Last meeting: The Titans posted a 31-23 victory at Tennessee on Nov. 17. Quarterback Steve McNair, running back Eddie George and receiver Kevin Dyson starred on offense and linebackers Keith Bulluck, Peter Sirmon and safety Lance Schulters made big plays on defense for the Titans. McNair threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, George rushed for 79 yards and two scores and Dyson caught eight passes for 87 yards, including two touchdowns. Bulluck had 11 tackles, Sirmon returned an interception 25 yards to set up a score and added seven tackles and Schulters also had an interception in the end zone for a touchback. However, Tennessee's dominant performance was dampened somewhat when Steelers QB Tommy Maddox suffered a concussion and spinal contusion after being hit in the left shoulder by Bulluck.
Steelers playoff road: Rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit for a 36-33 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round. Tommy Maddox completed 30 of 48 passes for 367 yards and three second-half touchdowns to overshadow a 429-yard, three-touchdown performance by Cleveland's Kelly Holcomb. Fullback Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala scored on a three-yard run with 54 seconds left to cap the comeback. Hines Ward caught 11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and Plaxico Burress had six receptions for 100 yards and a score.
Titans playoff road: First-round bye.
Pittsburgh offense vs. Tennessee defense:
Key Matchups: QB Tommy Maddox vs. 25th-ranked pass defense; RBs Amos Zereoue and Jerome Bettis vs. 2nd-ranked run defense; WR Plaxico Burress vs. RCB Samari Rolle; WR Hines Ward vs. LCB Andre Dyson; RT Marvel Smith vs. LE Kevin Carter.
Tommy Maddox was confused by Jeff Fisher's defensive schemes in the regular season meeting, throwing three interceptions before leaving with a concussion and spine injury. Samari Rolle is Tennessee's best cover corner and lines up across Plaxico Burress. Maddox will likely attack left cornerback Andre Dyson. Since Tennessee ranks second in the league against the run, Pittsburgh will likely spend most of the day with a three-wide look with Antwaan Randle El in the slot. Donald Mitchell is the nickel back and will be assigned to Randle El. Bill Cowher has made Amos Zereoue the team's top back with Jerome Bettis nursing a knee injury. Titans right end Jevon Kearse is still not 100 percent after suffering a broken foot in the season opener. Left end Kevin Carter led the Titans with 10 sacks and lines up across Marvel Smith.
Tennessee offense vs. Pittsburgh defense:
Key Matchups: QB Steve McNair vs. 20th-ranked pass defense; RB Eddie George vs. NFL's No. 1 run defense; WR Derrick Mason vs. LCB Chad Scott or Deshea Townsend; TE Frank Wycheck vs. SS Lee Flowers; RT Fred Miller vs. LOLB Jason Gildon; LT Brad Hopkins vs. ROLB Joey Porter.
Jeff Fisher loves to pound Eddie George and run a conservative passing attack with Steve McNair. But offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger went to the spread offense to exploit Pittsburgh's secondary in the regular season and the Titans produced 31 points. However, the Titans will be without injured receiver Kevin Dyson, who had two touchdowns in the regular season win over Pittsburgh. They will likely double Derrick Mason and force Drew Bennett and Justin McCareins to beat single coverage. Pittsburgh hopes starting left cornerback Chad Scott returns after missing the playoff win over Cleveland with a broken hand. Deshea Townsend and Hank Poteat were exploited last week in the nickel and dime packages. The Steelers will need pass-rushing outside linebackers Jason Gildon and Joey Porter to pressure McNair. The Steelers have the NFL's top run defense with nose tackle Casey Hampton and inside linebackers Kendrell Bell and James Farrior.
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