The Pittsburgh Steelers have begun the 2014 season trading wins and losses, resting at 2-2 after facing one of their most perplexing defeats in recent years, dropped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 on a late touchdown.
The team still has some bugs to work out, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, which is still coping with the loss of three starters, though the offense, which has put up at least 24 points in three out of four games, is by no means a finished product either.
After a loss, the prevailing trend, and upcoming opponent, would suggest that the Steelers should be victorious this afternoon. To that end, below are some things to look for on offense against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his best game of the season last week, tossing three touchdown passes and over 300 yards while completing a high percentage of his passes, despite the fact that he was sacked five times, losing one fumble that led to a quick score for Tampa Bay.
The veteran struggled early on last year, but then got hot, and had one of the best seasons of his career. Roethlisberger has thrown five touchdowns versus zero interceptions in the last two games for over 500 yards. Is he entering a hot streak now?
And will the offense continue to scheme him out of pressure with increased usage of play action and designed rollouts, which seemed to be in greater abundance last week?
The Steelers milked the package play frequently a week ago, taking what the defense would give him, which helped funnel a lot of passes in Heath Miller’s direction.
But they went to the well one too many times and the defense took that play away on third down on Pittsburgh’s final possession. They felt the consequences of getting greedy, and will hopefully refrain from making that mistake again.
Back two weeks now, free agent signing Lance Moore has seen little more than a dozen snaps thus far this season, though all but one of them came last week. He caught his first pass of the season for 12 yards on a third and 13. Will he continue to ascend on an upward trajectory of playing time that sees a more balanced distribution with Justin Brown?
Second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton is quietly having a productive year as a first-time starter, averaging just under five receptions and 60 yards per game. He’s not far off from setting a pace that would put him at 80 receptions and 1000 receiving yards by the end of the year.
He’s also had a brief scare or two in the end zone, having had one touchdown taken away when the back judge ruled that he stepped out of bounds before bringing in a ball two weeks ago in Charlotte. This might be the weak that Wheaton finally erases the goose egg in the touchdown column.
The Steelers had their worst rushing performance of the year a week after putting up one of their best in recent history against a strong defense on the road in prime time. Which one will be more likely to get an encore against this Jacksonville defense, and how much will the return of Ramon Foster help boost the running game?
And when will Dri Archer finally get a chance to break out?