The Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Tennessee Titans this week with the home standing Titans seeking revenge for an opening week loss last season.

The bookmakers set the NFL betting spread on this contest at Tennessee -5 at home, with the betting ‘total’ set at 36½.

Granted, there are glaring differences at quarterback for each team this year compared to last season, when the matchup was Ben Roethlisberger vs. Kerry Collins. Now, Pittsburgh Steelers third stringer Dennis Dixon again gets the start for the suspended Big Ben, while Vince Young is now the man for the Tennessee Titans, leading the team to an 8-2 finish last season after Collins got them off to an 0-6 start.

Tennessee Titans NFL Cheerleader

Young has taken a lot of grief over the years, but he has continued to prove the critics wrong by winning many more games than he has lost. In fact, from a gambling perspective, very few quarterbacks have been as successful as VY, who is now an impressive 25-14, 64.1 percent against the spread as a staring NFL quarterback while going 27-12 straight up!

It may not be easy for Young this week though as the Pittsburgh’s defense is healthy again, and they looked like the Steel Curtain of old last week while forcing Matt Ryan into bad throws and keeping Michael Turner bottled up.

That said; it is almost impossible to contain Chris Johnson. The Raiders did their best last week until Johnson broke through for a 76-yard touchdown scamper. As a result, Johnson has now surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in 12 straight games. What makes Tennessee tough to defend is the fact that Young is such a bona fide running threat himself, meaning defenses can’t solely key in on Johnson.

As for Dixon, he was not terrible vs. Atlanta. Sure, he had some ugly throws and he often ran for his life due to poor Pittsburgh offensive line play, but he escaped quite a few probable sacks with his mobility and did manage to complete 18-of-26 passes for 236 yards.

Still, any success the Steelers have in this game will be predicated on establishing the run, and they may do just that after the Raiders mustered 5.3 yards per carry vs. this Tennessee defense last Sunday. Look for heavy doses of Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 120 yards vs. the Falcons including the game winning score in overtime.

The fear for the Steelers though is that they may not be able to match their defensive intensity from last week. It is not unusual for good teams to rise to the occasion in their first game with their starting quarterback out, and for Pittsburgh, that translated to an insanely intense and emotional performance by the defense.

The downside of that is that the teams usually regress in the future games that the star quarterback is still out. However, this Pittsburgh defense is a very talented unit even with normal effort, so although they may not be flying all over the field like last week, they should still do their part to give the Titans a solid run for their money.

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