NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 4 games against the spread

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2020 NFL season is now underway! With the number of undefeated teams down to seven, only one matchup features two unbeatens in Week 4. Unfortunately, the game between the Steelers and Titans will not occur in Week 4 and the exact date it is set to be played has not been set at this time.

For the 2020 NFL season, six of the BTSC staff (a group I have affectionately named the “BTSC Super Six”) have signed up to pick every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are doing things a little different this year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using a new program called Tallysight this season. It will allow us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper right.

Last week, when picking games against the spread we were all within three games of each other. Shannon grabbed the top spot this week going 10-6 with myself, Bryan, and Geoffrey all coming in one spot behind at 9-7. Bryan continues to win the overall picks against the spread at 31-17 with me coming in next at 28-20. The only person coming in under 50% on the season is Jeff at 20-28.

When it comes to picking the over/under, Michael and Shannon both had a great week going 12-4 with myself, Bryan, and Jeff going 10-6. Although he came in last in Week 3, Geoffrey still leads overall at 27-21 where my 26-22 record is the only other one above .500 on the season.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 4 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

Mike Tomlin disappointed in not playing, doesn’t care about potentially playing 13 in a row

NFL: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh SteelersCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach did not hold back when asked if he cares about playing 13 games in a row.

Thursday was a rough day for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fan base. What started with optimism the game in Week 4 vs. the Tennessee Titans would be made up either Monday or Tuesday turned south in a hurry.

After hearing of another player and personnel member testing positive for COVID-19, the NFL has decided to postpone the game between two 3-0 teams and move it to later in the season.

When will it be played? No one knows at this point. Sure, there are some options, but the NFL has yet to set an official date for the contest scheduled to be played in Nashville.

Believe it or not, but the Steelers held practice Thursday, even after the news broke of the game being moved out of Week 4. After practice Mike Tomlin met with media, via Zoom, and spoke about how he was truly disappointed his team won’t get to play this week.

This per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Of course, the next line of questions turned to the fact if the Steelers are to be granted their bye week this Sunday, it would mean 13 straight weeks of games to end the 2020 regular season.

Mike Tomlin’s thoughts on that?

Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports spells it out for your:

The league could suggest the Steelers will still get their Week 8 bye, and create a Week 18 for games which need to be made up, but at this point that doesn’t seem likely. If playing 13 straight games is what the Steelers have to do, then so be it.

As for the bye week itself, the Steelers players won’t be able to leave town like usual since they will still have to undergo daily testing. After the outbreak in Tennessee it makes daily testing even more of a focus moving forward.

So, the Steelers have the weekend off. What next? No one knows, but the NFL is likely to make their plans public sooner rather than later. And we will have all that news, and more, right here at BTSC…so stay tuned!

Putting the Steelers postponed game against the Titans in perspective

NFL: AUG 17 Preseason - Patriots at TitansPhoto by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It wasn’t all that long ago all Steelers’ Nation wanted was football of some kind.

Well, it finally happened.

Going into the 2020 season, nothing in the NFL, or professional sports in general, has been what fans have been accustomed to over the years. There was no preseason. There are no fans in most stadiums and those that have fans are at a very limited capacity. Players are being tested for COVID-19 every day except game days, and all media sessions are done virtually. These are just some of the necessary adjustments in order to have NFL football in 2020.

Now the NFL has had to make the first postponement of a game, not only in day and time, but in which week of the season it will be played. Unfortunately, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers who are one of the teams involved in this game.

Yes, we all know this was not the Steelers doing. They just happen to be the opponent of a team that had a Covid outbreak at their facility.

Yes, we know it sucks. You can’t go anywhere on social media Thursday morning without hearing about how bad it sucks. But you know what? It’s what we (fans, players, coaches, league employees, etc.) signed up for in order to have an NFL season.

I’ve seen rants about the Steelers can’t make the Super Bowl now if their bye week is in Week 4. I’ve also heard rants about the Steelers now having a brutal stretch of games through the middle of their season if the game gets rescheduled in Week 7 and the game against the Ravens gets moved to Week 8. (At the time of writing, no announcement has been made on when the game will be played.)

Is this an ideal situation for the Steelers? Absolutely not! The Steelers were already focused on how their season was laid out in groups of four games and where the bye week fell. Now everything has changed.

But 2020 changed everything.

What hasn’t changed in the NFL this season? Of course there’s a lot that hasn’t changed, but it’s been hard work to keep it that way. Not even a quarter of the way through the season and one game being moved has everyone up in arms? What happened to three months ago when all we wanted was an NFL season at all?

