Minor reflections on Steelers 18, Titans 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – From inside a dry press box, I felt especially terrible for those who chose to come to Nissan Stadium. We could all join with every player, coach, executive and stadium worker to offer a prayer of thanks that lightning didn’t invite itself to the occasion.

Pile another borefest on the stack of evidence that preseason in its current form must go the way of the dodo bird, and fast. And imagine, late Thursday we will look back on Steelers 18, Titans 6 and rate it a thriller compared to preseason game No. 4 in Chicago pitting the Titans against the Bears when we are unlikely to see any Tennessee players of consequence.SimsBeatSteelers

The major storyline for those who watched on TV was just how bad NBC’s experimental preferred primary Sky Cam angle of the action was. You can make the “action” harder to see and the numbers harder to read but the uniforms were still tell-tale Titans and Steelers. Imagine if they’d combined the MLB weekend concept on monochromatic uniforms with player-chosen nicknames that were unreadable.

It’s the job, so I tried to find some things to dissect. [Unlocked]

Big pressure: The first-team offensive line gave up two of four first-half sacks, one an up-the-gut take-down of Marcus Mariota where Stephon Tuitt found a path between Ben Jones and Roger Saffold.

I can see the rationale for getting Mariota out pretty quickly, but the Titans’ starting quarterback played five snaps missing on all three of his passes. Not throwing a pick, however, got his passer rating all the way up to 39.6! Riveting stuff I tell you. Friend/colleague John Glennon looked up last year’s third game. Mariota played four series and 19 snaps.

Mike Vrabel basically said he wanted to see how things were going to decide how much Mariota played, and it wasn’t going well enough protection-wise for more. The Titans knew the Steelers’ pass rush was a strength and the Titans weren’t sufficiently ready, an issue that he said starts with him.

Said right tackle Jack Conklin: “We’ve got to come out better. We can’t have the quarterback getting touched nearly that much. It’s on the O-line. It’s something that’s very fixable. It didn’t happen tonight the way we wanted it to and we’ve got to learn from it very quickly.”

The Steelers wound up with seven sacks, three of them of Ryan Tannehill and three of Logan Woodside.

Interesting marketing: Instead of tweeting out an apology for stealing money from people who bought tickets, used or unused, the Titans saw a sales opportunity.

It's a terrible product.

The franchise should be as quiet as possible during it unless it is issuing apologies and refunds.

Edge rushers: Harold Landry was a scratch for the third time in three games which means we probably don’t see him in the preseason. We did see a bit of Cameron Wake. He didn't make the stats sheet but I did feel like he was of some influence playing opposite Sharif Finch in the starting lineup, a nickel set.

The Titans wound up with no sacks and two hits as compared to those big numbers by Pittsburgh above.

Corner depth: I like the Titans’ corner depth and expect LeShaun Sims and Tye Smith to make it and Kenneth Durden to miss out.

Sims was beaten on a post route by JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 17-yard touchdown (pictured above) and Durden let James Washington get behind him then slowed himself down by looking back on a 41-yard throw from Mason Rudolph TD toss.

Couple picks: Amani Hooker made a diving interception of Rudolph on a pass that was without a target while LaDarius Wiley later deflected a late pass by Josh Dobbs deep in Titans’ territory enabling an interception by Mike Jordan.

Luck reaction: The Colts were 11-0 against the Titans when Andrew Luck played quarterback for them. Things can only get better in the one-sided AFC South rivalry for Tennessee with the quarterback retired.  

Special teams 1: Ryan Succop only recently came off PUP after a long offseason recovering from knee surgery.

But the Titans didn’t hesitate to get him right into game action. He hit a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 22-yarder in the fourth quarter to account for Titans’ 6 points and pretty much put to rest any concerns about his preparedness for Sept. 8.

Special teams 2: I saw MyCole Pruitt on the kickoff team, the kick return team and the punt team (which I did not get in its entirety). I did not see Ryan Hewitt on any of those first units. That’s significant if they are competing for one spot at tight end.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

I also felt like rookie David Long was a bigger factor on high-ranking special team units. Vrabel pointed to Long last week when I asked about linebackers on special teams beyond Daren Bates. It's good that they trust Long to play up there, but I think it would be hard for both of them to be among the 46 players who dress on a Sunday.

Special teams 3: Adoree’ Jackson continues to look only occasionally interested in returning punts. He let his first chance bounce and while he was fortunate that it turned into a touchback, it was an unsafe presumption. He had enough room to go get it and maybe make a play or at least ensure it wasn’t going to get downed behind him.

The second punt bounced inside the 10 and the old-school rules say let it be. But it was downed at the 4 and set things up for the safety. His coach said he should have done more with it.

Jackson was a first-round draft pick who did some incredible things as a returner at USC. It simply has not translated in the NFL and the Titans should be ready with Adam Humphries on opening day. I'd rather they'd have developed a role player for such duty over the last two years. 

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