of the biggest themes surrounding Thursday’s grudgematch has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with the stomping of a yellow towel.
In last year’s Titan win, LenDale White and others joyfully placed their foot signatures on the Steelers’ beloved terrible towel, prompting an immediate response from Steeler Nation who overwhelmingly voiced their disapproval.
I’m sure the events of last year will play a big role in the Terror Dome-type atmosphere that will likely await the Titans at Heinz Field on Thursday. Everytime LenDale White touches the football, Steeler fans will be undoubtedly booing him until their lungs almost collapse.
However, at the end of the day, the team that emerges victorious will win because of what took place on the football field, not because of the Terrible Towel controversy.
Who will emerge victorious, you ask? I’ll take the Titans in a 20-17 squeaker.
So what do you think, guys? Any thoughts/predictions for Thursday’s titanic matchup with the Steelers?