Despite the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to play a full ‘complete’ game—they have perhaps played one complete half, in the first half of last week’s game against the Ravens—the team finds itself in excellent position heading into the second quarter of the season with a 3-1 record that includes a 2-1 road record.
Today marks their second contest to be played upon the grass of Heinz Field, this time hosting the Jaguars, bringing along a 2-2 record and the most statistically lopsided defense in the league, giving up the fewest passing yards, but the most rushing yards.
The Steelers set up shop last week looking to establish the run, and they were ultimately able to do so, with Le’Veon Bell himself nearly putting up 150 yards when all was said and done. It certainly would not be surprising to see them pay heavy attention to getting the running game going a second week in a row.
Still, I’m also inclined to think that Ben Roethlisberger is due to have a big game. Following 10 consecutive regular season games in which he was held to under 300 passing yards—also with just two games with three touchdown passes in that span—it would seem to be a prime time for him to no longer take a back seat.
The passing offense has not been far off from hitting on several big throws in the early goings, and one would have to think that they will start falling soon. That could still happen today regardless of whether or not Martavis Bryant suits up.
While the Jaguars may have given up the fewest yards through the air, they have also seen the seventh-fewest pass attempts per game, and four and five on the list have seen just one fewer pass. They have given up eight explosive passing plays, with two going for 40 or more yards.
The defense in this game will be at full strength for the first time all year, with both starting outside linebackers, the full starting defensive line, and the full secondary intact. Excuses for failure to execute will begin to wear thin as long as they remain at full capacity.
With Mike Mitchell returning from injury, one would imagine that the Steelers are going to continue to monitor his snaps, so expect to see J.J. Wilcox continue to sub in for him at times. The newcomer started in his place last week.
With the Jaguars absent their starting center, perhaps we will see a big impact from second-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave. He already has two sacks through the first two games, though he was a bit more quiet last week.
Of course, that is likely to be secondary to his responsibilities in run defense, as the Jaguars have run the ball more than anybody else in the league. While they have not been the most efficient, they run a game of attrition with a high percentage of successful runs. The line will have to limit them today and get Blake Bortles into third-and-longs.