Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: McCullers Matchup Could Be Key


Oct 19, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers (98) reacts after defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks on a last second field goal at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 23 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Key Matchup: Daniel McCullers vs. Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster & Leon Washington

The pressure is on for first-time starter McCullers. McCullers takes over at nose tackle for Steve McClendon, who needs a couple weeks to heal a pesky shoulder injury. The rookie goes up against a Ken Whisenhunt offense with a rookie QB. We all know what that means. Run the ball until you’re beating a dead horse and dump a few deep balls.

His rookie QB, Zach Mettenberger, has the arm to deliver. However, If McCullers delivers, Mettenberger won’t matter.

The group of backs led by rookie Sankey will be the test of the game as Mettenberger cannot win this one by himself. He threw for 299 yards last against the Baltimore Ravens last week but they still lost 21-7. Mt. McCullers is will lead the way with his incredibly huge frame at 340 pounds and 6-foot-7.

He has worked his way into shape and earned the starting role, where he could be lining up alongside Cam Thomas. Thomas has been sporadic in run defense and absolutely dismal against the pass (a.k.a. the shadow boxer). He may lose two starting gigs in the same week if Stephon Tuitt lands a heavier snap count at defensive end.

Like McCullers, Tuitt is the verge of a breakout. With McCullers occupying two Titans at a time, Tuitt will have pass rush opportunities. Especially since the Titans o-line is a shell of its’ former self without their former boss Mike Munchak.

Mettenberger was sacked five times last Sunday in the loss to the Ravens. He also threw an interception. Outside linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds have to be looking forward to their match-ups. Worilds will lineup against a familiar foe, right tackle Michael Oher, who couldn’t get a grip on Raven Elvis Dumervil.

LeBeau will use blitz combinations to threaten the rookie QB from anywhere. Cameron Heyward and Brett Keisel are two under-the-radar sack weapons. Maybe Mike Mitchell will even get in on the action. He seems to be itching to get to the QB and we need a reason to pay him.

Irregardless of what happens on the Steelers offense, preventing the Titans from having a successful run game is the top match-up. Dick LeBeau’s scheme will take care of the rest.

Le’Veon Bell vs Titans Linebackers

The talk about the Steelers’ run-game struggles could be an effort to poke the bear, and foreshadow Haley’s game plan. The Titans run defense has been a glaring issue all season. Of course, they have unfortunately played three of the top four rushers in the league. Arian Foster shredded them for 150 yards, two receiving TDs and one passing TD.

DeMarco Murray ran over them for 167 yards and Justin Forsett had 20 carries for 112 yards and two TDs. They get the league’s third-leading back this week and the Steelers may lean on Bell to bring home the win.

Top NFL Running Backs in Total Yards

Arian Foster1233 yards7 rushing TD
DeMarco Murray822 yards7 rushing TD
Le’Veon Bell747 yards1 rushing TD
Justin Forsett721 yards5 rushing TD


I did not predict the Steelers would lay an egg in New York, but I can’t imagine a duplicate apathetic loss. Not in front of a Monday Night Football audience and a rookie QB. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked nine times and has thrown five sacks in his last four games vs the Titans.

I don’t imagine Roethlisberger will be shut down by the Titans secondary as I am sure he would love to beat Whisenhunt all on his own. He will get his shots at a particularly weak safety group. Still, the rushing stats will be the story of the game and steady the Steelers to victory.

27-10 Steelers over Titans