The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second game of the season without a win—or a loss. A bit of an odd feeling, for sure, but here we are. Today, they hold the Kansas City Chiefs, who put up 38 points against the Los Angeles Chargers in their opening game.
The Steelers have had a lot of success against the Chiefs in recent years, including three wins over just the past two seasons. They have been able to have a lot of success running the football, and Pittsburgh is already coming off a good ground game performance in the opener.
So we’ll start there in terms of what to watch for. James Conner rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, adding another 57 yards through the air, in his first career start. Chances are he’s not going to brush up against 200 all-purpose yards two games in a row, but how will he look in his second start—and his first at Heinz Field in a Steelers jersey? This will be a big day for him.
Secondary to that is monitoring his usage relative to the team’s two other running backs, Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels. Between them, the latter two saw exactly zero snaps on offense in the opener, and new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner took the blame for that, suggesting it will be different today. So we’ll see if that is indeed the case.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown got off to a slow start in the first half last week before picking up the pace in the second half. Their rapport seemed to be off initially. How will it look out of the gates a week later?
Speaking of Roethlisberger, he didn’t practice most of the week coming off an elbow injury. JuJu Smith-Schuster said that he didn’t have the same zip on his passes during Friday’s practice. Something to monitor for sure.
Vance McDonald will be making his debut for the season. Will he play starter snaps, or will he be gradually sprinkled in as Jesse James’ complementary piece? The Steelers didn’t lighten T.J. Watt’s workload after missing extended time.
As for Watt, he’s coming off a big game highlighted by three sacks and double-digit tackles, but none of his three sacks actually come from outright beating a tackle. One was a hustle coverage sack, another resulted from him forcing a scrambling quarterback out of bounds, and the third was against a tight end. Will he get one against a lineman today?
How will Cameron Sutton do in his second start of his career? He had ups and downs replacing Joe Haden late in last week’s game, but will have had a full week of practice this time around, and he has his teammates’ trust.
Will Terrell Edmunds continue to be the primary strong safety over Morgan Burnett? Edmunds did not register any tackles despite playing most of the game. How will Burnett—and the quarter package—be utilized throughout the game, and who will match up with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce?