October 7, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert (77) and guard Ramon Foster (73) block against Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (97) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Tennessee Titans finished the 2012 season ranked 27th overall in total defense and 26th against the pass. Due to their issues on that side of the ball last fall, Tennessee’s brass hired veteran defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to fix their problematic unit.
With Williams, of Super Bowl winning and later “Bountygate” fame, in charge now, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers expect the same type of aggressive style from the Titans which Williams’ defenses put on display most recently in New Orleans. According to interviews (here and here) on the Titans’ team website, Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin both shared that they were expecting plenty of blitzing from Tennessee’s defense on Sunday afternoon.
If Williams does indeed decide to constantly dial up the heat in Week 1, then Pittsburgh’s young offensive line must be ready to step up in the pass-blocking department. I know that if I was Williams I would be doing just that.
I am sure Williams saw how much the Steelers’ offensive line struggled as a whole to protect Roethlisberger during the preseason. Moreover, I am sure that he saw how much Pittsburgh’s tackles, Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert, struggled with speed when they tried to protect the edges. Thus, the Steelers’ tackles will likely see heavy doses of defensive ends Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, and Ropati Pitoitua. In addition, Tennessee could even mix things up with their linebackers and defensive backs off of the edges on passing downs.
If Pittsburgh’s offensive line can consistently pick up the blitz though, then “Big Ben” and his fast receivers should have plenty of opportunities to pick apart Tennessee’s secondary. Moreover, the Steelers’ offense could have success stretching the field against Cover-0 if they can weather the storm of Williams’ blitz-heavy defense.
I know that I am certainly worried about how consistent that Adams and Gilbert can perform when Roethlisberger has to go to the air this weekend and throughout the 2013 season. Pittsburgh’s offensive line remains an enormous question mark heading into the 2013 campaign, and veteran defensive coordinators will try to exploit their weaknesses to make life difficult on “Big Ben.”
I just hope that if Tennessee does employ a “blitz-heavy” scheme that Pittsburgh’s tackles along with the rest of their offensive line can handle it. Otherwise, the team’s two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback will be at the mercy of the Titans’ aggressive defensive scheme.
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