Week 2: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

Jordan DeFigio, @fidgenewton
SteelerNation.com

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business last Monday night, albeit after a shaky start (the Diontae Johnson muffed fair catch and initial three-and-out had me holding my breath). They defeated the New York Giants 26-16 at the Meadowlands and now look for another W against the Denver Broncos in their home opener on Sunday, September 20th.

 

THE STEELERS AT HOME

It’s hardly a stretch to say the Steelers perform better on their home turf, with an all-time record of 114-44-1 at Heinz Field. That record, however, reflects games played with fans in the stands. The jury is still out on whether or not the team will dominate with empty seats. Regardless of the current social climate, Heinz Field is still Heinz Field. And it provides a level of energy for the team no matter who is or isn’t there. And there is no doubt about it; the Steelers have the advantage at home.

MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE

While young quarterbacks like Josh AllenSam Darnold, and Kyler Murray tend to be the focus of national conversation, guys like Drew Lock have casually slipped into the background of a youth-driven position in the league. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat. Against the Tennessee Titans in the second of two games on Monday night, Lock went 22/33 for 216 yards and one touchdown. Nothing spectacular, but for some perspective, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went 21/32 for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns against a feeble Giants defense. While I don’t think that at all means Lock is anywhere close to Roethlisberger’s level, he has shown signs of competency. And if the stars align, with guys like Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant at his disposal, he could do some damage. After all, it’s not like the Steelers’ secondary was lights out in week one. Though the defense as a whole played well and kept the Giants run game virtually irrelevant, the secondary allowed Daniel Jones to find moderate success. Everyone expected more from the likes of Minkah FitzpatrickJoe Haden, and Steven Nelson. It’s likely they needed some time to warm up. But this game will be a true test of their grit. This matchup between them and a potentially dangerous Broncos’ offense in week two would be the perfect time to get the engines going.

On the flip side, the Broncos’ defense was ranked 7th best in the league last season by The Athletic. They were 12th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed, and 1st in red-zone defense, an area which the Steelers greatly struggled in last season. Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin has yet to hint at any type of game-plan for the run since James Conner has been cleared for play after his ankle injury in week one. But if he was paying attention, which he was, he knows Benny Snell, Jr. is the clear choice for running back one and to establish their game on the ground. He showed speed, patience, and strength as he ran for over 100 yards in his 2020 season debut. That, along with a litany of talented receivers (JuJu Smith-SchusterJames Washington, Diontae Johnson, tight-end Eric Ebron, and even rookie Chase Claypool) have the potential to have their way with Denver’s defense. With the right strategy, they can wear them down and have a high scoring game.

JORDAN’S PREDICTIONS

The Broncos should prove to be a more difficult opponent for the Steelers than the Giants were, as their offense has more weapons and difference makers. Not to mention their defense is significantly better than that of New York’s. But because Drew Lock has yet to face a defense of this caliber and with this being the Steelers’ first home game of the season, I just don’t see the Steelers losing.

I think it will be a close game, hotly contested. But I think the Steelers come out on top with a score in the range of 31-28.

FINAL MUSINGS

The Steelers look to go 2-0. The Broncos look to keep from going 0-2. Sometimes, the type of desperation you see from teams who are striving to get their first win tops that of the team who is still riding high from their week one victory. And in the past, I’d say this is a less than ideal situation for the Steelers to be in. But this is a different team. They have a different type of hunger and a different level of drive. I think what we see from the group will be a new energy and new focus.

And playing at home can’t hurt.

 

What are your predictions for the game tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below.

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