Right now, the NFL is in a very good situation that through a quarter of the season it appears only one game has been affected. One game. Out of 64. That’s 1.56% of the games played so far. Frankly, I think the league is doing pretty well.

More importantly, we’re getting football.

Steelers’ Nation just needs to calm down after the initial knee-jerk reaction to not having a game this weekend. Yes, it throws off of a lot of things. As someone who runs this website along with Jeff Hartman, this throws a wrench in that so much of what we have done and were going to do this week. But we have to adapt. It’s better than not having an NFL season at all.

Teams knew this was going to be the case going into the season. They were going to be times where there would be an unequal competitive advantage. Whenever this was the case with the game happening in Week 4 and the Titans not being able to practice, Steelers fans had no problem with it because they came out on top of the advantage. Now, in order to hold the game at all, we’re concerned that the Steelers are put in a tough spot. They are. But just like everyone else in the NFL, they have to learn to deal with it.

This is the point where I would love to bust out the quote by John Patrick Mason (played by Sean Connery) in the 1996 movie “The Rock” where he talks about losers and winners. Since the quote itself is not appropriate for our classy website, I’ll just keep to the point which was made: Losers whine about the tough circumstances they are put in and how it might inhibit their success. Winners… they win. They overcome. They don’t make excuses.

If the Steelers are a championship team, they will handle whatever adversity is put before them.

Personally, I’m just very happy this Covid outbreak with Tennessee came up on Tuesday and not Saturday. What if the Steelers had made the trip to Tennessee? What if they played the game and one player ended up getting the virus? What happens when that player travels back and didn’t have a positive test right away and the Steelers are dealing with the same situation the Titans are facing? It is much better to not play this game now and only have one game affect the rest of their schedule than to be dealing with an outbreak.

The NFL will learn from this how better to proceed when these types of situations arise. Hopefully the NFL can continue on with the season without any other glitches. The Steelers are going to have to do the same.

The 2020 season is going to be overcoming so much more than getting more points on the scoreboard than your opponent each week. There will be off-field issues to overcome. Competitive balance will be more inbalanced than ever before. But it happens. It’s better than the alternative of no football.

If the worst-case scenario of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Covid world of 2020 is having to move one game for the season, this is not a terrible thing. It could be worse. The glass is half full.

If we were go back 3 to 6 months ago and ask all of Steelers’ Nation if they would take an NFL season knowing this bump in the road was going to happen, I bet the overwhelming majority would sign up for it in a heartbeat in order to have a season.

A game has been moved. The season will continue on. It is what it is.

On to Philadelphia.

Podcast, Know Your Enemy: The Tennessee Titans

Michael Beck, Geoffrey Benedict and break down all the news you need to know surrounding who WAS supposed to be the Black-and-Gold’s next opponent, the Tennesee Titans

It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game. However, the Week 4 test courtesy of the 3-0 Tennessee Titans will have to come later due to the postponement. But still check out Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down the upcoming opponent for the Black-and-Gold. This week Mike and Geoff welcomed Hawk and Lock Down from Tennessee Titans Weekly. What kind of threat are Ryan Tannehill, Derek Henry and the Titans? These questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode from the BTSC family of podcasts. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the Titans
  • Guest Hawk and Lock Down from Tennessee Titans Weekly.
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

3 games to watch in Week 4 which give perspective to the 2020 Steelers

NFL: SEP 27 Bengals at EaglesPhoto by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are several NFL games this week which will help get a better understanding of teams the Steelers face later in 2020

It is been a week of uncertainty for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even as I write this article, I’m hoping there’s actually a game date and time by the time this is published (UPDATE: Not yet, but we know it won’t be Week 4). What are the Steelers to do when they don’t even know when they are playing? I know what Steelers’ fans can do and that is to look at other games around the league to help them know a little bit more about their future opponents.

At the suggestion of one of our faithful BTSC community members, I’m going to include a brief rundown of the previous week’s three games in question to see how they helped shape the narrative of the Steelers 2020 season.

