The Pittsburgh Steelers started the 2021 season 1-0 after a 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills last week. What a win it was, it was total team effort with a blocked punt by Miles Killebrew returned for a touchdown by Ulysees Gilbert III arguably being the difference maker. The Steelers look to move to 2-0 against the Las Vegas Raiders in their home opener of the 2021 season!
Last week in review
1) New Faces: Will the running game show improvement?
The Steelers ran the ball 21 times for 75 total yards last week in the win against the Bills. The offensive line showed a lot of promise in several different ways, but they didn’t run the ball like I expected them to. Najee Harris finished the game with 16 carries for 45 yards for a 2.8 yards per carry average.
2) Ben Roethlisberger: Is 39 the new 29, especially under new OC Matt Canada?
Ben Roethlisberger finished the game 18 of 22 for 188 yards with 1 touchdown. The quarterback played well despite the less than stellar stat line. I expect to see more out of him as the season goes on, especially with the many playmakers he is surrounded with.
3) Will the defense be able to contain the electric Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs connection?
The Steelers’ defense held the Bills’ star receiver, Stefon Diggs, to 9 catches and 69 yards even though he was the team’s leading receiver. The Steelers plan for Diggs seemed to work. They shadowed Diggs with Joe Haden, had Cameron Sutton covering him quite a bit, and used Minkah Fitzpatrick as a robber in a lot of situations to help keep Diggs in check throughout the game.
Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for in the home opener against the Raiders:
1) Now, Let’s see the improvement of the running game!
If the running game is going to show improvement in comparison to the 2020 season, this will be the week to show that off. The Raiders’ defense gave up 189 yards on the ground last week against a beat-up Baltimore Ravens’ running game. Rookie running back, Ty’Son Williams filled in nicely for the Ravens and collected 65 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries for a 7.2 yards per carry average. If there was a week to pinpoint for the Steelers’ offense to show off a new and improved running game, this would be the week!
2) Will the Steelers’ defense be able to keep Darren Waller in check?
Raiders’ star tight end Darren Waller was held in check for the most part of the first half of last week’s game against the Ravens and not because he wasn’t open. Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr missed the speedy tight end several times in the first half with a bad throw or just poor timing. In the second half, Waller was unleashed and the Carr-Waller connection was working extremely well. Waller finished the game with 10 receptions, 105 yards, and a touchdown. The tight end was targeted 19 times throughout the game and it’s no secret that Carr loves his tight end and tries to get the ball into his hands as much as possible. If the Steelers are going to win tomorrow afternoon, the deciding factor will be Waller. If the Steelers’ defense can contain him and put the game in the hands of other Raiders’ playmakers, I really like the Steelers’ chance of pulling out a win!
3) Young Steelers’ offensive line versus the Raiders’ pass rush
Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor will have their work cut out for them tomorrow afternoon on the edge. The Raiders tallied 7 QB hits and 3 sacks last week against the Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson. 5 of those QB hits and 2 sacks came from edge rusher Maxx Crosby alone! Crosby ate up former Steeler Alejandro Villanueva last week, so Okorafor will have his hands full at the right tackle position. In order for Big Ben to have time to get the ball to his playmakers, this young Steelers offensive line will have to hold their ground!