NFL: Thursday Night Football – Titans @ Steelers

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tennessee-titans-logo.jpg135px-Pittsburgh_Steelers_logo.svg.pngIt’s back. The 2009 NFL season kicks of Thursday night as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ clash with the Tennessee Titans (Sky Sports, Friday, 1am).

Like many NFL contests on opening weekend, it’s a clash of quarterbacks pitting second and third ranked passers head-to-head.

Titans 15-year veteran QB, Kerry Collins, is 3-0 against the reigning Super Bowl champions and will obviously be looking to extend their streak. Tennessee having won four of the last five meetings.

“We simply are just going to prepare and attack the challenges that lie ahead for us. We have to be a driven group. We have to seek greatness.”

The Pennsylvania-born Collins, who led Tennessee to a 13-3 record in 2008 ranks 3rd among active NFL QBs with 37,393 passing yards. He has four career TD against the Steelers with no interceptions and a 96.5 passer rating.

But Collins isn’t the only offensive threat on the Titans. Rookie running back, Chris Johnson, rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2008 and is sure to trouble the Steelers defence; he averages 5.1 yards-per-carry on road (115 att., 583 yards). Fellow RB LenDale White led the AFC with a career-high 15 TD in 2008.

That said, Collins will be up against Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger, who ranks 2nd in NFL with a .718 win pct. Titans’ Head Coach, Jeff Fisher, knows the importance of his defence shutting down Roethlisberger, saying:

“To contain him is all well and good, but you can’t. That’s when he makes his big plays.

“You’ve got to be smart about what you’re doing, especially smart and stay in your pass rush lanes. You can get a body on him and he’s going to bounce off and run around and make plays. That’s what he is really, really good at.

“He makes throws with people hanging on his legs and his waist.

“The most important thing is to keep consistent pressure on, which is difficult to do because of their protections schemes, and then be in a position to make plays down the field when he throws the ball.

Roethlisberger (26 years 336 days) became the youngest QB to win two Super Bowls who isn’t named Tom Brady (26 years 182 days) in 2008 and aims to lead the Steelers to their seventh consecutive win on Kickoff Weekend, saying:

“We’re setting our goals high. We need to be better. We just can’t rely on our defense to win every game for us.”

Steelers’ RB Willie Parker averages 97.2 rushing yards per game in Sept. (1,263 total) and is chasing a fifth consecutive 100-yard game on Kickoff Weekend.

The Steelers may be facing an uphill task as they seek to repeat as Super Bowl winners. It’s happened only eight times since the first Super Bowl in 1967. But at least have a track record in that respect. Two of those eight repeats were by them (IX and X, then XIII and XIV). They are the only franchise in NFL history to capture six Super Bowl titles.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is gearing up for the task, saying:

“I’m excited about getting things started in 2009. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere and environment for our fans.

“We simply are just going to prepare and attack the challenges that lie ahead for us. We have to be a driven group. We have to seek greatness.”