The regular season opens on a Thursday this year with a compelling match up between 2 of the best teams in football from last season . Last season regular season champ Tennessee ( 13-3) vs last years Superbowl champ Pittsburgh. Both teams use a run first philosophy on offense and both teams have a history of strong defense. There is often a letdown for Superbowl champs in their first game next season but don't expect that to be the case for Pittsburgh. This game will be hard fought, physical , and bruising. Both head coaches know their business and should have their teams ready, but here are 5 reasons I am picking the Steelers to win the game.
1. QB edge- Roethlisberger over Collins- Collins is at best a veteran bus driver type and is just counted on not to lose games. Big Ben showed that he could make big plays at the biggest times in the Super Bowl and win games when it counts the most last year. Collins hasn't and he's at the point where you are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. If Vince Young had improved even a little I think he would already be starting for the Titans.
2. Revenge- Tennessee took it to Pitt in the regular season last year and added insult to injury when a couple of players did a dance on top of some Pittsburgh terrible towels . Tomlin has a roster of guys playing with an even meaner streak than usual. How often do the champs come into the opening game with a chip on their shoulders?
3. Albert Haynseworth- The fiercest DT in the NFL no longer resides in Tennessee. No longer will he blow up the pocket and clog running lanes for the titans. Expect this to open up the field for Pitt in all facets on offense. Jason Jones and Tony Brown are good players but just aren't in Alberts league right now and probably never will be. Haynesworth inside pressure also allowed their aging defensive ends to use mostly outside moves, since Albert would blow up double teams and penetrate inside, keeping QB's from Stepping up in the pocket and looking down field.
4. Running back timeshare- Rashard Mendenahll was selected in the 1rst round last year to help carry the load with Willie Parker and give Pittsburgh a stronger runner at the goal line. He quickly got hurt and missed the year. The split in carries should also provide a fresher "fast Willie" and make the Steelers ( and the bigger Mendenhall) an even more physical running team.
5. Pass rush edge- Pitt over Tenn- Pittsburgh combines the great attacking 3-4 of Dick Labeau with the athletic Tampa 2 of Mike Tomlin to form one of the leagues better defenses. Reigning defense player of the year James Harrison and 08 breakout LaMarr Woodley give Pittsburgh the NFL's best pair of rush LB's. Throw in blitzes from all over the field and the immobile Collins should be in for a long night. Don't be surprised if some of the pressure they bring results in forced fumbles.