Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the key matchups in today's Titans-Steelers game.

OLB Lawrence Timmons vs. LT Michael Roos

Timmons will start at OLB, replacing injured James Harrison on the defensive right side. Timmons has started two games at the position in 2008. He's somewhat experienced, and certainly athletic, but how well he'll understand the nuances of the position – rushing the passer in particular – remains to be seen. Harrison is a bull at the point of attack against the run. That's the main question for Timmons, who was a coverage 4-3 outside backer in college.

Roos is rebounding well after a rough 2010 season – much like the rest of the Titans. He has yet to allow a sack and the Titans are one of the surprise teams over the first quarter of the NFL season. The trick for him is going to be analyzing what Timmons did as an inside linebacker and translating that into his plan of attack. Expect the Titans to attack the left edge, having faith in Roos' ability to neutralize Timmons.

ILBs James Farrior and Larry Foote vs. TEs Jared Cook and Craig Stevens

The veterans Farrior and Foote will start together for the first time since Super Bowl XLIII. That night in Tampa, the Cardinals didn't utilize their tight ends much, but the Titans have used them with great success so far. QB Matt Hasselbeck has connected with both of them for big plays (80 yards and a touchdown for Cook, 58 yards for Stevens), and their presence is a big boost for the upstart Titans.

The Titans are likely to attack both Farrior and Foote in the passing game, where both have shown cracks this season. Houston TE Owen Daniels beat Farrior on a corner post last week for a key third-down conversion. They'll both have to remain disciplined this week against a very talented Titans passing group.

WRs Hines Ward and Mike Wallace vs. CBs Cortland Finnegan and Jason McCorty

It's somewhat misleading to suggest this match-up will be about only these four players. It really illustrates personnel strengths for both teams. The Titans' secondary is playing better than anyone else's in the game. Both Finnegan and McCorty are playing at a high level, and the Titans pass defense has been a huge part of their success this season. They're both physical corners who cover very well.

Ward and Wallace were noticeably frustrated last week against Houston, as the Texans' pass rush all but eliminated each of them from second half production. They're going to need to be on the same page with QB Ben Roethlisberger in regards to blitz recognition and route adjustments. If the deep ball is there, the Steelers will go for it, but expect a plan including more bubble screens and shorter slants to help take some pressure off the injured Roethlisberger.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Nate Washington

Rumor is the over/under on plays run before these two start jawing at each other is 2. It'd be smart to take the under. Washington, the former Steeler, was largely productive in the shadow of Kenny Britt. But against Cleveland in Week 4, he fell off a bit, catching just two passes after 21 receptions in the first three games. Tennessee will need him to stretch the field, and with the Steelers without key pass rusher Harrison, the Titans will look to get Washington the ball down the field.

Taylor has done very well in deep coverage this season, and he gets up for these kinds of match-ups. Texans WR Andre Johnson went down in the first half, but wasn't doing much to that point. The Titans are likely to just stay away from Taylor, minus a few planned situations in which they'll go for the deep ball.

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