Tennessee Titans (31) at Minnesota Vikings (30)

The Titans were tested on Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings who held the lead for the majority of the game. But a late field goal put the Titans over the top as they squeaked out another victory. With the combined record of their three opponents at 1-8, it’s still hard to determine if the Titans are playing to the level they were at the end of 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (23) at Philadelphia Eagles (23)

Sometimes a tie tells you absolutely nothing while other times it can still give an indication of how a team is playing. The Philadelphia Eagles needed a last-second touchdown to send the game to overtime against the Bengals. With neither team getting the victory, it’s hard to chalk this game up to being two quality opponents as they somehow managed to have both teams emerge with neither of them getting their first win of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs (34) at Baltimore Ravens (20)

This game was a beautiful site for Steelers fans. Watching the Ravens get handled was great to show this team is not the juggernaut some thought they were. The only concern is if the Chiefs showed the Ravens their weaknesses and now they will work to fix them before facing the Steelers in Week 7.

Now that we have closed the page on Week 3 of the NFL season, it’s time to get focused on the next set of games as there is little time in the NFL to dwell on the previous week. For Week 4, here are the three games which could give the most perspective on what the Steelers can expect with some of their future opponents:

Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday at 1:00 PM on FOX

Two of the four teams the Steelers play the second quarter of the season are facing off Sunday at 1 PM when the Cleveland Browns visit the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams have had their ups and downs early in the season, so seeing how they can play against each other will help tell the Steelers which team may bring the bigger challenge.

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team

Sunday 1:00 PM on CBS

Not only is the Steelers biggest competition in the NFC North involved in this game in the form of the Baltimore Ravens, they are playing the Washington Football Team (I still can’t get used to that) and the Steelers face both teams in back-to-back weeks in November. How the Ravens ultimately respond after their game against the Chiefs will show a lot towards how the AFC will shape up in 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers

Sunday at 8:20 PM on NBC

Since they are the Steelers next opponent who they will be facing on a short week, the Philadelphia Eagles are still searching for their first win of the season as they travel across the country to take on the 49ers. With the Niners dealing with a lot of injuries, Steelers fans may want to pay attention to see if the Eagles can get things figured out in prime time before heading into the second quarter of the 2020 season.

So there are the three main matchups which can give Steelers fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming opponents in 2020. With just three games to go on so far in 2020, each week helps shape the perspective on teams and what is to be expected of them this season.

So which of these games will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

With more positive COVID-19 tests, Steelers vs. Titans is being postponed later in the season

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee TitansPhoto by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With more Titans testing positive, the Steelers and Titans game has been postponed until later in the season.

There was hope the Steelers and Titans would be able to play in Week 4. The hope was if the game was pushed back until Monday, or even Tuesday, they would be able to have the game without hurting any team’s preparation for Week 5.

Even this morning it looked as if the NFL and CBS were planning on having the game being played on Monday on national television.

That was all before the Titans received their latest round of COVID-19 test results on Thursday. More positive tests, one player and one personnel member, forced the NFL to push the game back to another week in the season.

This is the official statement from the NFL:

What this means for the Steelers, the Titans, and their scheduled bye week has yet to be determined. This is the first game of the season which will be impacted by COVID-19, and the NFL will be setting a precedent with how they handle this game.

Nonetheless, more teams will be impacted by this decision than just the Steelers and Titans. Teams’ schedules will all be altered to accommodate the change in schedules. Unlike Major League Baseball, who can turn multiple games during the week into a double header to make up games, the NFL will have to seriously consider how they will handle this moving forward.

Will the NFL add a week to the end of the season for games affected by Covid? Will they shuffle around the schedule since right now it is only one game being affected? One possible schedule changed was highlighted by BTSC’s Dave Schofield on Tuesday when the problem first arose:

The Steelers now have their bye in Week 4

If the NFL needs to postpone this week’s game, there is a way to make it work by only affecting one other NFL franchise. First, the Steelers and Titans do not have the same bye week so simply moving the game there is not an option. The Titans bye comes in Week 7 while the Steelers bye occurs in Week 8. The Steelers Week 7 opponent is the Baltimore Ravens, who just so also happen to have a bye in Week 8 as well. It is possible the Steelers could face the Titans in Week 7 instead of the Ravens and move their matchup in Baltimore to the following week. This means the Steelers and Titans would both have byes this coming week in Week 4 and the Ravens bye week would simply be shifted up from Week 8 to Week 7.

Stay tuned to BTSC for further updates as the Steelers new schedule becomes available.

Nike drops the new Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Steelers shoe!


Here’s all the details on this year’s shoe and where you can order a pair.

I have to be honest here. When Nike first started producing NFL themed shoes, I didn’t like them.

