Will Levis will make his second career start — and second in five days — when the Tennessee Titans travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
Levis is starting again in place of injured Ryan Tannehill, while counterpart Kenny Pickett plans to play through a rib injury suffered last weekend.
The Titans (3-4) find themselves in an awkward state, sitting on the fringe of playoff contention while potentially ushering in the Levis era. The Steelers (4-3) are a game ahead in the AFC and begin the day tied for second in the AFC North — 1 1/2 games behind Baltimore.
Pittsburgh is only 2-2 at home this season, but the losses have come against strong competition in the form of San Francisco and Baltimore. On a short week and against a rookie quarterback, the Steelers should be able to nose ahead of Cincinnati and Cleveland for the time being.
Prediction: Steelers 20, Titans 16
The Steelers have held steady as 2.5-point favorites at BetMGM, where they have been backed by 67 percent of the spread-line bets and 69 percent of the money. However, it’s the Titans who have drawn 75.5 percent of the money at BetRivers, where the total spread-line bets have been split.
Pittsburgh’s -150 moneyline has drawn 64 percent of the money at BetMGM, while Tennessee has been backed by 56 percent of the bets at +125. The Over/Under market has moved from 36.5 to 37.0 points, with the Over pulling in 59 percent of the bets and 63 percent of the money.
Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins Over 53.5 receiving yards (-120 at BetMGM): This has been one of the most popular player props at the book, drawing 99 percent of the bets. Not only did Hopkins click immediately with Levis last week, catching his first three touchdown passes of the season, but he has topped 125 yards in two of his past three games and had 63 four games ago.
“We knew we were going to go out there and make those plays,” Hopkins said of his time on the field with Levis. “He felt confident in me and trusted me. Obviously, I want to be there for my quarterbacks, especially a first-time starter — that helps build his confidence.”
Titans running back Derrick Henry, who was not moved before the trade deadline, has rushed for 10 or more touchdowns in five straight seasons, but he has just three through seven games. He has rushed for 526 yards.
Tannehill is still recovering from a high-ankle sprain and will miss his second consecutive game. Hopkins is listed as questionable with a toe injury. Hopkins did not practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable, but is expected to play. The Titans also ruled out offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (concussion), cornerback Roger McCreary (hamstring) and safety Mike Brown (ankle).
Pickett was listed as limited in the week’s practices prior to Wednesday but said Tuesday he was “playing for sure.” Steelers defensive back Levi Wallace is listed as questionable to play with a foot injury, while safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) was ruled out.
THEY SAID IT
“Playing or not, I’ve had this game circled on the schedule because of how great the environment is going to be. I know their fans are going to come out and it’s going to be a nice environment. So, we are ready to handle it. I am looking forward to taking it all in and then just doing my thing.” –Levis on circling the road game at Pittsburgh on his calendar.
“We have multiple guys who are going to have to step up. Guys are going to have to do some different things, and it’s our job on the short week to try to get them in the right position so they can play to their strengths. But it’s hard. You’re not going to replicate that guy.” –Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on the defense missing Fitzpatrick.