I have written extensively on how I thought the Titans defense was unfairly criticized and it was nice to see a game where my confidence is validated. The Titans were facing a banged up Steelers offensive line and the carnage continued as the defensive line wreaked havoc against them. With consistent pressure the secondary played well for the most part. So without further ado let's take a closer look.
More about the defensive line. It bears repeating again that the Titans have great rotation at defensive tackle and not so much at defensive end. Still, the group as a whole plays to the end of the whistle and every single guy on the line runs to the ball and you have to love that attitude.
Jurrell Casey is having an All Pro year and I will be devastated if he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.The guy is simply a beast and impossible to contain. When he is healthy the line plays at an entirely different level.
Rookie defensive tackle Mike Martin just gets better and better. He finished with 6 tackles, 2 solo, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 QB hit. Just an outstanding game from the rookie.
I thought Derrick Morgan had one of his better games as a Titan. He has definitely slimmed down from last year and looks to be recovered finally from his ACL injury. He and Kamerion Wimbley were incredibly active all game and made life generally miserable for Ben Roethlisberger. I know the Steelers offensive line was thin and got a lot thinner but I still think these guys are very good and are getting better as they play more snaps together as a line. He finished with 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss and a pass defended.
I especially think Kamerion Wimbley is getting more comfortable in the role he is now playing and I expect a breakout performance from him sooner rather than later. He is also one of the harder working guys on the team and he is always around the ball.
It was also great to see middle linebacker Colin McCarthy back on the field. He is most definitely the leader of this defense and as a unit they play more in sync when he is on the field. He played very well until roughly late in the 3rd quarter when you could see the toll from his ankle sprain begin to take effect. He clearly slowed down but was still overall effective. Let's hope he continues to recover as this defense needs him on the field. He finished with 8 tackles and 3 solo.
I really like Akeem Ayers and I think he can be a playmaker but you have to crawl before you can walk and he lacks focus on his fundamentals. He simply must tackle better. He is too talented a player to miss like he does. I was particularly disappointed in the spear and late hit that he got flagged for against the Steelers.
The transition from veteran Will Witherspoon to rookie Zach Brown at weak side linebacker appears to be complete and I paid particular attention to his performance and frankly I was impressed. He was quite good in coverage. I thought he did a particularly great job saving a touchdown in the endzone defending against Heath Miller. A tough assignment there for the rookie and he passed that test well. I would like to see him be a bit more physical but I am really liking what I see from the rookie. He finished with 4 tackles, 3 solo, and 1 pass defended.
I haven't written as much about cornerback Jason McCourty mostly because I thought he was playing well but could be playing better. I saw the performance I expected from him against the Steelers as I thought he particularly played well. His interception of a pass intended for Antonio Brown was just textbook and beautiful. He finished the game with 5 tackles, 2 solo, 2 passes defended and the interception.
If it seems like I am always talking about how great Jordan Babineaux is well you are probably right. He is great and one of my favorite players on this team. He is the hardest working player on this defense and it shows. Equally great in coverage and run defense he led the team in tackles with 9 tackles 7 of them solo.
Also, he didn't play much but Al Alfalava but he made just an outstanding defensive play in the endzone particularly since he doesn't play much and is a rookie to boot. I am definitely going to keep an eye on him.
One of the funniest moments in the game came when Robert Johnson whiffed on a tackle leading Jerry Gray to throw his headset.
Lastly, Tim Shaw showed once again why he is so great on special teams and a captain. That blocked punt was just stellar, lead to a touchdown and probably won this game for the Titans. The special teams as a unit have played extremely well.
The Titans played a well balanced game and relatively penalty free game. It was the full team effort needed and a performance that can hopefully give the team a lot of confidence going into the remainder of the season.
Since I already mentioned Jerry Gray let me say this is the best performance out of the coaching staff I have seen this season. The coaches in general seemed more animated and involved in the game and I think it showed in the overall performance. (Gratuitous photo's of Munch to follow)