What 49ers can learn from Titans Week 15 loss to Steelers

Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Joe Schobert #93 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Joe Schobert #93 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Tennessee Titans, Julio Jones
The 49ers may not have to play against Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) Mandatory Credit: Imagn Images /

42. NFL Network. Thursday, Dec. 23. 9-5. 49ers -3. 8:20 p.m. ET. 8-6. 35

The 49ers don’t have a lot of time before their Thursday Night Football matchup against the Titans, but Tennessee’s loss to the Steelers provides pointers.

The San Francisco 49ers are playing hot. The Tennessee Titans are not.

The Niners, winners of five out of their last six games, are right back in the thick of the playoff race and holding onto the No. 6 seed with the chance of climbing all the way to the NFC West crown, provided a few more things go their way.

Tennessee, meanwhile, has dropped three of its last four games and has seen its own hold on the AFC’s No. 1 seed slip away entirely, now banking on the hope a strong finish will retain the top spot in the AFC South over the surging Indianapolis Colts.

Not exactly great prospects after the Titans fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 19-13 in Week 15.

Needless to say, both San Francisco and Tennessee have a lot on the line for their short-week Thursday Night Football matchup at Nissan Stadium. And while the abbreviated week means less preparation time for both squads, the 49ers can at least take some key lessons away from what they saw the Steelers successfully do last Sunday.

Takeaway No. 1: 49ers will face shorthanded Titans WR corps

If there’s one primary Niners defensive weakness, it’s at cornerback. This is something both the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons looked to exploit over the last two weeks.

Call it luck or whatever, but there’s a good chance San Francisco won’t have to face the Titans’ top two wide receivers on Thursday night, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, as both are dealing with injuries. After spending time on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, Jones subsequently left the Steelers game after reaggravating it and didn’t return.

Brown, who has been on IR with a chest injury, has seen his practice window and could be activated in time for the game.

But considering the short week, there isn’t a lot of optimism stemming from Tennessee’s camp regarding either wide receiver.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine would essentially become the de facto No. 1 wide receiver if both Jones and Brown are to miss the game. And while Westbrook-Ikhine flashed way back in Week 11 with a 107-yard performance against the Houston Texans, he’s still only averaging 27.7 yards per game this season.

That’s an advantage for the 49ers.