Steel City Divisional Playoff Pre-Game

<b>Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans</b><br><br> <br><b>Defense:</b><br><br> Pittsburgh Final Rank 7th (Rush 1st, Pass 20th). Chad Scott's return will be a boost. He's got good tackling and run-stopping ability. Watch for DeWayne Washington to cover Derrick Mason. Washington's the better cover cornerback.

Kendrell Bell should have a big presence in the line-up, but the key may be how much push Aaron Smith and those lineman get on non-blitzing plays. The more pressure they can get, the easier it will be to drop extra men into coverage.

Tennessee Final Rank 10th (Rush 2nd, Pass 25th).  They won the battle in the air the last game and they'll dare the Steelers to beat them through the air again. Their front 7 should be good enough to stop the Steelers rushing game so it will be up to the secondary to do the job. They'll be gunning for picks and the quarterback.

Advantage: The Titans will have the advantage because the Steelers can't stop the pass to save their season.

Pittsburgh Final Rank 5th (Rush 9th, Pass 7th). The best for the Steelers to do in this game is not let Jerome Bettis see the field unless they have a late lead. Famous Amos Zereoue needs to get something going on the ground or the Titans defense will tee off on Tommy Maddox. The Steelers would be smart to throw in mis-directions and delayed plays (no razzle-dazzle, please) to catch an aggressive Titans defense in a compromising position.

Tennessee Final Rank 17th (Rush 11th, Pass 21st). Eddie George probably won't have an All-Pro day, but he should be good for 3 - 4 yard gains. It will be important for the Titans to convert third downs this week. The Cleveland Browns tried to run on third and short last week and were consistently denied, while third and long passing situations seemed to always work. If the Titans try to run on third down they won't stay on the field.

Advantage: The Steelers have the more talented offense, but the Titans can get hot very quickly and look like world-beaters. But the Steelers have the more talented offense.

So, can Tommy Maddox continue his hot streak? Here's to thinking he can. He's in a groove and it will only continue from here. He's back to his pre-injury self, perhaps even better. But please, no interceptions. Okay, maybe one, but no more than one… please.

Steve McNair is not on the injury list for the first time since October. That may sound good, but he actually plays better when he's hurt. He says he has to concentrate more when he's hurt.

Advantage: Push. Both quarterbacks will be at the top of their game. Maddox may throw an interception and McNair may start a little rusty.

3 Keys For the Titans

1. The Titans need to establish Eddie George early.

2. The Titans must stay away from turnovers. That could keep Pittsburgh in the game.

3. The Titans must score touchdowns in the red zone. Field goals will do them very little good.

3 Keys For the Steelers

1. The Steelers must give Tommy Maddox 3.5 seconds in the pocket without pressure.

2. The Steelers must run the ball enough to keep the Titans honest.

3. The Steelers must take advantage of virtually every turnover or ideal field position.

Outlook: I like the Steelers in an upset. The Titans are the hottest team in the NFL, but the Steelers are pretty warm themselves.

--The Steel Apple





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