NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans (2-7) continue preparations for their upcoming matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) on Monday Night Football, the team's only primetime game at LP Field this season.
After back-to-back impressive wins against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, two games in which Ben Roethlisberger combined for 12 touchdown passes, the Steelers were upset by the Jets in week 10.
Pittsburgh turned the ball over four times (two interceptions and two fumbles), falling a half game behind the first-place Browns in the log-jammed AFC North.
Mike Tomlin is the sixth-longest tenured coach in the NFL having been with the Steelers since 2007. He led Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl win in 2009, a 27-23 victory against Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals.
Tomlin and stud wide receiver Antonio Brown held weekly conference calls with Titans media on Wednesday. Here are the top five things you need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
5. AFC North – The Best Division in Football
This marks the Titans second straight matchup against an AFC North opponent. Through 10 weeks, each of the four teams in the division are two games over .500 with the Browns in first place at 6-3. Just one game separates all four teams.
Tomlin said while the Steelers take a lot of pride in winning the division, they can't spend any time worrying about what other teams are doing.
"I just focus on what it is we need to do and try to win the games that we play," he said. "Honestly, we take a great deal of pride in the North and how ball is played up there. We've got a good, competitive competition, but we've felt like it's been that way for some time."
4. The Monster Season of Antonio Brown
After a 1,499-yard, eight-touchdown outburst of a season in 2013, Brown is on pace to crush those numbers in 2014. The two-time Pro Bowler has already hauled in a league-leading 79 passes for 1,070 yards through 10 games this season, while matching his touchdown total from a year ago with eight.
Those absurd numbers put Brown on pace for 126.4 receptions, 1,712 yards, and 12.8 touchdowns, all of which would easily be career marks. Brown is currently riding an NFL record of 26 straight games with at least five receptions for 50 yards. He also joined Michael Irvin as the only player in NFL history to start the season with nine-consecutive games with at least five catches and 80 yards, a streak that was snapped last week against the Jets.
"I don't see the other ones week in and week out. I see Antonio (Brown) every week, and based on what I see, it would be tough to argue against it from my perspective," said Tomlin when asked if Brown was the league's best receiver.
When asked if he thought he was the best, Brown says there is no time to even give it any thought.
"You can always think you're the best, but you can't get caught up from a numbers standpoint, you can't get caught up from what this guy does," he explained. "You've got to stay singularly focused on your team. It's all about us winning. With us winning comes the team and then the individual success. You've got to put the team first and keep that as a priority."
3. Depleted Defense
The Steelers enter Monday night's game with the 13th-ranked total defense (12th rushing, 15th passing), but also have a gluttony of injuries on that side of the football. Safety Troy Polamalu (knee), CB Ike Taylor (arm), and LB Ryan Sazier (ankle) are all expected to be sidelined against the Titans.
Tomlin says the team has no other choice than to push forward without them.
"We don't complain about the state of our health. It's a part of football," he explained. "We're without some players, but shoot, when I look at Tennessee play and look at their IR list, they're playing without a significant number of players. That's just football at this level. I like the way that the guys are stepping in for many of the guys out and are acclimating themselves. Many of those guys have been playing for a number of weeks now. Guys like Brice McCain and Sean Spence and Arthur Moats, they've done a nice job. They're going to continue to grow and understand that we don't ask them to be the guys that they're replacing, but we do have some of the players winning football. We think all of our professionals are capable of that."
Titans Online looks back at the modern-day rivalry between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
- The Star Sophomore Le'Veon Bell**
The Steelers used a second-round pick (48th overall) on Bell in last year's draft. Bell posted modest numbers as a rookie, rushing for 860 yards on 244 carries for an average of 3.5 yards per touch in 13 games. He did, however, score eight touchdowns his rookie season.
While Bell's scoring numbers are down in 2014 (only one touchdown), the second-year running back ranks third in the NFL in rushing at 747 yards on 162 carries. His 4.6 yards per carry average is up more than a full yard from his rookie season.
Bell also excels as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. The back logged 45 receptions as a rookie and already has 55 this season through 10 games. Those 55 receptions rank second among NFL running backs behind only Matt Forte, who has 61.
"He's growing every day," said Tomlin of his talented running back. "I think that the most pivotal element of it is that he brings a serious work ethic to the process every day. I think that's why he's experienced the success that he has and why he's getting better every week. He was a third-year junior a year ago when we drafted him. He's still a very young guy. He's one of the youngest guys on our team, even in year two. We just like the trajectory of his career. The process is something that he's got to enjoy and embrace, and to this point, he has."
1. Martavis Bryant's Coming Out Party
It's not like Pittsburgh's fifth-ranked offense was in need of any more weapons, but it found a gem in Bryant. The rookie out of Clemson was taken in the fourth round (118th overall) by the Steelers and didn't appear until Week 7 due to a variety of injuries.
In his first four games as a pro, Bryant has been a touchdown monster, recording 310 yards on 14 receptions, six of which resulted in scores. His six touchdowns are an NFL record for a receiver in his first four career games.
Tomlin compared Bryant to a young member of the Titans receiving corps.
"He's a lot like your young guy over there, (Justin) Hunter," he said. "He's a talented guy. He's big, he's fast. He's got good ball skills down the field. He's a young guy, a third-year junior, much like Hunter was when he came out. Just because they have talent doesn't necessarily mean that they're ready-made products. He's working every day to improve. When I watch Hunter play, I see the improvement in his game since he came into the league, and hopefully Martavis (Bryant) does similar things."
Bryant's production comes to no surprise of Brown, who said he saw his potential during training camp.
"I knew he was capable," he said. "I think he's got a great opportunity to win his one-on-one matchups. He's been buying in to the preparation of being on his game, and I think he'll continue to get better and continue to do that."