Steeler Nation doesn’t just reside in the surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the NFL franchise that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions are a team that always strives for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less in return. This is the ultimate Steelers Game Day Preview that all followers of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation), who covers both Pitt football and the Steelers for NGSC Sports, brings you inside the huddle for both teams with a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive game plans for success, score prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and an up to date team injury report. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.
Sad state of affairs tarnishing Steelers proud history
The fans of the Steelers have been suckered into accepting mediocrity.
Growing up around these parts, our version of success growing up was nothing less than winning championships.
Nothing else matters. As the great Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
Here we are, with the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1) likely heading towards another season without a playoff win. But, hey, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season.
So what? And these observations aren’t just being seen by this writer or other people who expect certain standards from this once proud franchise.
Many former players are mortified by what they have watched this franchise morph into, and now legends like Rocky Bleier and Mean Joe Greene have begun to take shots at the team week in and week out.
“In all the years I’ve been watching my team, that first half was probably really the saddest day I’ve had in all of my years of playing and all of my years since my retirement of watching the Steelers play,” Green said about the Steelers falling behind 29-0 to the Minnesota Vikings in their last game.
Zero run defense and lack of effort plagued the Steelers for the first 30 minutes before Ben Roethlisberger almost lead the team to a miracle comeback, his final pass dropped by tight end Pat Friermuth that could have potentially tied the game as time expired.
Bonehead plays by WR Chase Claypool, who was more interested in pointing “first down” after a catch instead of getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage as precious seconds ticked off the clock is just a microcosm of what defines this Steelers team compared to the legendary ones that we all knew and loved in the past. Even when they lost back then, you were in for a vicious fight, and those teams would scrap until the bitter end.
Said Greene of Claypool’s gaffe, “Why you playing this game? For you to show [off] or win the game? Hell, we can see. We know you made the first down. Get your tail back to the huddle. Give the ball back to the official. Very immature.”
It seems even Roethlisberger has given up trying to help, as advice seems to fall on deaf ears anymore.
“It’s not really my job,” Roethlisberger said about teaching players like Claypool to be a Steeler. “To me, that goes up to Coach Tomlin. That’s what he needs to do. That’s his job as the head coach. As the quarterback, it’s my job to help manage what we do on the field. Dealing with player issues . . . that’s the coach’s job, not mine.”
“You can only tell those guys those stories so much before they’re like, ‘OK, this is someone just talking,’ kind of thing,” Roethlisberger continued. “You can pass on tradition all you want, but the further you get away from something, the harder it is to do.”
A few weeks ago, Rocky Bleier relayed these comments about his former team.
“What I can’t understand is why. It’s not that losing bothers me as much as lack of pride or self-esteem. How do you give up 82 points in the last two games? How do you, in the words of Mike Tomlin, get beat up front and both sides of the ball?” Bleier asked rhetorically.
“Big Ben after the game said ‘It is what it is. It happens sometimes. We need to play better.’ My reaction – no s—. So why don’t you play better? I don’t want to hear about injuries. We got beat even when everyone was healthy. I don’t want to hear about anything because actions speak louder than words. And at this stage of the game, those actions spell out loser. It’s not what we want to hear but it is the truth.”
Former safety Ryan Clark didn’t hold back either when asked about the state of Steelers football.
“Pittsburgh football ain’t about having fun,” Clark said. “Pittsburgh football is about dominating people on the field because of your physicality.”
“But that ain’t what y’all want. What y’all want to do is show up, and y’all want to live on the backs of legends. Don’t nobody care about that no more. Young people aren’t respectful to the past. In the past, Pittsburgh was something. This Pittsburgh defense ain’t jack,” Clark added.
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- Unleash Ben Roethlisberger: From Matt Canada’s wretched offensive game plan… Why this team is putting shackles on one of the game’s best QB’s in history is mind blowing. Charlie Batch has confirmed this.
- Chase Claypool: Needs to wake up and soon. He has all the talent in the world, but his selfish attitude is part of the problems killing this team.
- Tackle: The front seven needs to get their game together by any means necessary. The run defense has been an embarrassment.
- Create some turnovers: The more chances given to the offense the better.
- Play physical: It’s STEELERS football! Where is the intimidation? No one fears playing this unit anymore.
If the Steelers want to turn this season around, they still have time. The team will have to finish no worse than 3-1 in their final four games, or they will likely be watching the playoffs from home. The division is a mess, and none of the teams in the AFC North, that being Baltimore, Cincinnati, or Cleveland have very favorable schedules left. The Steelers can do some major damage by beating both Cleveland and Baltimore in their final two games.
But none of that is going to happen unless the coaching staff unshackles Ben Roethlisberger, and the defense learns to do the very basic requirements of their jobs… you know, like making a tackle and not making every running back faced look like the 2nd coming of Barry Sanders.
