It is the NFL game everyone has been talking about this week.
The Tennessee Titans (5-0) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) in a matchup to determine early bragging rights in the AFC. The winner will be the conference’s lone unbeaten team and – if history is an accurate indicator – a good bet to play in the Super Bowl at the end of the season.
Here is a roundup of some of what Pittsburgh’s players and coaches had to say in recent days:
• Coach Mike Tomlin, on the Titans’ offense: “Largely, their formula for how they play remains the same. … Their group that has the appetite for the big play defensively and appears to timely deliver it when needed. They control and possess the ball on offense. That attack is centered around [running back Derrick] Henry.”
• Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, on playing in Tennessee: “It’s always so tough. I’ve never really played well there. It’s going to be different, obviously, to go back on the road since Week 1. I’m not sure how many fans they’re allowing in. I know there’s some there, but that was always a big part of playing there. It always felt like it was cold. It always felt like the fans were really rowdy. It’s going to be different this time. They’re always a good team at home for sure.”
• Tomlin on A.J. Brown: “Brown is a matchup issue and problem. We know about that. His physical talents are what they are. When he and [D.K.] Metcalf came out of Ole Miss, it was a freakshow, and it continues to be that. We are highly concerned about what he can do, particularly in one-on-one circumstances.”
• Defensive coordinator Keith Butler, on Mike Vrabel: “He’s a linebacker at heart, I’m sure. He coaches the defensive side of the ball. I’m sure he’s got some things and probably talked to Belichick, he knows him pretty well. They might have talked and come up with some schemes on us. We will have to see what we’ve got when we get there.”
• Offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner, on Tennessee’s secondary: “Both of their corners are older guys that have played really good football and have been brought up the right way. It seems like we’ve seen them a lot in a lot of places. They’re very savvy, very intelligent. They’re not going to make mistakes. Their safety, we coached in a Pro Bowl a couple of years ago, he’s an outstanding safety. [Kenny] Vaccaro, the other safety, he’s been around the league for a while. They’ve got an awful lot of experience in their secondary.”
• Butler, on quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “He’s gotten the ball out on time. When he doesn’t is maybe when you try to put a little pressure on him, but he’s done a great job of quarterbacking that team. It’s not just Henry. It’s the quarterback too. He’s somebody that’s going to be tough for us to stop, especially with the combination of the running game and the play action they have.”
• Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, on Tennessee’s receivers: “Tannehill is going to spread the ball around pretty well. So, we’ve just got to go out there and cover your man, cover your assignment, be in the right spot, be in the right position, look at the right things.”
• Butler, on Derrick Henry: “He really builds speed, and when he does that, he’s really dangerous. We know we have a real challenge ahead of us this weekend. To me, as a player when I played, that was the fun thing about playing in the National Football League. Every week it’s somebody that’s going to challenge you. He’s certainly going to do that in terms of our run defense.”
• Tomlin, on Derrick Henry: “There are people that are intimidated by [Derrick Henry]. There are tangible things to be intimidated by. … You can see DBs having issues with that. Hopefully, we minimize the amount of time our guys are in those circumstances, and hopefully, when our guys are in those circumstances, they do what they have to do. They do what the job requires them to do.”
• Linebacker T.J. Watt, on Derrick Henry: “He’s a big back. But I feel like we face a lot of really good backs, especially in my career. We face good backs in practice … and I just think that we’re confident not matter who’s on the other side of the football. We feel like our defense flies around. He’s a really talented back, don’t get me wrong.”
• Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, on the Titans: “I just think they’re a complete team. I don’t know if they’re better than teams we’ve played but when I look at them I can say they have a stout running game, a hard-hitting running game that finishes plays. Then they have a passing game between Tannehill and A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith. Those guys just do a really good job of going downfield. Then you have that stifling defense as well and some emerging players. So, that recipe puts you in a good league, and we’ve got our work cut out for us this week.”