The Pittsburgh Steelers rushed for a season high 136 yards this past Sunday in their win over the Philadelphia Eagles and odds are that they should have some success Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans as well.
Through their first five games the Titans defense is allowing an average of 144.2 rushing yards per game and 4.19 yards per carry. Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings they allowed 175 yards on the ground with running back Adrian Peterson accounting for 88 of them. So where are the Titans the weakest directionally? Pretty much everywhere, but specifically off of right guard.
As the table below shows, teams have run off right guard 18 times so far this season at a 6.06 yard per clip. Runs off of left guard and left tackle are also inviting directions for the Steelers offense to run at as well as teams have run for an average of 5.23 and 5.35 yards respectively in those directions.
So what about big plays on the ground? Of the 172 rushes against the Titans defense, 20 have gone for 10 yards or more. The defense has also allowed 6 rushing touchdowns so far this season with 5 being scored by running backs.
So which Titans defensive player do the Steelers offensive line most need to concern themselves with? Outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, who leads the team in total tackles with 50, 32 of which were of the solo variety. To make matters worse, middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is nursing a bad ankle. Although he is expected to play Thursday night, you know that the short week is not what he wanted to see.
Much like the Eagles did on Sunday, the Titans also like to rotate out their defensive linemen. Starting defensive tackle Sen\’Derrick Marks is more of a run stuffer, while his backup Karl Klug is better at rushing the passer. That being said, both can be moved off of the ball easily per my tape study and the same can be said about Derrick Morgan, Jurrell Casey, and Kamerion Wimbley.
The Steelers offensive line played way above the line this past Sunday against the Eagles and the running game was certainly sparked by the return of Rashard Mendenhall to the lineup as well. While the play of the Titans pass defense has also been suspect to start the season, the invitation to run first to set up the pass is one that offensive coordinator Todd Haley will have a hard time declining.