Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tennessee Titans
Details of the Script
- TNF – 8:15 pm @ Acrisure Stadium
- Weather – Cloudy Evening
- What Vegas is saying – Line (PIT -2.5) & Over/Under 36.5
Identifying the Game Script
The Steelers and the Titans last played each other back in 2021. The Steelers would win at home 19-13 over the Titans. The Titans have lost four straight games to the Steelers. The Steelers are coming off a loss to the Jaguars at home. The Titans had a surprise win over the Falcons as their rookie quarterback dominated the game with big plays. The Titans need to continue doing what they did in week eight by airing the ball downfield, as the Steelers secondary has not done well this year. You should expect a good amount of noise from the ground game as well. Kenny Pickett looks like he will play, so the offense must find ways to run the ball against an average run defense. This should be a solid TNF game this week.
Kenny Pickett is dealing with a rib injury coming into Thursday Night Football. The reports are that he is planning to start in this game. A healthy Kenny Pickett has not been great for our fantasy teams this year. He has just one game over 15 fantasy points and hasn’t even been a reliable QB2 in fantasy. While Pickett has thrown one passing touchdown in the last four weeks, he isn’t turning the ball over either. Pickett, on the road, will go up against the Titans, who have been very good against fantasy quarterbacks recently. In the last four weeks, they have allowed just two passing touchdowns. They have barely allowed a passer during that time over 250 passing yards. The return of Diontae Johnson has to make it easier for Pickett, but not enough to help put up fantasy numbers. Pickett will be right outside my top 24 quarterbacks in week nine. If Pickett doesn’t start, Mitch Trubiksy will get the start. I’d probably bump him to a borderline QB2 as a healthier option.
Will Levis came out of the gates swinging in his first NFL game. He had over 200 passing yards and threw for four passing touchdowns. He showed off the cannon of the arm that he has with three of his four touchdown passes over 30 yards. Levis will get a prime opportunity at home in a short week to do it again. The Steelers secondary has been better the last three weeks than earlier in the season. They allowed 271 passing yards and two touchdowns per game over the first four games. In the previous three games, they allowed, on average, 253 passing yards with only one passing touchdown per game. It will take more film for the team to figure out Levis’s weaknesses. I will roll out Levis as a mid-range QB2 in week nine. He has a solid run game mixed with some good pass-catchers. At home, I think Levis can tear up the secondary of the Steelers to give us another strong day.
The Steelers backfield continues to show as a split between Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. For Harris, last week was the first time he didn’t record double-digit carries since week one. He did see five receptions for 42 yards. Warren got back to double-digit touches but only produced 38 yards with it. The Titans used to be a strong run defense but have allowed running backs to produce in recent weeks. They have allowed a rusher over 60 rushing yards in three of the last four games. They also have given up a rushing touchdown in two of the previous three games. The run game may be leaned on a bit to keep Pickett from getting hit. Harris should continue to command the early down while seeing an uptake in targets due to Pickett’s injury. I’ve valued Harris as a high-end RB3 that should be an acceptable flex option. Warren has not done much since the bye week, with just 69 yards over two games. In a short week, they may try to give Warren a few more touches so as not to overwork Harris. Warren is a low-end RB3 in week nine.
The Titans backfield wasn’t as heavily relied on in week eight as I thought it would be. Derrick Henry still managed to have 22 carries, but Tyjae Spears had three. The upcoming matchup against the Steelers should be easier than the Falcons. The Steelers are a bottom-ten run defense in 2023. The Steelers have allowed seven running backs over 60 rushing yards this year. Derrick Henry should continue as the primary back and see upward of 18 carries again. Henry seems to be getting a touchdown in every other game, so I’d bet that late in the game, he’ll get his chance to score. I like Henry has a borderline RB1 in week nine. Tyjae Spears should be able to see a few more carries in this game. Spears is probably better left as an RB4 since his only game over nine fantasy points is when he scores a touchdown. His fantasy value is touchdown-dependent in week nine.
The Steelers pass catchers could be affected with Pickett’s injury. A rib injury is brutal, especially with your motion of throwing the football. The Titans secondary has been playing much better against fantasy receivers. In the last four weeks, they have allowed just one receiver over 75 receiving yards. The Titans have kept receivers from scoring, with two receiving touchdowns during that span. While I like the Steelers receiver duo of Dointae Johnson and George Pickens, it could be a down week. We saw Johnson come back with Pickett to be the guy with 10 of his 14 targets under Pickett. Pickett threw to Johnson in that game on 63% of his throws. Johnson should be a mid-range WR3 in week nine.
George Pickens thankfully caught a touchdown pass in week eight, or his fantasy day would have been bad. Pickens was only targeted once by Pickett, and being the deep threat he is could be a concern for his fantasy. If Pickett struggles to deal with the pain, we could see shorter throws. Pickens has never had fewer than six targets in a game this year, so that could be a stand-alone situation. Pickens should likely be a low-end WR3 that could be risky in this game. For the tight end room, Connor Heyward had a decent day with five receptions for 24 yards. The Titans haven’t allowed a touchdown to the position this year, and they don’t let a ton of yardage. As interesting as Heyward was last week, he is outside the top 24 tight ends.
The Titans pass catchers have not been kind to us this year. No one has been a consistent option in fantasy. Especially since the passing game has been bad under Ryan Tannehill, it doesn’t help when he only threw two touchdowns. In Will Levis’ first game, he threw double the amount of touchdowns that Tannehill did in six games. The question is, can Levis help the pass catchers win against the Steelers? In six of seven games, the Steelers have given up an 80-yard receiver. It’s possible to see a Titans receiver produce for us in fantasy again. In week seven, the Titans rotated between five different receivers in the game. DeAndre Hopkins led the way with 63% of the offensive snaps and had three touchdowns in the game. Hopkins scoring three touchdowns again seems like a one-game wonder and should regress. He should command six-plus targets and could be in for a decent outing. I’d ranked Hopkins as a WR3 in this game.
Treylon Burks returned in week seven after missing the previous three games. Burks hasn’t been that good on the field this year. Burks is outside the top 60 receivers but is more interesting with Levis at quarterback. It’s hard to trust anyone outside of Hopkins since everyone’s fantasy value has been inconsistent. Hopkins does have a chance to miss this game as he did not practice on Wednesday. If he were to miss time, Burks would jump up to a low-end WR4 at best. If you start any of these Titans receivers, you are throwing darts in a risky situation. The tight end position with Chig Okonkwo continues to be a big disappointment. He has all seven games under 40 yards. The Steelers allow the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Okonkwo will surely get a few targets, but his production is not trustworthy in fantasy lineups. He is likely outside my top 24 tight ends in week nine.