Will Levis made a stellar first impression and is a near-certainty to start for the Tennessee Titans for the second time in five days.
Meanwhile, Kenny Pickett insists a rib injury won’t prevent him from answering the bell when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Titans on Thursday night.
Tennessee (3-4) took the wrapping off second-round draft pick Levis this past Sunday, and he put on a show with four touchdown passes in a 28-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in his NFL debut.
Ryan Tannehill missed the contest with a sprained right ankle and is unlikely to play against the Steelers (4-3). He sat out practice Tuesday while Levis was being prepared to start.
“I would imagine, as of today, it will be Will unless something changes,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Tuesday. “Right now, I don’t see Ryan being able to do much with the ankle.”
Levis said he has been looking forward to playing in Pittsburgh.
“Playing or not, I’ve had this game circled on the schedule because of how great the environment is going to be,” Levis said. “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 clicked well in his debut with wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who caught his first three touchdown passes of the season while making four receptions for 128 yards.
“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.”
Tennessee insisted it wouldn’t trade star running back Derrick Henry, and Tuesday’s deadline passed without a deal. Henry 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.
As for Pickett, he was injured during the second quarter of Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and was replaced by Mitch Trubisky.
He was limited during Tuesday’s walk-through and was able to do light throwing and later anointed himself as the starter.
“I’m playing, for sure,” Pickett said.
Pickett has passed for 1,330 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions this season. The Steelers are near the bottom of the league in both scoring offense (29th at 16.1 points per game) and total offense (30th at 271.7 yards per game).
Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Canada said he didn’t think the short week will hinder Pickett.
“Great faith in Kenny that if he’s able to play, he’ll play,” Canada said. “If he feels like he’s not able to perform and do his job, he’ll tell us.”
While star outside linebacker T.J. Watt (8.5 sacks) will be trying to torment Levis, standout free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) will miss the game. Fitzpatrick leads Pittsburgh with 54 tackles.
“We have multiple guys who are going to have to step up,” Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Tuesday. “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.”
Damontae Kazee is slated to start in place of Fitzpatrick.
It’s possible that star defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (groin) will be cleared to play for the first time since being injured in Week 1. He was a full participant on Tuesday.
For Tennessee, Henry (ankle), Hopkins (toe) and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (ankle) were all limited Tuesday for the second straight day.
Pittsburgh has won the past four meetings with Tennessee. The Titans last beat the Steelers in 2013.
–Field Level Media