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2023 NFL Week 9 Betting Preview: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers

Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) rushes through the Pittsburgh Steelers defense during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Nas Titans Steelers 033

Titans (3-4) at Steelers (4-3)

Spread: Steelers -3

Total: 36.5

Weather: No current concerns

The Line Report

There’s been no significant line movement on either the spread or total for this contest.

Steelers Offense vs. Titans Defense

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett will be a game-time decision Thursday night. If Pickett misses this contest, Mitch Trubisky will take over at quarterback. Pittsburgh’s offense has been volatile all season, but it will be even more unreliable if Trubisky is forced into action.

The strength of the Tennessee Titans defense is their front, where they’ll have a trench advantage against Pittsburgh. RB Najee Harris has been underwhelming with just 313 rushing yards, but he remains the Steelers’ primary ball carrier. Harris has 84 carries to Jaylen Warren’s 45 on the season. Warren has seen twice as much work as a pass catcher, with 32 targets to Harris’s 15. Tennessee has a rock-solid run defense and allows the third-fewest receiving yards per game to running backs.

The Titans’ pass defense is unique in that their pass rush can dominate games, but if it doesn’t, Tennessee can be shredded through the air. Against Pittsburgh, the Titans’ pass rush has a considerable trench advantage. Tennessee is, however, allowing the fifth-most receiving yards per game to opposing wide receivers. 

That’s good news for the Steelers now that they have Diontae Johnson and George Pickens firing at full strength. Pickens leads the team in target share (24.7 percent) and air yards share (42.2 percent). He also has more than 100 receiving yards in two of his past three games. Johnson returned to action two weeks ago after missing four games due to injury. Johnson is coming off a 14-target effort against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. Long term, expect Johnson to see more volume, while Pickens is far more of a big-play threat.

Titans Offense vs. Steelers Defense

Will Levis made some noise in his professional debut, throwing for four touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons last week. Levis had 11 rushing yards on seven carries, along with 238 passing yards. Assuming Ryan Tannehill misses this contest on the short week, we can reasonably expect Levis to start Thursday night. His biggest challenge is that the Steelers' pass rush will have a significant trench advantage against Tennessee’s offensive line.

The Steelers have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. That’s great news for Derrick Henry, who is currently fifth in the league in rushing yards; he has more than 95 rushing yards in three of his past four games. Rookie Tyjae Spears has been a factor in both the air and on the ground as a supplement to Henry. Expect Tennessee to lean on its running game for as long as it can.

Pittsburgh has given up the third-most receiving yards per game to wide receivers this season. The Steelers’ secondary will be without their best player in S Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Titans’ passing attack has been among the most inconsistent in the league. With that in mind, DeAndre Hopkins has more than 100 receiving yards in two of his past three games. Hopkins has made it clear that he can still play, as he leads Tennessee with 504 receiving yards. 

Treylon Burks has missed three games, but he’s only caught six passes. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine’s 13.3 percent target share is just slightly lower than Burks’ 13.9 percent. Westbrook-Ikhine is second on the team in receiving yards with 201.

TE Chigoziem Okonkwo is second on the team in receptions (21) and target share (17 percent). Pittsburgh has allowed the ninth-fewest receiving yards per game to tight ends.

Jeffery Simmons Tennessee Titans
DT Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

What You’re Betting On

This is a matchup between two tough, physical teams led by two of the best head coaches in the league. Both defenses have a significant advantage in the trenches, paired with beatable secondaries.

If you’re betting on the Titans, you are primarily betting on their defensive front dominating this game. That’s exactly what Tennessee did in its Week 4 blowout win against the Cincinnati Bengals. On the other side of things, you’re building a Titans bet around Henry having a strong game. Counting on Levis against Pittsburgh’s pass rush is a big ask, and the Titans have not won a game on the road this season. That said, a Titans bet is also a direct bet against either Pickett or Trubisky.

If you’re betting on the Steelers, you first have to consider the quarterback situation. Pickett has more upside than Trubisky, but either quarterback would face an uphill battle against the Titans’ pass rush. If you’re betting on Pittsburgh, you need the Steelers to manage the Titans’ pass rush. That’s not a safe expectation. That means that a Steelers bet is primarily a bet against Levis in his second NFL game.

Score Prediction with Pickett: Steelers 20, Titans 16

Score Prediction without Pickett: Titans 16, Steelers 13

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

ATS 2023: 21-18

Props 2022: 60-40

Props 2023: 18-12

Ryan Reynolds is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team and has been covering NFL betting markets for five years. Follow him @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook