The Pittsburgh Steelers will be watching tomorrow’s NFL Sunday slate at home like the rest of us. They are on their bye week and getting some much needed rest. Like head coach Mike Tomlin said, “there’s never a bye week I didn’t like.”
The team is 3-3 as of right now, winning their last two to get back to .500. Things are looking much better compared to a few weeks ago when they sat at 1-3 and Steeler Nation was on the fritz about where this season could be going. They are by no means perfect, but have looked much better these last two games. To keep improving, their may be some changes that come after the bye week to keep the trajectory on the right track. Here are the three I think could realistically happen:
1. Zach Banner starts at right tackle
I think this is something the team has been gearing up for. Banner was their listed starter last season before a season-ending injury, and was slated to be this season as well before landing on IR as he has been battling back to form from his injury. I believe he may get the start at right tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor will slide back to his original spot at left tackle in place of rookie Dan Moore Jr. This is not because Moore has been playing bad, he has exceeded expectations and has filled in admirably after being thrown into the fire with Banner landing on IR. This is the starting lineup that was supposed to be going into the season, and I believe the coaching staff wants to see if it can help improve the already improving running game, as well as the pass protection.
2. Carlos Davis returns
The defensive line has been hurt by injuries as well. Stephon Tuitt is still on IR and Tyson Alualu suffered a season-ending ankle injury Week 2. On top of that, Davis has been battling a knee injury all year that has left him on the sidelines every game. The run defense has been struggling up front, and Davis could be a nice piece in shoring that up. Teammate Chris Wormley praised Davis’s improvement early on in the year, saying his get off from the line is looking very impressive. That type of play may be just what the team needs to start stuffing the run more effectively. As of right now, Pittsburgh ranks 11th in rush yards allowed, which is not horrible, but for a team that holds themselves in high regard as a top defense in the league, this ranking could be even higher. Davis could be an integral piece in taking that step in becoming an elite run stopping defense.
3. More James Washington
This will be integral for the offense. Washington saw just 8 snaps last Sunday night, and although we won, the second half offense looked a lot less inspired than that in the first half. Washington could play a huge part in making sure that doesn’t happen. He is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and has shown he can make big time catches in big moments. The team denies it, but injury may have hampered him last game as he was battling back from a groin injury that held him out for one game. He was a limited practice participant heading into Sunday night, so perhaps he was just trying to get back to game speed. However, after the bye week and two weeks to get back to full health, Washington should be a key cog in the machine for this offense, especially after the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ben Roethlisberger has publicly endorsed Washington before, and I hope and expect the team to get him more involved in an attempt to keep improving on the offensive side of the ball.
There could be more to come, but these three things I believe could all be in effect by next Sunday’s divisional matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh will look to keep their first winning streak of the season going, and look to start inching back up in the division as well.
What other changes do you see coming, Steeler Nation? Drop a comment below!