Steeler - Titans / Position-by-Position Breakdown

Following is a position-by-position preview of Saturday's Steelers at Tennessee Titans divisional-round playoff game:

QUARTERBACK – Tommy Maddox has been the comeback kid in Pittsburgh, not only for the season but in the second halves of games. But while Maddox has broken several Steelers passing records this season, his value doesn't quite stack up to that of Titans quarterback Steve McNair, who finished third in the NFL MVP voting. McNair has struggled with a turf toe injury this season, but scouts feel that is the reason he's doing so well as a pocket passer. He doesn't have the urgency to run out of the pocket and has thrown for career highs in both yardage (3,387) and touchdowns (15). McNair still runs, as his 440 yards on the ground attest, and he's been healthy enough to practice for the first time since late November. Edge: TITANS.

WIDE RECEIVERS – With Kevin Dyson on injured reserve since Nov. 24, the Titans have relied on Derrick Mason, who leads the team with 79 catches for 1,012 yards. Dyson was replaced by Drew Bennett, who's caught only 11 passes in the last five games. Bennett lacks speed, but speed is the name of third receiver Justin McCareins' game. He's caught only 19 passes this season, but his biggest play, a 55-yarder, came against Chad Scott and the Steelers. The Titans have used running backs and tight ends instead of a fourth receiver, which gives the Steelers' deep corps of pass-catchers the big . Edge: STEELERS.

TIGHT ENDS – With Mark Bruener on injured reserve, his replacement for the Steelers, Jerame Tuman, showed great improvement as a blocker two weeks ago and lived up to his potential as a receiver last Sunday against Cleveland. Tuman will be helped in short-yardage situations by second tight end Matt Cushing. The Titans expect more from their tight ends, and even though Frank Wycheck has lost a step, he still provides McNair with a quality check-down receiver who'll be in the right place at the right time. The Titans' No. 2 tight end, Erron Kinney, is a better receiver than blocker. Edge: TITANS.

RUNNING BACKS – Eddie George, with 1,165 yards, is the highest ranking running back (14th) left in the playoffs. He's lost a step, as his 3.4-yard per carry average would indicate, but the week off may help in that regard. Jerome Bettis has also lost a step, and a spot or two in the Steelers' pecking order. Bettis carried only once last week as Amos Zereoue answered the bell with 73 yards on only 13 carries as the starter. The ace up the Steelers' sleeve may be Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, who scored the winning touchdown against the Browns on the heels of an 8-carry, 49-yard performance in the regular-season finale. Edge: STEELERS.

OFFENSIVE LINE – The Titans' line has been banged up down the stretch, but left tackle Brad Hopkins is expected to return. The other injured player, left guard Zach Piller (calf), practiced this week but remains the only active Tennessee starter in jeopardy of playing Saturday. Piller doesn't move well, but is so strong he handled all of Kendrell Bell's bull rushes in the last meeting. Right guard Benji Olson, like Piller, is "a phone-booth guy," or a guy who does well in a confined space. Center Gennaro DiNapoli is a good angle blocker, but will struggle with someone over his head, which could mean a big game for Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. The Steelers are healthy along the front wall and have an emerging player in backup guard Keydrick Vincent. Edge: STEELERS.

DEFENSIVE LINE – After becoming the third NFL player to record double-digit sacks in his first three seasons, Jevon Kearse of the Titans broke his foot on the first series of the opening game this season. He returned for the final three games and made 11 tackles and had two sacks while playing 15-20 snaps per game. Kearse wears a brace on his left foot and aggravated the injury in practice this week, but expects to play. His bookend is Kevin Carter, who's recorded 10 sacks this season, but only three in the second half of the season. The Titans rotate tackles Henry Ford, Albert Haynesworth, John Thornton and Robaire Smith so that all remain fresh enough to provide pressure on the quarterback without the team needing to blitz. The unit is the strength of the Titans' defense. The Steelers counter with an outstanding trio of starters that just might be the most underrated unit in the league. Edge: TITANS.

LINEBACKERS – The four the Steelers trot out most Sundays just might be the league's best. Jason Gildon has been to two Pro Bowls, Joey Porter is an All-Pro and James Farrior is rapidly progressing into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. But the best of the group is Bell, who expects to play this week on his injured left ankle. The Titans don't have any Pro Bowlers, but personnel people around the league feel their weakside backer, Keith Bulluck, deserved it. Randall Godfrey in the middle is a leader and has speed. T

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