Titans running back Derrick Henry enters Sunday’s AFC showdown against the Steelers in Nashville as the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 6.
If Henry remains on this pace, he’ll be in line for a much more prestigious honor by season’s end: NFL MVP.
For Week 7, though, Henry and the Titans against the Steelers represents The Post’s Big Game this week based largely on the matchup between Henry, who leads the NFL in rushing with 588 yards, and the Steelers’ defense, which is second in the league defending the run, allowing an average of just 66.2 per game.
The Titans and Steelers are both 5-0, which marks the sixth time in the Super Bowl era that two undefeated teams will have played in Week 7 or later. In the previous five meetings, the winner went on to the Super Bowl with New England (2004) and Denver (2015) winning the title. The Patriots won two of those games in 2007 and Minnesota won in 1973 before losing the Super Bowl.
The Titans are undefeated through five games for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since they went 10-0 to begin the 2008 season. The Steelers are 5-0 for the first time since 1978, when they went on to win the Super Bowl.
This game was originally scheduled for Oct. 4 but was postponed because of the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak. The rescheduling by the NFL required both teams to take their bye immediately in Week 4, the Steelers’ game against the Ravens was moved from this week to next week, and the Ravens’ bye was moved up to this week.
The Steelers’ focus on Sunday is squarely on the Titans’ 6-foot-3, 250-pound back who pounds like a fullback but has the speed of a sprinter. Henry is coming off a 212-yard rushing performance last Sunday against the Texans. The highlight of that game was his 94-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, his eighth career touchdown of at least 65 yards.
Henry became the first back in NFL history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game in three consecutive seasons. Since Week 14 of the 2018 season, Henry has rushed for more than 170 yards in seven of 28 games, including two playoff games last season. Dating to 2018, he has seven rushes of 50 yards or longer (second in NFL).
“It’s really astounding that a back his size is capable of going to the house just about every time he touches it,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters this week. “Over the course of the last 10 or 12 games, dating back to last year, this guy has a highlight reel of big runs unlike which I have never seen over that type of a time span.”
The Pittsburgh run defense should provide a stout challenge for Henry. The Steelers held Giants running back Saquon Barkley to six yards on 15 carries in Week 1, and last week they limited the Browns to 113 yards fewer than their league-leading rushing average. The Steelers also have produced 42 tackles for losses, most in the NFL.
The Titans won’t be helped by the fact they lost starting left tackle and top offensive lineman Taylor Lewan for the season with a knee injury last week.
The Steelers also suffered a key injury last week when linebacker Devin Bush went down with a knee injury.
Look for the Steelers to run-blitz the Titans, which is of one of its strengths and tendencies on defense. Pittsburgh clearly is going to try to make Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill beat them, rather than Henry.
“They are extremely well-coached and talented,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters this week. “It’s been tough for people to run the football on them.’’
That’s what makes this a classic matchup of strength on strength.
Share this article:
Source: Read Full Article