I thought they were a giant gimmick, and as someone who trains hard and loves his the Pittsburgh Steelers, I wouldn’t be caught dead in those early prototypes.

However, when I was approached by SB Nation to offer Nike’s latest Air Pegasus 37 shoe on BTSC, I wanted to see how far the shoes have come. And I was stunned. To be honest, these shoes don’t necessarily scream NFL shoe, but have the color scheme for the fan to love everything about wearing them regularly.

The Air Zoom Pegasus shoe is not just extremely comfortable, but also durable for the fitness enthusiast or someone who just wants a pair of black and gold shoes to wear with their game day attire!

Check out the link below to order yours, and the images below show you just what the shoes look like from all angles. There is no doubt you will be noticed as a die hard fan in these new Nike shoes!

NOTE: This shoe is available for men and women as a unisex shoe.

Former Steelers WR Ryan Switzer has found a new home

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland BrownsPhoto by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The embattled receiver has signed with a divisional foe.

Former Steelers wide receiver, Ryan Switzer has signed a deal to become a member of the Cleveland Browns practice squad. Switzer was one of the more notable cuts at the end of Steelers training camp, especially because the organization chose not to offer him one of the veteran player practice squad spots.

Switzer is famously a good friend of Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger and was featured often during Roethlisberger’s documentary “Bigger than Ben” which depicted the rehab of the Steelers’ quarterback. Switzer was right beside Ben from the start of his rehab, and even went out on family outings with the Roethlisbergers. Now an opponent of Ben it will be interesting if Switzer will be able to give any inside information on the Steelers’ offense.

Switzer was placed on waivers by the Steelers back on September 8th, and has now finally signed another deal to get him back into the NFL. Now on his fourth team in four years, Switzer will need to show a new side of his game if he wants any chance to elongate his NFL career.

2018 was a career season for Switzer when he tallied 253 yards on 36 receptions and a touchdown. But his production as a slot/gadget type player fell off in 2019, only mustering 27 yards on 8 receptions. His use in the punt return game also caught the ire of Steelers fans, as Switzer notoriously fair caught nearly every punt regardless of the situation.

Playing time won’t come easy for Switzer as receiver is one of the deeper positions of the Cleveland Browns roster. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Reshard Higgins all stand firmly ahead of Switzer in the depth chart.

The Steelers take on the Browns on October 18th in what could be Switzer’s return to Pittsburgh. I’m sure whatever type of impact he makes in that game will light the internet ablaze!

Scouting Report: Derrick Henry isn’t the only challenge for the defense in Nashville

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee TitansPhoto by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several challenges ahead of them in Week 4, more than just Derrick Henry.

This week, we are scouting the match-up between a pair of 3-0 teams when the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans.

Before we do, let’s check our scouting report from last week and see how the Steelers did with their keys to victory against the Houston Texans:

Force the Texans to tackle soundly. The Texans had been an atrocious tackling team through two weeks. The Steelers needed to take advantage by running the ball and getting it to their play-makers quickly to force Houston to tackle in space.

What happened? Houston tackled better as a team, with less missed tackles than in the previous two weeks. Still, the Steelers rolled up 387 yards of offense, including 169 on the ground. James Conner went for 109 yards while rookie Anthony McFarland had a solid debut with 49 yards on seven touches.

Apply controlled pressure to Deshaun Watson. Watson had been sacked eight times in his first two outings. The Steelers needed to keep up that sort of pressure while also preventing him from escaping the pocket and improvising, where he is extremely effective.

What happened? Pittsburgh sacked Watson five times overall but he got out of the pocket on several occasions in the first half and made big plays, leading to 21 points. The Steelers adjusted in the second half, playing less man coverage, doing a better job maintaining their rush lanes and making Watson throw into tightly-packed zones. They even picked him off on a scramble play, ending a fourth quarter drive. Watson was 14-18 in the first half but just 5-9 in the second. It was a tale of two halves for the defense.

The Steelers are now 3-0 for the first time since 2010. It hasn’t always been pretty but, as Mike Tomlin reminds us, style points don’t matter. The bottom line is they’ve done what they had to do, navigating the calm of their soft September schedule by beating three teams who are a combined 0-9. Things will get rougher in October, beginning with the game against a Titans team that has also feasted on inferior competition (Tennessee’s three opponents are a cumulative 1-8).

