Titans vs. Steelers NFL Week 15 Picks and Predictions

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Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Joe Sargent/Getty Images/AFP

After limping into their bye week with two straight losses, the Titans gathered themselves and scored an easy victory over lowly Jacksonville. The Steelers had benefitted earlier from facing easier opponents. But since their schedule has tightened up, they’ve lost three of their last four. They’ll look to bounce back at home.

The top-rated sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for Sunday’s battle between Tennessee and Pittsburgh. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the money-line for this game.

Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, December 19, 2021 – 01:00 PM EST at Heinz Field

Missing Joe Haden 

Pittsburgh has missed cornerback Joe Haden and generally suffered for it. During his absence -- he missed games at the Chargers, at Cincinnati, versus Baltimore, and at Minnesota -- the Steelers have allowed their highest scoring totals of the season. Worst of all, the Chargers and Bengals both dropped 41 on Pittsburgh while Minnesota scored 36.

It is true that Haden may return for Sunday's contest. He is listed as "day-to-day" with his foot injury. A deeper look reveals, though, why Haden's absence would not be negatively impactful for the Steeler defense in this game against Tennessee.

Those three teams that scored 36 points or more on the Haden-less Steelers enjoyed prolific pass attacks with some recipe of strong quarterback play and/or top-level wide receivers. All three of those quarterbacks -- Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Kirk Cousins --rank top-eight in passing yards per game.

There was a fourth game that Haden missed that I didn't mention: the one against Baltimore. Pittsburgh won that game 20-19 and covered the spread. There are two important things to note about that game: it took place in Pittsburgh and Lamar Jackson was the quarterback. Jackson and his pass-catchers do not form a prolific passing attack like the three aforementioned ones.

Hence, Jackson ranks 18th in passing yards. His passing numbers resemble those of Titan quarterback Ryan Tannehill. While Tannehill has accrued about 80 more yards than Jackson, the latter did miss some time due to injury and anyhow has a stronger passer rating than Tannehill's.

Despite having Julio Jones back -- although he is getting old and has consistently been unproductive -- the Titan pass attack fails to pose a threat that would justify expecting the team to score more than the 19 points that Baltimore did. Of course, note for your sports betting that Haden could also come back and help the Steeler defense that much more.

Titans' Pass Defense on the Road

A strong showing against a pathetic Trevor Lawrence led Jaguar pass attack notwithstanding, the Titan pass defense hardly merits praise. While they rank 22nd overall, as measured by opposing passing yards, this isn't an atrocious stat. But what is atrocious is the drop-off that the pass defense suffers on the road. It is one of the largest drop-offs of this kind.

On the road, the Titans allow 271.8 passing yards per game. If this were a season-long statistic, they would rank second-to-last in pass defense.

They've repeatedly allowed mediocre or subpar quarterbacks to thrive against them with Jet rookie Zach Wilson being one example. The interception machine accomplished his best numbers of the season in his game at home against the Titans.

Steeler Offense vs. Titan Defense

Tennessee's secondary is riddled with youth, injured -- like Caleb Farley -- or healthy -- like Kristian Fulton. Janoris Jenkins is a veteran cornerback who the Titans were desperate enough to sign. His days playing quality football are located firmly in the past. Jenkins could play in Sunday's game -- he is listed as "day-to-day" with a foot injury.

If he does play, he promises to perform poorly given the high catch rate that he has repeatedly yielded, on a game-to-game basis, against stronger wide receivers.

Diontae Johnson, for Pittsburgh, would benefit as he exceeds 1,000 yards receiving in a pass-heavy Steeler offense that, unlike Tennessee's offense minus Derrick Henry, is capable of scoring a lot of points.

Running Back Support 

Know for your best bets that Pittsburgh also benefits from having a healthy star running back, Najee Harris. Harris is a viable weapon in the passing game, which is why he repeatedly gets at least five targets and has seen as many as 19 in a single game.

Tennessee, meanwhile, wants to be more balanced in order to avoid exposing Tannehill but lacks the ability to do so without Derrick Henry.  For example, it took the Titans 34 carries to accrue 102 rushing yards last Sunday against Jacksonville.

The Verdict 

Sufficiently loaded with high-quality pass-catchers, Pittsburgh's pass-heavy offense is primed to dominate a very exploitable Titan secondary. Meanwhile, Tannehill and a slew of regularly unproductive running backs and wide receivers lack the means to hurt Pittsburgh even if Haden misses this game.

Also, note that this is a good spot for the Steelers: they are 2-0 SU and ATS when playing at home after losing a game on the road.

For the above reasons, invest in Pittsburgh with your NFL picks.

NFL Pick: Steelers (+105) with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Steelers (+105)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.