By Matt Papiernik, @Matt_Papiernik on Twitter
As the Pittsburgh Steelers head out into their third game of the regular season, there are several things to watch out for as their team has taken a bit of a turn. With the team falling to 0-2, Ben Roethlisberger being declared done for the season, and the team at a loss for an identity on both sides of the ball, the Steelers have a lot to prove still.
New Faces, Same Expectations
Going into week 3, the Steelers have several positions that will have new players playing a key role, most notably Mason Rudolph. There is no doubt Rudolph will be someone garnering a lot of attention from the fans, but the other players may be just as important. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, and Ola Adeniyi all will have large roles for the Steelers in week 3, with both Fitzpatrick and Johnson making their first starts for the team. Fitzpatrick, recently acquired via trade, will likely be the starting free safety for their defense, and hopefully will result in some additional big plays. Johnson, who steps in for Donte Moncrief, will be starting in two wide receiver sets in just his third NFL game, hopefully providing a more reliable target for Rudolph. Lastly, with Anthony Chickillo being out, Adeniyi will finally get his chance to make an impact that fans have been begging for as he rotates in as the teams third outside linebacker.
Boom or Bust
In the first three halves of football the Steelers played this season, they lacked the playmaking they desperately need to have success on both sides of the ball. Whether it was the offense dinking and dunking their way down the field, or the defense not making plays on the ball, it was hard to watch. In the second half of last week’s game, the Steelers had a couple big passes on offense, and they had some big plays in key situations on defense including a fumble recovery which was almost returned for a touchdown. They need to keep these type of “boom” plays up, or they may end up busting again in the win column.
Coaching and Adjustments
Through the first two games, both the Steelers offensive and defensive schemes have lacked creativity and the ability to adjust to what the opposing team was having success with. Keith Butler may be on the hot seat if he doesn’t turn the defense around, especially since they just traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick to help their secondary. Butler has always seemed to be a step behind the opposing offense, and ends up being predictable. If we don’t see him making improvements soon, he may be out of a job before seasons end. He isn’t the only one feeling some pressure, as Randy Fichtner is hearing some people pointing to him for the Steelers offense being stuck in the mud through two weeks. However, even if the offense continues to struggle, I don’t see him catching too much of the blame as he will be able to use Mason Rudolph as his scapegoat. There are also some people calling for Mike Tomlin’s head, but he isn’t going anywhere, at least not this season.
Comment below and let me know what you will be looking for as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the San Francisco 49ers!
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