By Jake Arians
Week 7 in the NFL features a matchup of undefeated teams with quarterbacks that are playing at an extremely high level. Ben Roethlisberger and his 5-0 Pittsburgh Steelers are in Nashville taking on Ryan Tannehill and his 5-0 Tennessee Titans.
Tannehill set records in 2019 for efficiency, leading many to question if he could replicate that performance in 2020. He has done exactly that, picking up right where he left off last season. The Titans paid him like the star he is becoming and he is not letting them down. He, in my opinion, is the MVP of that team thus far and the most important player on their roster. Derrick Henry is also a star and finally broke out last week, but Tannehill is their leader and the guy this team has relied on most.
While the Titans have started 5-0 and have had a big win against the Buffalo Bills under their belt, this week will be a different test. Tennessee’s four other wins were all very close games against bottom half of the league teams. The other test? The Titans will be without their star left tackle Taylor Lewan, who tore his ACL last Sunday. Although Tannehill has been the least-pressured quarterback so far this season, playing without Lewan is a huge loss facing this Steelers pass rush.
The Titans do have young stud receiver A.J. Brown back, but he will have to have a monster game along with Tannehill to score enough against this exceptional Steelers defense—a unit that is playing extremely well in all phases. They are No. 2 in total yards allowed, eighth in passing yards allowed, second in rushing yards allowed, and third in points allowed. They will be without their second-year superstar middle linebacker Devin Bush, who also tore an ACL in last week’s win against the Browns, however, the Steelers stop the run and put as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as any team in the league. With Tannehill’s efficiency and Henry’s power and running ability something is going to have to give, making the loss of Lewan that much more important.
The mismatch is this Steelers offense, led by future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, against the Titans defense—a unit that has struggled and ranks in the bottom seven of most major defensive categories. They are well coached by Mike Vrabel and can give exotic looks, but this group hasn’t played that well in 2020.
This Steelers offense will be a difficult test. Roethlisberger has weapons all over the place and this offensive line is still playing at a high level. They are still finding their way a bit and figuring out the best way to use all these weapons, but Roethlisberger is managing this offense very efficiently as well and making more big plays week after week.
Coming off the massive elbow injury in 2019, Roethlisberger has gotten his legs under him and his confidence back. The Steelers are ninth in the NFL in rushing and haven’t asked their quarterback to do too much in the passing game yet. But, with Roethlisberger’s resume and all the weapons he has—including the returning Diontae Johnson—if they need him to be Big Ben, he is more than capable of taking over this game.
This should be a very close game and a battle of strengths between two hot undefeated AFC teams. The difference, however, will be Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense’s ability to take advantage of what seems to be a mismatch against this Titans defense.