Linebacker Devin Bush is culprit #1 that has to get his head out of his nether region.
“Devin Bush hasn’t gotten off a block,” Merril Hoge said on a local radio show. “You get your hands on Devin Bush, it’s over. I’m just telling you from years of playing this game, we would want to play Devin Bush. We could not wait to play Devin Bush. We can’t believe we get to play Devin Bush.”
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler summed it up best.
“We’ve got to win individual battles,” Butler said. “Part of individual battles is getting off blocks. We use the same technique we’ve always used since I’ve been here and it’s worked for a lot of other people. It hasn’t changed. We’ve got to get off blocks and get to the ball and play in unison together.”
The Tennessee Titans (9-4) come into this game in first place in the AFC South, but this team isn’t as good as their record indicates, especially with star RB Derrick Henry sidelined with injury, and wide receivers like A.J. Brown and Julio Jones out with injury or not contributing at all.
QB Ryan Tannehill has been barely average this season, but the injuries and his offensive line, which has seen him sacked 37 times, hasn’t exactly been helpful to his cause.
The Steelers defense should be better this week with T.J. Watt back, as well as a healthy Alex Highsmith and possibly corner Joe Haden.
If the Steelers can somehow contain the terrorizing trio of D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Jeremy McNichols that Tennessee will put forth in the run game, and actually try and play a full 60 minutes of football, they should be able to find a way to win this game and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Question is, how much do they want it? Is there anything left in the tank? Can this team take to heart the criticisms leveled at them by some of the greatest players to ever wear that uniform?
“It becomes, ‘Show me that we’re better than this,’” Cam Heyward said. “It shouldn’t be coming to that. These four games are, ‘Show me how bad you want it.’ And let’s see where we fall.
“The gauntlet has been laid. Hopefully, we’ll have something to be proud of this week.”
Steelers 24 Titans 20
Game Day Information
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tennessee Titans
- Vegas line: Tennessee -1.5
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Field: Kentucky Blue Grass
Game-time: Sunday, December 19th, at 1:00 PM
TV: CBS (KDKA-TV)
- Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Tony Romo (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson (reporter)
Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM
- Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Craig Wolfley (analyst) | Max Starks (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
National Radio: ESPN Radio
- Announcers: Marc Kestecher (play-by-play) Mike Tannenbaum (analyst) | Dan Graziano (reporter)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: 38 and partly cloudy. Winds out of the North at 8 MPH.
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 6-6-1 (4th in AFC North)
Last game: Vikings 36 Steelers 28
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 151-84-2
- Playoff record: 8-8 (Qualified for playoffs 9 times)
- 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster
- Steelers Team/Individual Statistics
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Schedule
- Points per game: 20.9
- Total yards per game: 342.8
- Passing yards per game: 254.5
- Rushing yards per game: 88.4
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Ben Roethlisberger when not shackled. Najee Harris as a dual threat.
- Weaknesses: Scoring. Attacking downfield via pass. Young offensive line.
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 3,066 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has been sacked 30 times. Big Ben is best suited dropping back to pass around 25-30 times a game. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger has lost his mobility that made him one of the best out of the pocket passers in the league, and thanks to Matt Canada, he rarely attempts long passes downfield anymore, which was once a staple of his game.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr., Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
- Rookie Najee Harris is showing why the Steelers drafted him in the first round, and has rushed for 873 yards and six touchdowns this year. Harris is 2nd on the team with 60 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Cody White.
- Diontae Johnson leads the team with 81 catches for 990 yards and six touchdowns. Chase Claypool is the Steelers deep threat, and has 47 receptions for 743 yards and a touchdown. James Washington has caught 21 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Ray-Ray McCloud has 26 receptions for 180 yards. Cody White will look to make the most of his chances, but had better not drop anymore passes like he did vs Denver.
Tight Ends: Pat Friermuth, Eric Ebron*, Zach Gentry, and Kevin Rader.
- Pat Friermuth has passed Ebron on the depth chart, and has 45 receptions for 385 yards and seven touchdowns. Zach Gentry has logged nine catches for 80 yards. Eric Ebron has 12 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, but is injured.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
- Extra Points: 22-24
- Field Goals: 24-26
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 6-6
- 30-39 yards: 4-4
- 40-49 yards: 7-9
- 50+ yards: 7-7
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
- Points per game allowed: 24.8
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 371.3
- Passing yards allowed: 231.8
- Rushing yards allowed: 139.5
- Sacks: 37
- Interceptions: 8
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Great pass rush lead by T.J. Watt.
- Weaknesses: DE Stephon Tuitt is still on IR. Bad tackling and communication has lead to some blown plays this year. Rush defense has been an embarrassment.
DE: Cam Heyward | DT: Isaiah Buggs | DE: Chris Wormley.
