|Troy Polamalu remains injured and won't be playing against the Titans on Thursday night. (US Presswire)|
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn. (grass, outdoors)
When: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
Spread: Steelers by 5.5.
Forecast: A 70-degree day is expected to dip into the mid-50s at night with a 50-percent chance of a late thunderstorm.
Records: Steelers (Overall: 2-2, AFC North 0-0); Titans (Overall: 1-4, AFC South 0-1).
Past results: This series started as a drag-out fight between the Steelers and Oilers, and it didn't lose much punch when the club moved to Tennessee. Series record: The Steelers lead the overall series by 41-29 and even on the road, in Houston/Tennessee at 18-17. The Steelers won in LP Field their last time, 19-11 in the 2010 season, though that required some defensive theatrics (a goalline diving stop by Troy Polamalu, who won't play in this meeting due to a calf strain). Before that, the Steelers lost three in a row in Nashville and nine of 12 in Houston/Tennessee. It's also the scene where a few Titans were captured on camera, stomping and soiling the Steelers' talisman Terrible Towel during the 2008 rout.
What matters: The Titans outscored Detroit in Nashville in a wild 44-41 overtime finish. Otherwise, they're getting bonked regularly: 140 for New England, San Diego, Houston and Minnesota, 44 for Tennessee. Meantime, the Steelers have righted their ship, using a final, 6½-minute drive to kick a game-winning field goal and succeed after fourth-quarter failures in Denver and Oakland previously this season. The Steelers have lost their past three road games -- all heading west (Denver in the playoffs, then Denver and Oakland). They've lost 14 of their past 22, straying into the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones. As coach Mike Tomlin noted this week, they need a road triumph if they want to get anywhere.
Who matters: Just when the Steelers were getting healthy again, with linebacker James Harrison (post-knee surgery) and Polamalu returning last Sunday, they lose their star safety. Polamalu reinjured his calf after 19 snaps, so he'll miss his third game of the season ... and counting. The Steelers are 11-11 in games when he fails to start. Moreover, Harrison's bookend at outside linebacker, LaMarr Woodley, has been slowed by the same hamstring problem that effectively scratched him from the last half of 2011. However, Tomlin left “the door ajar” for Woodley to return to play Thursday. That puts pressure on Polamalu replacements Ryan Mundy and Will Allen, who was thrust into playing time after Mundy handled the duties almost solely with so-so results, plus Woodley backup Jason Worilds.
Key matchups: The Patriots, Chargers, Texans and Vikings all posted 30-plus points against the Titans' defense. Rashard Mendenhall gathered 81 yards Sunday in his return from ACL surgery, and that alone constituted the Steelers' highest team rushing total to date in 2012. Catching screens that officially were listed as laterals and using his ability on the edge, Mendenhall showed a missing element and stoked a ground attack that allows the Steelers to eat up the clock. But they need to finish with touchdowns, and last week saw Antonio Brown drop an end-zone pass and Jerricho Cotchery trip over the 2-yard line while apparently going in for a TD. So, in essense, it's the Steelers' offense vs. themselves, too. And that propensity for penalties, in which the Steelers lead the league at 86.5 yards per game, must be rectified, too.
Injuries of note: Polamalu's calf pull is cause for graet concern. Woodley is expected to be a gameday decision, though given his ineffectiveness and protracted absence with a hamstring injury last season it's doubtful he'd play Thursday. Harrison and Mendenhall were rested in this week's sole practice on Tuesday, but that proved more precautionary than anything.
Inside stuff: Tennessee's Chris Johnson has experienced a mixed bag against the Steelers, with some success and more failure. This Steelers' defense was allowing an uncharacteristic 100 yards rushing per game before squelching LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick last Sunday to 69 yards and a 3.2-yard average between them. If they can stop Johnson and the Titans running game, they can then get into the Titans' pocket.
Connections: Titans receiver Nate Washington aligned at receiver for the Steelers on their Super Bowl XLII-winning play against Arizona, but wouldn't recognize the receiving corps now: No Santonio Holmes, no Hines Ward. ... Speaking of that Super Bowl, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and tight end Leonard Pope were on the same Cardinals side with Titans guardDeuce Lutui. ... And Steelers right guard Ramon Foster, a University of Tennessee product and Henning, Tenn., native, will be making his homecoming.
Stats you should know: Sure, it's early, but the Steelers need a victory to keep pace in an AFC North where they have yet to compete this season -- Cincinnati (3-2) plays Sunday at Cleveland (0-5) and leader Baltimore (4-1) entertains stumbling Dallas (2-2). ... The Steelers are 7-1 in their past eight Thursday night games, 6-1 under Tomlin.
Record watch: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs 300 yards to surpass Terry Bradshaw's team record for passing yards (27,989). ... Tight end Heath Miller needs two more receptions for 358 career to tie receiver Louis Lipps (1984-91) for third place on the Steelers' all-time catches list, behind John Stallworth (537) and Hines Ward (1,000).
Looking ahead: The Steelers go back on the road with a Sunday night game Oct. 21 at Cincinnati, their first AFC North competition of 2012. It's also the start of a seven-game run in which the Steelers play four against 2011 playoff teams: Cincinnati, Baltimore twice and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. ... The Titans shuffle off to Buffalo.
Prediction: Steelers 30, Titans 23
Follow Steelers reporter Chuck Finder on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @cfinder.