The Titans have been living dangerously this season. They won their opener 16-14 at Denver on a last-second field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. They edged Jacksonville 33-30 by intercepting a Gardner Minshew throw as the Jags were driving for a game-tying field goal. Then, on Sunday, Gostkowski nailed a 55 yarder with under two minutes to play to rally the Titans to a 31-30 win. That’s three victories by a total of six points with each game decided in the final minute. If Steelers’ fans have felt on edge these first three weeks, imagine rooting for Tennessee.

The key to the Titans offense is their run game, which centers on bruising tailback Derrick Henry. Henry ran for nearly 400 yards in Tennessee’s playoff wins last season at Baltimore and New England. This season, he’s already lugged the ball 82 times through three games. Henry, as we see below, simply knocks defenders off of him with his 6’3-240 pound frame. Tennessee’s offensive line is built to run-block and is perfectly suited for Henry’s battering-ram approach:

The Titans have turned the ball over just once through three games and they rarely hurt themselves with penalties. They employ a methodical approach on offense, looking to wear teams out with their physicality and consistency.

Defensively, it’s a different story. The Titans have been gashed the past couple of weeks, yielding 60 points and 944 yards to the Jags and Vikings. Dalvin Cook throttled them for 181 rushing yards in the Minnesota game while, against Jacksonville, Minshew authored a 30-45/315/3 TD performance.

Tennessee’s defense has risen to the occasion when they’ve needed it most, producing game-clinching interceptions the past two weeks. They miss top corner Adoree Jackson, however, who is out 2-4 weeks with a knee injury. Malcolm Butler and Jonathan Joseph are big-name veterans but have not performed well in Jackson’s absence.

What will it take for the Steelers to win, then? Here are the keys to victory in the game against the Titans.

Defend Tennessee’s tight ends in pass coverage

Stopping Henry is the most obvious key for the Steelers’ defense. It’s likely, though, that Henry will get his 25-30 touches and pile up some yards. He’s too good, and too important to Tennessee’s offense, for the Steelers to stifle completely. The defense can’t let Henry run wild, of course. But if they hold him in the neighborhood of 100 yards they will have done their job.

The bigger key is limiting how Tennessee supplements Henry’s running. One way they do so is by throwing to their tight ends. Last week, Jonnu Smith and MyCole Pruitt combined for seven catches for 77 yards on ten targets. For the season, Tennessee’s tight ends have 22 receptions and three touchdowns for an average of seven receptions per game. The fact that the Steelers will likely play a lot of base 3-4 to defend Henry, and that they’ve struggled to cover tight ends out of the 3-4 at times, is cause for concern.

Below, we see Tennessee’s opening play from scrimmage in their game against the Jaguars. They are in 21 personnel and present a clear run look to the defense. Jacksonville, in response, stacks nine players in the box. The Titans do not run the ball, however. They execute a nicely designed play-action pass instead, with the line blocking left, quarterback Ryan Tannehill booting out to his right and then throwing the ball back to Smith (circled in the photo):

Smith sells the run nicely by staying on his block long enough to get lost in the mess of bodies at the line of scrimmage before leaking out up the left sideline, where he is wide open. It’s a great drive-starter for the Titans and it takes advantage of the fact that defenses will often over-compensate in their efforts to stop Henry.

Tennessee came back to Smith to finish the drive, aligning him to the inside of a bunch set to ensure he’d draw a safety or linebacker in man coverage. He got 6’0 Andrew Wingard, for whom the 6’3-250 pound Smith was a tough match-up. Smith ran a bender route, starting outside to open Wingard’s hips before working back across his face:

Smith (circled) draws a smaller safety (indicated by the arrow) and takes advantage

Wingard covered the play fairly well but gave up the post on Smith’s break. This let Smith box him out like a basketball player positioning for a rebound. Tannehill placed the ball in a great spot where Smith could go up and get it and the big tight end made a nice catch for the touchdown:

In all likelihood, Pittsburgh will look to defend the tight ends out of their base 3-4 with heavy doses of Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds did a nice job in man coverage against Denver’s Noah Fant two weeks ago. Unfortunately, Fant was open a lot against zone, most notably on this touchdown catch where the Steelers failed to communicate a switch between Edmunds (top of the numbers at the 10 yard-line) and Mike Hilton (squatting in the right flat):

I asked BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict about the base 3-4 coverage against tight ends in the Denver game. Here’s what he said:

“Vince (Williams) can shut down tight ends who aren’t route runners. Guys like Nick Vannett, Jake Butt and Andrew Beck. They weren’t getting open against him at all. But Fant was open on almost every play they didn’t man him up with Edmunds. When the rush got home it didn’t matter. But they failed to cover the TEs well in zone. Bottom line: when they go 3-4, it’s rush or bust against receiving tight ends. Edmunds is the only one shutting down the good ones.”

