Impressive Titans rookie QB Will Levis takes his swagger -- and his arm -- to Pittsburgh

Wed, Nov 1, 2023
NFL News (AP)

Impressive Titans rookie QB Will Levis takes his swagger -- and his arm -- to Pittsburgh


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OPENING LINE: Steelers by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Titans 4-3; Steelers 4-3.

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SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 48-32.

LAST MEETING: Steelers beat Titans 19-13 on Dec. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh.

LAST WEEK: Titans beat Falcons 28-23; Steelers lost to Jacksonville 20-10.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Titans minus-2; Steelers plus-7.

TITANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Will Levis. The rookie turned in an NFL debut matched by only Fran Tarkenton in 1961 and Marcus Mariota in 2015 by throwing four TD passes. That ended a two-game skid for Tennessee, and he also helped the Titans score their most points since the 2021 regular-season finale. His 130.5 passer rating made him the fifth in league history to do that in his debut with a minimum of 20 pass attempts and first since Nick Mullens in 2018.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: S Damontae Kazee. With All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick out with a hamstring injury, the Steelers will turn to Kazee, who had an up-and-down performance against Jacksonville. Kazee picked off Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence in the end zone, but also found himself out of position on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Travis Etienne that broke the game open. Given Levis' willingness to chuck it deep in his debut, Pittsburgh's safeties need to avoid taking risks or underestimating the rookie QB.

KEY MATCHUP: Tennessee tackles Andre Dillard and Nicholas Petit-Frere against Pittsburgh OLBs T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. The Titans are allowing 3.6 sacks per game, third most in the league behind Washington and the New York Giants. Petit-Frere replaced Dillard, a free agent signee in March, at left tackle. Only RT Chris Hubbard's concussion against Atlanta forced Petit-Frere back to the right side, getting Dillard back on the field at LT. Expect the Steelers to have the best edge-rushing tandem in the league to attempt to put as much pressure as possible on Levis. It's basically a must if Pittsburgh wants to win.

KEY INJURIES: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill's high right ankle sprain is expected to keep him out a second straight game. ... The short week won't give Hubbard enough time to clear the concussion protocol. ... Titans rookie TE Josh Whyle is expected back from the concussion protocol. ... CB Roger McCreary (hamstring) could return from a hamstring injury that cost him his first missed game after playing the first 23 of his NFL career. ... Steelers QB Kenny Pickett is questionable with a rib injury ... DT Cam Heyward, out since tearing a groin muscle in Week 1, has returned to practice and could be activated on Thursday.

SERIES NOTES: Pittsburgh has won each of the past four meetings and 7 of 9 going back to 2009. ... The Steelers are 28-12 at home against the Titans all time. ... This is the 16th primetime game between the clubs. Pittsburgh holds a 9-6 advantage in night games against Tennessee, including a 6-1 mark at home. .... This is the fifth meeting between Pittsburgh and the Tennessee franchise on a Thursday. The teams have split the previous four.

STATS AND STUFF: The Titans are 0-3 on the road this season, not counting a "home" loss in London on Oct. 15. ... This starts a three-game road swing for Tennessee. ... The Titans are 45-10 since coach Mike Vrabel was hired in 2018 when scoring 20 or more points. ... WR DeAndre Hopkins has caught a pass in 152 consecutive games since entering the NFL, the longest active streak in the league and fourth longest to start a career. He is coming off the second three-TD catch of his career and never has posted back-to-back games with multiple TD catches. ... K Nick Folk shares the NFL record with Justin Tucker with 70 consecutive field goals on attempts of less than 40 yards. Folk has made 24 consecutive field goals overall, including all 16 since being traded to Tennessee ... The Titans rank second in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing TDs on 34.6% of drives inside their 20. ... The Steelers are 11-13 on Thursday nights all time but 8-2 at home. . ... The Steelers have dominated opposing rookie QBs through the years. Pittsburgh is 48-14 since 1970 against first-year signal callers, though that list now includes a 30-6 loss to Houston rookie C.J. Stroud in Week 4. ... The Steelers are coming off another erratic offensive performance against the Jaguars. Pittsburgh managed just 262 yards and has failed to reach 300 yards in five of seven games this season. The Steelers haven't had 400 yards in a game since 2020, a 53-game stretch that is by far the longest active streak of sub-400 yard games in the NFL. ... Steelers LB T.J. Watt is third in the NFL with 8 1/2 sacks and his six passes defensed are second in the league among linebackers. ... Pittsburgh is good in tight games and not so good in blowouts. The Steelers are 4-0 on one-score games in 2023 and 0-3 in games decided by 10 points or more. ... Pittsburgh has historically turned it up in November. The Steelers are 136-81-2 in November since 1970, the highest winning percentage (.636) in the NFL over that span. ... Steelers WR George Pickens was held to a season-low one reception by Jacksonville. Pittsburgh is 2-3 when Pickens has one or fewer catches in his career. ... Pittsburgh WR Allen Robinson went without a catch for the first time in his 117-game career last week.

FANTASY TIP: Derrick Henry has just 107 yards rushing in two career games against the Steelers. Still, it might be worth taking a shot with him considering the state of Pittsburgh's run defense. The Steelers are giving up 4.5 yards per carry, 27th in the league. Henry now is fifth in the NFL with 526 yards rushing and averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He's had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in four games this season.


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