The Pittsburgh Steelers got back into the win column last week against the Denver Broncos 27-19. Ben Roethlisberger put on one of his better passing performances of the season, finishing 15 of 25 for 253 yards and 2 TDs. Najee Harris notched his first 100-yard game of the year on the ground, finishing with 23 carries and 122 yards and a house call. Chase Claypool led the Steelers in receiving with 5 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball, free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick led the Steelers in tackles with 10 total, 5 solos, and 1 tackle for loss. The Steelers take on the Seattle Seahawks at home on Sunday Night Football.
Last week in review
The three things I noted to keep an eye on last week were:
1) Build on the improvements of the offensive line play!
The Steelers’ offensive line put together one of their better performances of the season, if not the best. As a collective, the Steelers’ offense ran the ball 35 times for 147 total yards. The pass protection held up for the most part on the day, allowing Roethlisberger to only get sacked one time and hit twice on the afternoon. The Steelers’ offensive line and specifically RT Chukwuma Okorafor held Broncos’ All-Pro Edge Rusher Von Miller to zero pressures and zero sacks!
2) Get to the QB!
The Steelers’ defense provided pressure from various position groups. OLB TJ Watt registered 2 QB hits, DE Henry Mondeaux registered 1 of the 2 sacks collected, while MLB Devin Bush registered 2 QB Hits and the other sack on the day.
3) Fix the issues, Big Ben!
It has been noticeable that future Hall of Fame QB Roethlisberger has had his struggles this season. He seemed to be more on target this past Sunday than he had been for the 3-game skid the Steelers faced prior. 60% passing on the with playing mistake free football through the air (he did lose a fumble), over 250 yards, and 2 touchdowns is a decent stat line. He seemed to be more on target with tight window throws. Just as one example, his first throw was placed perfectly just in the reach of the outside shoulder of Claypool to grab it and turn it up field for a 23-yard gain.
Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for against the Seahawks:
1) Offensive line and Najee Harris versus Seahawks’ front seven
The Steelers’ offense seemed to find success running the football against a stingy Broncos’ defense last week. Can they build on that performance? I think so, especially against the 24th ranked rushing defense in the NFL. The Seahawks’ defense is allowing 4.5 yards per carry on the ground this season. With Zach Banner possibly making his return on Sunday Night Football and the Steelers’ offensive line figuring out how to open holes for Harris to plow through, it may be the perfect storm going against the poor run defending Seahawks.
2) Force Geno Smith into mistakes
Starting his first game since 2017, Geno Smith is bound to make some mistakes, right? Smith played about a quarter and a half last week in the loss to the Los Angeles Rams, going 10 for 17 for 131 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Taking care of the football is something that Smith has struggled with since entering the league, with a career touchdown to interception ratio sitting at 30-37. The Steelers’ defense needs to bring pressure early and often to force the backup into making bad decisions!
3) Supplementing for the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Steelers do not lack talent and potential at the wide receiver position at all, but with the loss of WR JuJu Smith- Schuster, you have to find a way to redistribute his targets and impact on the offense. JuJu has become the 3rd down security blanket for Big Ben. It has seemed to be that way for the past two seasons. Big Ben has discussed in the past in a sense about using TE Pat Freiermuth more in the offense. My prediction is that the Steelers will rely more on the two tight ends in the passing game to supplement for the loss of Smith-Schuster. Eric Ebron has had his struggles, but he has proven he can be a dynamic pass catcher in the NFL. Look for a breakout James Washington game in the near future as well, we’re all waiting for that to happen!