The cross-pollination that characterizes Steelers-Titans isn't limited to Ken Whisenhunt's tenure as a Pittsburgh assistant or Mike Munchak's extensive Tennessee resume.
Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton played for and coached under Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. And like LeBeau, Horton has taught lessons that resonate.
Steelers cornerback William Gay still can recall the details of a conversation he had with Horton in 2007, just after Gay's rookie season had ended.
"He asked me, 'What did you like after your first year?'" Gay recalled. "I was like, 'Man, I'm just glad to be in the NFL.' He told me right then, 'Don't ever say that again and don't get comfortable.'"
Added Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu regarding Horton, "He's definitely one of the better coaches, one of the greatest coaches, I've ever been around."
Horton played safety for the Bengals (1983-88) and Cowboys (1989-92) and played in the Super Bowl for each team. His coaching history includes stops in Pittsburgh (assistant defensive backs coach, 2004-06; defensive backs coach 2007-10), in Arizona (defensive coordinator, 2011-12) and in Cleveland (defensive coordinator, 2013).
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor maintains Horton's ability to impress upon others what he knows about the game is as impressive as all the knowledge Horton has amassed over the years.
"He's brilliant," Taylor insisted. "When you talk about a guy who knows football from the back to the front, that's Coach Ray. For a person who doesn't know football, he can break it down, 'Football 101.' Give that person about a week, four hours a day with Coach Ray and they'll know football like they've been playing football their whole life. Coach Ray is a teacher.
"When we played Cleveland last year it was a challenge (for the Steelers' offense). He had Cleveland (in the) Top 10 last year (ninth in total defense). He had Arizona (in the) Top Five (fifth in passing defense in 2012). You give him two or three years with any team, they're going to flourish. He knows exactly what he's doing."
Horton is in his first year as the Titans' defensive coordinator but is continuing to run a defense that very much resembles what LeBeau has run for years with the Steelers.
"(Horton) definitely has his own version of it but yeah, a very similar system," Polamalu confirmed.
That being the case, the Titans might be familiar with what they see from the Steelers' defense on Monday night.
"Their offense plays their defense, which is ours, pretty much, every day," in practice, Taylor said. "There isn't too much they're not going to know."
The Steelers should also expect to engage a Tennessee defense that plays well from the neck up.
"He taught you to be a smart football player because he demanded it," Gay said. "They're going to be prepared, that's what I can tell you. They're going to be well prepared."
OUT: DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), S Troy Polamalu (knee), LB Ryan Shazier (ankle), CB Ivan Taylor (forearm), S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring)
PROBABLE: CB Cortez Allen (thumb), DE Brett Keisel (not injury related), LB Arthur Moats (not injury related), S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)