If Geoffrey’s assessment makes you nervous, you’re not alone. The good news is that Smith is not in the same category as Fant as a vertical threat. He is, however, far more athletic than a player like Vannett. The Steelers will have to defend the run well enough with their front seven to keep Edmunds from over-committing to the box. When they play zone, they will have to pressure Tannehill. The Steelers’ 15 sacks are the most in the league while Tennessee has yielded just three. The pass-rush battle will be worth watching. If Pittsburgh can check Tennessee’s tight ends, life will get a lot more difficult for the Titans on offense.

Continue to mix things up with the offensive play-calling

The Steelers have been surprisingly balanced with their play-calling in 2020. After throwing the football nearly 70% of the time with Roethlisberger in 2017 and 2018, the pass/run ratio is at 56/44 through three games this season.

While running the ball for the sake of running is not necessarily productive, Pittsburgh has been better on the ground than in recent years. Excluding kneel-downs, the Steelers are averaging 5.0 yards per carry on rushing attempts, up from 3.7 last year, 4.2 in 2018 and 3.8 in 2017. They’ve had a 100+ yard rusher in each of the first three games and, last week against Houston, they used the run as their closer, carrying it 11 times for 72 yards on their final two drives of the game. Those drives produced the go-ahead touchdown and ran the final 4:47 off the clock.

Pittsburgh’s balance has been particularly interesting when examining their play-calling on first and second downs. The Steelers have run the ball 41 times on first down and thrown it 42 times. On second down, they’ve run 30 times and thrown 34. That’s a near 50/50 split. Whether offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has sought that balance by design or if he’s simply taking what defenses are giving him in early-down situations is hard to know. Whatever the reason, it’s been effective. The Steelers are averaging 34 yards-per-drive this season, which is ten yards-per-drive more than last year and comparable to the dynamic offenses from 2017 (37 ypd) and 2018 (35 ypd) that finished in the top 10 in most metrics.

Pittsburgh’s points-per-drive total is up, too. The Steelers are averaging 2.35 points-per-drive at present, which is up significantly from last season (1.47) and on par with their 2017 (2.27) and 2018 (2.32) campaigns. If the Steelers can continue to score at this rate, they will win a lot of football games.

There are reasons beyond balance the offense has found early success, of course. Limited sacks and turnovers and an offensive line that has held up surprisingly well despite injuries and adjustments has helped. But so has running the football well and not having to rely on Ben Roethlisberger to carry the team each week. Roethlisberger has been good, perhaps surprisingly-so given his age and return from surgery. But the Steelers have helped him by being more diverse on offense than in recent years.

They should continue this trend against a Tennessee defense that has not stopped the run or the pass particularly well. The Titans are yielding 422 yards per game, which ranks 29th in the NFL. That breaks down to 256 yards passing and 166 rushing, making them susceptible in both areas. Their DVOA ranking is slightly better but still puts them in the bottom half among league defenses. A diversified attack that makes the Titans defend the entire field and takes what they are giving seems a wise approach for Pittsburgh’s offense.

If the Steelers can maintain their balance on offense and defend Tennessee’s tight ends on defense (while not letting Derrick Henry run completely wild), it should be a good day for the black-and-gold in Nashville.

T.J. Watt named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The accolades keep coming for Steelers T.J. Watt!

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is an elite group, and they are led by an elite pass rusher. T.J. Watt has proven his value time and time again, and he continues to rack up accolades for his individual performances.

Most recently, Watt was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the month of September.

This isn’t the first time Watt has been recognized for his work on the field. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 2 performance against the Denver Broncos, and he is getting the attention of not just his peers, but also from his head coach.

“I think he’s still writing that story,” said Mike Tomlin. “He was pretty awesome a year ago to be quite honest with you. I know he has an intention of being continually better, so he’s still writing that story. His talents are just a part of the equation. His hyper-focus, his attention to detail, his awareness I think all add up to big playmaking ability and splash plays for us.”

The Steelers having Watt playing well means the defense is typically dominating, and they have been doing just that. Off to a 3-0 start the Steelers sport the league’s top rushing defense, and are among the top in pressuring the quarterback.

For the latest news and notes on the Steelers preparing for the Tennessee Titans in Week 4, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC as your one stop shop for all things black and gold!