Six Things That Stood Out for the Titans vs. Steelers

McNichols

NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Steelers 18-6 in preseason game No.3 on Sunday night.

Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as we begin to turn our attention to the preseason finale against the Chicago Bears, and the regular season opener vs. the Browns.

Shaky Protection

Seeing quarterback Marcus Mariota go down in the end zone was bad enough. Coach Mike Vrabel admitted after the contest he pulled Mariota after just seven snaps because of concerns about protecting him. But the hits kept coming, as back-up Ryan Tannehill took a beating while being sacked three times. Add Logan Woodside's three sacks and it added up to seven allowed on the night. Vrabel spread the blame around on Monday, saying it was a team effort. This much is certain: The Titans better get this fixed in a hurry because Cleveland has a pretty good defensive front.

Enough for Mariota?

So I mentioned Mariota played just seven snaps against the Steelers. Add that to his work in the first two preseason contests and he's now played just 36 snaps all preseason. I'm thinking he won't suit up on Thursday in Chicago either. Is that enough to have him regular season ready? Well, consider this interesting stat from Warren Sharp: At least four QBs haven't played a single snap in the preseason (Rodgers, Goff, Wentz, and Rivers) and several have barely played (Trubisky, 3 snaps), Carr (6), Brees (8), Newton (11), Watson 13).

Booming Punts

After Titans punter Brett Kern booted a 70-yard punt on Sunday night, I tweeted he looked to be in midseason form. He then unleashed an 81-yard punt that was called back because of a penalty, before hitting another bomb for 67 yards. Kern averaged 68.5 yards on two punts before giving way to Austin Barnard. It's safe to say he's one guy who is ready for the season.

Punt Return Questions

Watching Adoree' Jackson fail to field a pair of punts on Sunday night looked familiar, and it made me wonder even more about who will handle the job starting in Cleveland. Vrabel defended Jackson on Monday, and a part of me still believes he brings big-play potential to the job. But with veteran Adam Humphries around, I'm thinking there's a real scenario where this job flips to him. After all, he's listed No.1 on the team's unofficial depth chart.

Pass Rush?

I'm not saying this is a problem. I'm just pointing out the fact the Titans have managed just two sacks (one from DL Isaiah Mack, the other from CB LeShaun Sims) in three preseason games, while their opponents have 12. But consider the fact Cameron Wake didn't play in the first two contests, and he played just 10 snaps vs the Steelers. Harold Landry hasn't played at all in the preseason, and disruptive d-lineman Jurrell Casey has hardly been on the field. The Titans will need more here when the regular season starts, but keep in mind DC Dean Pees will get a lot more creative and aggressive with blitzes when the regular season starts. It's been vanilla so far.

More McNichols

Running back Jeremy McNichols continues to make the most of his opportunities, and he's getting them with the absence of Derrick Henry, Dalyn Dawkins and David Fluellen. McNichols busted off a 23-yard run against the Steelers, and he leads the team in rushing through three games. He's also showed up on special teams. The Titans have some tough decisions to make at the end of this week, and one of them includes McNichols.

The Tennessee Titans take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3 of the Preseason Sunday night at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page, AP)

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