Steelers visit Titans in battle of unbeatens

Steelers visit Titans in battle of unbeatens

The game wasn’t originally supposed to be played this week, but now that it’s here, the Pittsburgh Steelers-Tennessee Titans date in Nashville shapes up as a marquee matchup.

Both teams are 5-0, the Steelers for the first time since 1978 and Tennessee for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2008. It’s just the eighth time in NFL history undefeated teams have met this far into a season.

The game would have been played Oct. 4, but an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Titans organization forced a postponement — and for Tennessee a bizarre revamped schedule that included a Tuesday game.

Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans is impressed with how his team remained unscathed with things so unsettled.

“These five weeks have probably been the craziest, the wildest situation we’ve ever been in before,” Evans said. “You’ve got to give it up to the guys in this (locker) room. I don’t think a lot of guys would have been able to do what we have done. I think it proved how good a focus we have.”

A focus that now shifts to facing a fellow unbeaten team — and one that has drawn attention for what it’s doing on the field, as opposed to Tennessee, which also has been in the spotlight for its virus outbreak.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said his team isn’t concerned with redemption in the wake of the outbreak; finding a way to beat Pittsburgh is enough.

“We don’t need a whole lot of other motivation,” Tannehill said.

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel echoed that.

“Every week is a huge challenge, this one unbelievably so,” Vrabel said.

The Steelers feel the same way about the Titans and about trying to remain unbeaten.

“It’s up to us to keep getting better,” Pittsburgh defensive tackle Cam Heyward said.

Heyward and the Steelers will be facing a Tennessee offense that broke loose in its last game, a 42-36 overtime win against Houston. The Titans set a club record with 601 yards of offense, including 212 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Derrick Henry, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The Steelers, ranked second in the NFL yielding 285.2 yards a game, could be a lot stingier.

“What I’m looking at is pretty special,” Tannehill said of Pittsburgh’s defense. “They have an incredible front. They do a great job of moving up front, being disruptive, getting penetration in the run and pass game. Pair that with a secondary that can make plays as well.”

On the flip side, the Steelers’ offense has not exactly been rolling — it ranks 21st overall, 24th in passing — but the results have still been there.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said it’s a matter of having balance over gaudy numbers.

“That is what we want (it) to be,” he said.

Each team lost a starter to a season-ending knee injury in its last game, Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan against the Texans and Pittsburgh linebacker Devin Bush in a 38-7 win against Cleveland.

For Pittsburgh, cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder), center Maurkice Pouncey (foot) and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) were held out of practice Wednesday but could return to practice later in the week. Receiver Diontae Johnson (back) was a full participant Wednesday and guard David DeCastro (abdominal injury) practiced on a limited basis after both missed the Browns game.

For Tennessee, linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee) did not practice Wednesday, while all players have been cleared from the COVID-19 list.

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