The Pittsburgh Steelers came alive on both offense and defense last week, with the offense putting up six touchdowns and the defense recording five sacks, a takeaway, and a couple of turnovers on downs. In doing so, they evened up their record at 1-1.
Today, they go for their second win in a row in St. Louis as they take on the Rams, this time replenished by the return of running back Le’Veon Bell, who will only stand to make the offense even more potent, even as DeAngelo Williams filled in more than admirably over the first two games.
With that in mind, you should expect to see Bell get plenty of work, naturally, and I suspect that Ben Roethlisberger in particular will be eager to throw a few passes in his direction, as he has been missing his deadly check down weapon.
Third receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has filled in well over the last two game in place of Martavis Bryant, so look for the Steelers to continue to look in his direction, especially for a deep ball or two, on which he has been able to connect for three thus far in two games.
Along the offensive line, the player to was is and remains center Cody Wallace as he continues to fill in that spot. He has had a number of rough snaps over the course of the first two weeks, and he is about to face perhaps the best player he will ever face. I think the running backs being crisp in their pass protection in this game may become critical.
There are two former third-round picks to keep a watch out for. Dri Archer has been for all intents and purposes non-existent on offense—as well as special teams, for that matter—thus far this season. He survived the cuts this past week, but if he continues to pitch a zero in touches he’ll start being inactive, or will simply be cut when the Steelers bring back one of three players remaining on suspended, PUP, or injured reserve lists.
The other third-rounder is of course rookie Sammie Coates, who is expected to get his first helmet on the year. But the Steelers have not really used any four-receiver sets this year. Would they be willing to give him a couple of snaps over Heyward-Bey for a series, or in select circumstances? Do they feel he’s ready?
And are Sean Spence and Vince Williams ready to fill the void made by the absence of Ryan Shazier in this game? Especially with a seemingly limited Lawrence Timmons next to them? Shazier has had a profound impact on the Steelers’ ability to play well, and dynamically, over the course of the first two weeks, and his absence will be felt.
In the secondary, I’m looking at snap counts and circumstantial playing time for Brandon Boykin and Ross Cockrell, especially if Cortez Allen doesn’t play again. Last week, Cockrell was the nickel back, but Boykin got two series as the right outside corner in place of Antwon Blake.
With Daniel McCullers out, expect some of the load along the defensive line to shift over the Cam Thomas, but also don’t be surprised if we see some more usage of Steve McLendon at end as a result, as well.