The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 1-1 after two weeks in an AFC North division in which nobody has gone winless. While they squeaked by the Cleveland Browns in the season opener, they were trounced last Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens. The team still has many questions to answer on both sides of the ball, so here are a few things to watch out for tonight against the Carolina Panthers on the offensive side.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a big hit on the third play of the last game from Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, with the defender’s helmet making direct contact with his chest and decleating him. He claims to still be feeling that hit, which was “up there” with some of the other hits he’s taken over the years, he said last week.
Roethlisberger was not sharp during that game, completing 22 of 37 passes for only 217 yards, averaging less than six yards per attempt. He had a few errant throws on third down that ended drives. Will he look sharper after a week and a half to rest?
A trio of turnovers also destroyed the Steelers’ offensive efforts against the Ravens, which only managed two field goals. Two turnovers occurred in the red zone, while a Heath Miller fumble came after a catch deep in their own territory on the first play of the drive.
First-year receiver Justin Brown was the other player who fumbled, and he did so on the Steelers’ opening drive in the red zone. He has logged over 100 snaps in the first two games, mostly in the slot, with Lance Moore out.
But Moore is expected to make his Steelers debut tonight. And Brown has made slipped up here and there, with the fumble being the big one, of course. How will the Steelers divide the reps in the slot between Moore and Brown?
The former is but 5’9”, but is an accomplished mover of chains. Brown, on the other hand, offers size and blocking ability at 6’3”, but, even with a rapport with Roethlisberger, that doesn’t necessarily make him a trusted commodity.
Meanwhile, fullback Will Johnson has seen three snaps on offense in the first two games. Wassup wit dat?
Against their first two opponents, the Steelers ran nearly exclusively out of the 11 personnel. Matt Spaeth, the second tight end, hardly even played against the Ravens. Will there be more balance in Pittsburgh’s formations tonight?
Speaking of balance, the Steelers only ran the ball about 15 times or so against the Ravens, despite Le’Veon Bell averaging 5.5 yards per carry. While he contributed in the passing game as well, I suspect they may have saved his body some with the short week. Should we expect to see him get a heartier workload?
Marcus Gilbert has been giving out sacks like candy on Halloween through the first two games, but it’s still September. The Panthers front line is not going to be an easy assignment for him, but he was showing progress during the preseason. Roethlisberger, and the Steelers, need him to get back on track, starting tonight.