The time is finally here. Let’s get it on!
Is it just me, or has the rest of Steeler Nation been looking forward to this game since about week 9 of the season? Back then, the Titans were undefeated, and I just knew in my heart that the Steelers could beat them. I hoped that nobody would beat them before the Steelers got the opportunity to exert their dominance over them.
Of course, the New York Jets ruined that dream when they beat the Titans 34-13 in Tennessee. Then the Houston Texans further messed up my fantasy by beating the Titans last week by a score of 13-12.
Nevertheless, there is still a lot on the line when the Steelers play the Titans this Sunday. Both teams have already clinched a first round playoff bye. But the winner of this game will gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Some will say that home field advantage may not be a good thing for either of these teams. Afterall, the Titans were 13-3 in 2000 and had earned home field throughout the playoffs, but lost their very first game. Similarly, the Steelers had the #1 seed in 1994, 2001, and 2004, but lost in the conference championship at home each time. To that, I say “phooey”! Only a complete idiot would say that earning home field advantage is not a good thing. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. The Steelers should want home field advantage.
By gaining home field advantage, they will have the benefit of having the crowd on their side. They will also avoid unnecessary travel that can take so much out of a player. They will get to sleep in their own beds, and eat their own food. That’s worth a lot. And most importantly, the Steelers should want to earn home field advantage as a gift to their fans. Sure, Steeler Nation will follow the black and gold wherever they go. But what could possibly be better than playing all of their playoff games in the ‘Burgh in front of the world’s greatest fans?
As investment companies say, “past performance is not an indication of future results”. That’s how I feel about the Steelers’ past playoff history with home field advantage. It is meaningless. Those games have nothing to do with the ones that the Steelers will play this year. Home field advantage is a prize that is to be sought. Period.
A win over the Cleveland Browns in the final game of the season is essentially guaranteed. Afterall, the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers since…… ummmm, I can’t even remember when it was. But I’m pretty sure that Jim Brown was still playing for Cleveland at the time.
Since the win over Cleveland is all but assured, the Titans are the only real obstacle in the Steelers’ quest for home field advantage. That is why this may be the most important game of the season.
The Tennessee Titans are the AFC’s #1 ranked running offense. Unfortunately, they are about to run into the AFC’s #1 ranked rushing defense. The Titans average 142.8 yards per game on the ground. However, the Steelers’ defense is only giving up 75.8 rushing yards per game. Something has got to give.
The Titans’ rushing attack is led by the running back tandem of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. They go by the nickname of “Smash ‘n Dash”. However, like Clinton Portis, Brandon Jacobs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, Fred Taylor, and Brian Westbrook before them, “Smash ‘n Dash” is about to find out that nobody can run against the Steelers’ defense. Nobody. White and Johnson don’t know it yet, but the Steelers are going to crash and bash “Smash ‘n Dash”.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans won’t present the challenge that they might have earlier in the season. Two of their best defensive players, DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, are out with injuries. The Titans don’t blitz much as a team. Instead they rely on their 4 man rush. Without two of their four front line players, their rush will be greatly diminished. That’s bad news for the Titans, but great news for Big Ben.
With their pass rush rendered impotent, Ben Roethlisberger should pick the Titans’ secondary apart. Last week, Texans’ wide receiver Andre Johnson burned the Titans for over 200 receiving yards. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes may not get that many yards, but they should have a good game.
Barring divine intervention, there is little doubt in my mind that the Steelers are going to beat the Titans. The Steelers are a better team, and they’ve faced better opposition. The Steelers’ opponents this season are a combined 98-95-2, while the Titans’ opponents are 82-113-1.
The Titans are merely the next rung on the ladder that the Steelers have to climb. I predict a final score of Steelers 24, Titans 10.
If you like the picture above, you can download it here. It is a Steelers cheer card. They are available for free at Post-Gazette.com. Check them out before each game.
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