Behind Enemy Lines

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Behind Enemy Lines: A Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers


NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

Here's a quick look at the Steelers:

Record: 5-0.

Last game: October 17, 2020: Steelers 38, Browns 7.

Points for/against: 31.2/18.8 ppg.


Offense: 21st overall, 358.0 ypg (8th rushing, 24th passing).

Defense: 2nd overall, 285.2 ypg (2nd rushing, 7th passing).


Head coach: Mike Tomlin.


QB: Ben Roethlisberger (114-of-165, 1,178 yards, 11 TDs, 1 INTs, 109.1 rating).

Top RB: James Conner (75 carries, 369 yards, 4 TDs).

Top WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster (23 catches, 194 yards, 3 TD).

Top TE: Eric Ebron (16 catches, 165 yards, 1 TDs).


Sacks: OLB Bud Dupree (5).

Leading tackler: CB Mike Hilton (29).

Interceptions: CB Steven Nelson (2).

Take/Give: +5 (9/4).

Kicker: Chris Boswell (7-of-7 FGs, 17-of-18 PATs).

Punter: Dustin Colquitt 43.1 (37.1).

Last meeting: November 16, 2017: Steelers 40, Titans 17.

Of note:

-Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane originally signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent and he appeared in two games for the team during the 2018 season.

-Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was drafted by the Steelers in the 1997 NFL Draft and he played in 51 games for the team.

-Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was a graduate assistant at the University of Memphis in 1996 and he served as an assistant coach at Tennessee-Martin during the 1997 season.

-Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton played at the University of Tennessee from 2013-16.

Injury Report

LB Devin Bush (knee)

CB Mike Hilton (shoulder)

C Maurkice Pouncey (foot)

QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee)

DE Stephon Tuitt (not injury related)

DB Derek Watt (hamstring)

G David DeCastro (abdomen)

WR Diontae Johnson (back)

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel:

(on the challenges of playing another undefeated team and what it will reveal about the Titans)

Just playing a good opponent, I would say the records don't mean anything in this league. I know that we're not caught up in that. Every week is a huge challenge. This one, unbelievably so. Very well-coached football team, physical football team, very good defense, very efficient in their operation on offense. It's critical, there's so many guys that – I think there's five guys that have at least 25 targets. So, Ben (Roethlisberger)'s doing what really good quarterbacks do, which is find the guy that's open and get them the football. They're able to run it and control the tempo of the game. I don't think that the records are going to mean anything in this game. What we have to focus on is preparation and then execution.

(on Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool's skillset)

He's a player we evaluated coming out. He's a smart football player. They do a lot with him for being a rookie. Plays in the kicking game, he's a good player there. He's been a gunner for them, he's played all over the place on kickoff. He's got really good size, good speed, doesn't seem like the game is too fast for him or too big. They've handed it to him, they've thrown shots with him, double moves with him, took a slant, ran past the safety, broke a tackle against the Eagles. He's a big play threat who all around looks to be a very good football player.

(on what stands out about the Steelers wide receiver group)

They all are really good route runners. I think they're very well-coached. When you have the ability to get the football, I think they all are locked in and dialed in, because Ben (Roethlisberger) distributes the ball to the guy that's open, where the lead takes him and so I think that keeps everybody alive, that keeps them focused so that they can produce and just when you may forget that they have a guy – a guy like (James) Washington shows up huge last week, and then it's (Chase) Claypool. We have to be prepared for everybody that's out there, all the way from (Eric) Ebron – they all have around 24, 25, 26 targets.

(on former Titan and current Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane's skillset)

He's playing well. He's flying around. He looks fast on special teams not only on defense. Really enjoyed my time with Robert (Spillane), and remember him being here as a tryout player, and Jon (Robinson) and I telling him that we wanted to sign him to the team. It was Mother's Day. He was excited to be able to call his mom and tell them that. Really enjoyed working with him. Sometimes you can't stick with everybody. Happy for Robert (Spillane). We'll have to prepare for him on defense as well as on special teams.

(on intercepting Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as a player if he can give his players insight on the quarterback after having played against him)

I remember the interception. I only had 11 of them. He's in elite company there. I don't think that anything that I can offer other than just trying to get them prepared now, what he looks like. Obviously, he's got great play strength, good command, good hard count, good operation of their system, but that was a long time ago.

(on Ben Roethlisberger's mental game)

I think he's got really great command of what they're asking him to do in the operation, whether he's decided to throw or hand it off. His accuracy downfield, the anticipation, got a lot of trust in those guys down the field. He's going to give them opportunities and he's going throw it and they'll make plays.

(on what makes the Steelers defense successful)

Well-coached, really good personnel. I've always admired those defensive linemen. Cam (Heyward) obviously being from Ohio State, watching him play, (Stephon) Tuitt, having evaluated him coming out of Notre Dame, Tyson (Alualu) in the middle, looks quicker, looks more powerful than he ever did. He's playing really, really good nose guard for them. They got two great edge rushers. Vince Williams is a really good player. They've got a good scheme. They're well-coached. They've got really good players and they play extremely hard.

(on what makes defensive lineman Cameron Heyward disruptive)

He plays very well. He's a heavy-handed player. He plays with great technique. Great instincts for a defensive lineman. He does play with really good body lean, try to push the pocket but then also has the ability to swing or make you miss. It's going to be a great challenge, huge challenge for us up front with Cam (Heyward) and the rest of those guys up front.

(on the challenge of sacking Ben Roethlisberger)

I hope that they're aware after going through meetings and watching tape and us explaining to them that he's got really good play strength. He can shrug guys off. He's not running like he used to but his play strength in the pocket is certainly very good. Being 38, you're not going to run like you were when you were 26 years old.

(on how being a player in Pittsburgh shaped who he was as a player and is as coach)

There was an unbelievable mix in the locker room of young players and probably one of the best groups of veteran players that I've ever been around. I transitioned pretty quickly into the veteran after leaving Pittsburgh, but just the type of players that were there, Greg Lloyd, Dermontti Dawson, Mark Bruener, Carnell Lake, Levon Kirkland, these types of veteran players that were on that roster, they taught you not only how to be a NFL player, but a Pittsburgh Steeler to the good young players that were there. That's the biggest thing that I took away from being there.

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