What I Saw: Thoughts On Every Game, Week 11, TNF
Titans Vs. Steelers
QB: Whoo Boy, what a great night for Ben Roethlisberger and what a stinker for Marcus Mariota. Big Ben started off hot, throwing a long bomb to Antonio Brown for a 41-yard touchdown with barely 2 ½ minutes off the board. It was a preview of what was to come as Big Ben lead an absolute rout of the Titans, throwing just shy of 300 yards and 4 TDs. Big Ben did have quite a few throws that were just off, but using a no-huddle offense does seem to be working for the Steelers for now. The game preview continued on the 2nd drive of the game as Mariota threw deep only to be intercepted. He would end the game with 4 INTs to Big Ben’s 0. The Steelers defense has been pretty on-point lately and a lot of what happened was just good defense from them, very similar to when the Steelers played the Lions in week 8. Mariota had over 300 yards, but just 1 TD. He was buoyed by a rushing TD, but the problem for me was that there wasn’t enough of Mariota rushing when receivers weren’t open. For the defense being as tight as it was, it seems like he should have used his legs more often and I for one am on the lookout for comments from the coaching staff to regarding this subject before week 12. I expect Mariota to have a better performance next week against the Colts regardless, as they do not have such a stellar defense.
RB: Le’Veon Bell had a great night, all things considered. It could have been much better, but Bell’s RZ targets were a little off from Ben, and one was an uncharacteristic ugly drop. For the Titans, the run game was basically nonexistent. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry actually combined for a total of 15 rushes and 42 yards, most of which were Henry’s. Henry looked much better than Murray this game rushing but was rarely used fueling speculation that Henry should maybe become the leader of that backfield. The only relief Murray owners should feel is that Murray seems to be the clear pass catcher out of the backfield.
WR: This was Antonio Brown’s night. He has a long history with B-Roeth, and it was in full force tonight. Brown was the recipient of 3 of Big Ben’s 4 TD’s and had yet another game where his yardage total is something to drool over (144 yards!). JuJu Smith-Schuster simply didn’t have many scraps leftover on which to feast, although he is making some great catches and holding on to the ball. Some of the targets that did come to JuJu and fellow WR Martavis Bryant were not of the best quality, though, so their slow nights are a little bit not their faults. I don’t think it’s the end of JuJu’s breakout season, but it’s hard to see how there’s room for Brown, JuJu, and Bryant. At this point, Bryant is only worth a bench stash. Rishard Matthews was the only Titan receiver to have a good night, most of which is the result of a 75 yard catch-and-run TD. Matthews really earned it putting a move on Coty Sensabaugh and ducking Robert Golden on his way to the end zone. Corey Davis, while one of Mariota’s favorite targets, was not getting a lot of good passes to work with. One of 4 INTs from Mariota might be Davis’ fault for quitting on his route, but given how much Mariota seems to like throwing to him I think they’ll work out the kinks in the 10 days before they play IND. The targets are definitely there, and he seems to pass the eye test
TE: The strange thing from the Steeler’s is that they seemed really intent on forcing the ball to Jesse James from very early in the game. I don’t know if James just prayed extra hard tonight or started doing Roethlisberger’s laundry in exchange for looks, but James was receiving all kinds of RZ targets until one finally connected but with Vance McDonald a scratch due to ankle injury you shouldn’t read too much into the night’s performance for James. Delanie Walker rewarded those who had faith in him to start him. He and Rishard Matthews account for over ⅔ of Mariota’s passing yards this game, and he very nearly had a touchdown that he dropped in one of the worst cases of “oops” he’ll probably have all year. Still, the RZ targets and season-high yards suggest that Walker will continue to be a solid weekly start when healthy.