Steelers-Titans pregame stretch...
September 19, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
The Steelers next star?
We took a shot at Lawrence Timmons in this space during the preseason and we were wrong. In the past few weeks, he has been exactly what he was advertised as during his breakout training camp. He’s been an explosive run stopper and his speed has disrupted many plays before they develop. He’s been a gazelle-like pass defender who can shut down a tight or even a wide receiver as he did repeatedly last week against the Falcons. And given the right opportunity, he’s been able to rush the passer. With the Steelers developing a couple of very young OLBs, it’s likely Timmons would move outside if there were an injury to James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley and Steelers insiders think Timmons might already be one of the 10 best OUTSIDE linebackers in the league.
The menace of Dennis
> Brilliant headline seen Saturday on NFL.com: Dixon might need strong play to stay Steelers’ QB. Ya think? At least the headline writer correctly used “might” instead of “may.”
> Meanwhile, ESPN’s Bill Simmons made an astute observation in his weekly NFL column: Is it really a good idea for Dixon to wear Kordell Stewart’s old number?
> With Byron Leftwich “released” for this week, it would appear the Steelers will live or die today with Dixon, barring injury. However, we’d be very surprised if Leftwich didn’t get strong consideration as the starter next week.
Vick! Not so quick…
For casual fans who don’t understand why Michael Vick isn’t already the Eagles starter and why the team would ever consider going back to Kevin Kolb, here's why: Philadelphia is a West Coast offense team and Vick is a run-and-shoot quarterback. Every offensive decision the Eagles have made in the past three years, from whom to draft to which free agents to sign to which coaches to hire has been predicated on running the West Coast offense. There’s a much larger investment of time and money involved than just Vick vs. Kolb. Even if Kolb totally tanks this season and the Eagles have to install Vick as the starter, you can bet that won’t carry over into next year. So why did Philly sign Vick to begin with? Partly as an insurance policy and partly as a "trick play" additive to their offense. Should he play well today and a full-fledged quarterback controversy ensues in Philly (full-fledge being defined as involving disagreement in the organization, not just the fan base), you can bet Andy Reid will be asking himself the same questions (although he'd never admit it publicly).
> A day after Peter King declared Chris Johnson would run for 125+ against the Steelers, he named Aaron Smith the most underrated player in the NFL. Hmmmm, those two assertions could possibly be interpreted as being contradictory, but certainly Mr. King would never do such a thing.
> NFL Radio’s Adam Schein, a very astute, under-the-radar analyst, thinks Johnson might not get 100 yards rushing today, but will get 100+ receiving.
We’ve seen a couple of talking heads take the Steelers and the points, but we’ve been unable to find anyone of any import who is picking Pittsburgh to win this game. And with good reason, the Steelers at full strength have won only once in their last nine trips to Tennessee so it stands to reason they’d be big underdogs with an untested quarterback and without their run-stuffing nose tackle. The Steelers formula to win goes something like this: Play an upgraded version of their offensive game plan from last week. Run the ball (remember, Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch don’t live here anymore). Control the clock. Keep Chris Johnson off the field. Score touchdowns instead of field goals. Defensively, the Steelers need to contain Johnson just to the point that Vince Young has to do something and then force him into doing it badly. That’s a tall order and one we don’t think can be filled … Tennessee (-5) 24, Pittsburgh 17.
Prediction record: 1-0
Record vs. the spread: 1-0