- Cam Heyward has 6.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 67 tackles. Chris Wormley is in for starter Stephon Tuitt, who is out indefinitely.
OLB: T.J. Watt | ILB: Devin Bush | ILB: Joe Schobert | OLB: Alex Highsmith.
- Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leads the team with 16 sacks and 48 tackles. Devin Bush has been a disappointment all year, and has 61 tackles and two sacks., Joe Schobert, a Pro Bowler acquired from Jacksonville, is 1st the team with 91 tackles. Alex Highsmith has 54 tackles and three sacks.
CB: Joe Haden | SS: Terrell Edmunds | FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick | CB: Cameron Sutton/Ahkello Witherspoon
- Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will be at the corners with Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and Terrell Edmunds at strong safety. CB James Pierre will see plenty of field time in the nickle. Fitzpatrick is 2nd on the team with 88 tackles and has two interceptions. Edmunds has one of Pittsburgh’s eight interceptions. Ahkello Witherspoon has two interceptions.
Steelers Special Teams
Punter: Pressley Harvin III
Kickoff Returners: Ray-Ray McCloud and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud
Scouting report: McCloud is averaging 22.6 yard per kickoff return and 8.7 yards per punt return.
Scouting the Tennessee Titans
Overall record: 9-4 (1st in AFC South)
Last game: Tennessee 20 Jacksonville 0
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel (4th season with Tennessee)
- Overall regular-season record: 38-23
- Points per game: 24.9
- Total Offense per game: 366.7
- Passing yards per game: 228.9
- Rushing yards per game: 137.8
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Consistent run game, but hurting without Derrick Henry.
- Weaknesses: Line gives up a lot of sacks. Passing game is average at best.
Starting Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill | Back-up: Matt Farley
- Ryan Tannehill has been average at best, throwing for 2,965 yards, with 14 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Tannehill has been sacked 37 times, while rushing for 225 yards and six TD’s.
Starting Running Back: Derrick Henry* | Back-up: D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Jeremy McNichols.
- Derrick Henry is injured. D’Onta Foreman has rushed for 240 yards in Henry’s absence, and has six receptions for 81 yards. Dontrell Hilliard has 179 yards on the ground and has caught nine passes for 49 yards. Jeremy McNichols has rushed for just 85 yards, but has 25 catches for 215 yards and a score.
Receivers: A.J. Brown*, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, and Marcus Johnson.
- Leading WR A.J. Brown is injured. Julio Jones has been in and out of then line-up, and has 25 catches for 369 yards. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has 28 catches for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Chester Rogers has 21 receptions for 121 yards. Marcus Johnson has nine catches for 160 yards.
Tight Ends: Geoff Swaim, Anthony Firkser, and Mycole Pruitt.
- Geoff Swaim has 23 catches for 184 yards and a pair of scores. Anthony Firkser has caught 24 passes for 179 yards. Mycole Pruitt has 13 receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Placekicker: Randy Bullock
- Extra Points: 31-34
- Field Goals: 20-24
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 3-3
- 30-39 yards: 10-10
- 40-49 yards: 6-10
- 50+ yards: 1-1
Titans Defense (Base 4-3)
- Points per game allowed: 22.3
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 341.6
- Passing yards allowed: 250.7
- Rushing yards allowed: 90.9
- Sacks: 32
- Interceptions: 13
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Good pass rush and ball hawking defense with 13 interceptions.
- Weaknesses: Pass defense.
Defensive Line: Jeffery Simmons has 48 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Denico Autry has 21 tackles and 6 sacks.
Linebackers: David Long Jr. has 66 tackles. Harold Landry III has 63 tackles and 11 sacks.
Secondary: Kevin Byard has 69 tackles, five interceptions, and one sack.
Titans Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Chester Rogers and Marcus Johnson
Punt Returner: Chester Rogers
Scouting report: Chester Rogers is averaging 18.5 yards per kickoff return, and 9.2 yards per punt return. Marcus Johnson is averaging 19.9 yards per kick return.
Steelers vs Oilers/Titans History
Series History: Began in 1970
Overall Record: 47-32
- Home: 27-12
- Away: 20-20
- Postseason: 3-1
Streak: Steelers won the last three games.
Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 27-24 (Oct. 25, 2020)
Last postseason meeting: Titans Win, 34-31 (Jan. 11, 2003)
Injury Report (12/18/21)
- Out: LB Buddy Johnson (Foot), DE Isaiah Buggs (Ankle)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: CB Joe Haden (Foot), TE Kevin Rader (Hip),
- Out: FB Troy Carter (Ankle), CB Jackrabbit Jenkins (Ankle), LB David Long Jr. (Hamstring), DL Larrell Murchison (Knee), G Rodger Saffold III (Shoulder), DT Teair Tart (Ankle)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: OL Aaron Brewer (Toe)
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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