The Pittsburgh Steelers look to draw even with a win today to match their opening game loss as they play host to the San Francisco 49ers, who looked impressive in their home-opening victory on Monday night in spite of a number of shakeups at both the coaching and locker room levels. There will be a number of things to watch for on both sides of the ball as the Steelers quest for their first W of the season.
On offense, I will be looking for the Steelers to pick up where they left off running the ball with DeAngelo Williams, who compiled 127 yards on 21 carries, though he was mysteriously removed from the field on three goal line carries in favor of fullback Will Johnson.
Personally, I will be looking out for Jordan Todman, who did not play a snap on offense in the opener after he was acquired after the initial 53-man rosters were set. He would seem to be a better option for a goal line back than somebody who doesn’t exactly have that on the resume.
I will also be looking out for Dri Archer, who played just three snaps on offense, all of them coming on the final drive, and none of them resulting in a target. He could potentially be a dark horse candidate to be released after the game to make room for Le’Veon Bell’s return from suspension.
Along the offensive line, watch for two in particular, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, whom the Steelers hoped to sign to a long-term extension prior to the season, and current starting center Cody Wallace.
In the opener, Beachum was flagged for penalties on three different infractions, none of them holding. He also struggled with the Patriots’ defensive ends against the run, and gave up a sack late after showing frustration after he was penalized. He needs a bounce-back performance.
Wallace is not a starter, so realistically one should not expect him to perform to the same level as the one he’s replacing—the mantra of “the standard is the standard” notwithstanding. But he had a bit of a rough outing for himself. One area in particular to be mindful of is A gap blitzes, which gave him a hard time in the opener, leading to a sack.
Defensively, the Steelers’ primary task should probably be keeping containment on Colin Kaepernick and staying disciplined, but playing aggressively, against the 49ers’ outside zone running game with Carlos Hyde in the backfield.
The outside linebackers will be key to this, and they have a rotation going on there. Look, potentially, for nose tackle Steve McLendon to log some snaps at defensive end as well, as the Steelers figure to see a lot of base defense in this game, the starting ends will need a breather, and the veteran is adept at working laterally and staying clean.
In the secondary, pretty much everybody not named Gay will be under the microscope. Antwon Blake figures to start again as the last man standing. Cortez Allen is questionable to play with a knee injury following a questionable on-field performance. Brandon Boykin is listed as probable, but his groin injury may be enough for Ross Cockrell to log snaps in the nickel ahead of him.