The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have won a game in their first two attempts this season, but they are not in as terrible a position as many make it out to be. They can climb back up to a .500 record with a victory tonight over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which would put them just a half game back in the AFC North behind the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals—and would give them a better record than the 1-2 New England Patriots.
So what should we have our eyes on during tonight’s game as we watch the Steelers attempt to climb back into this season with a victory?
Well, it should go without saying that all eyes are going to be on the defense. The Buccaneers move their wide receivers around, so both cornerbacks will get a taste of both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, each of them providing a different sort of challenge.
Will either cornerback be up for it? Joe Haden told reporters at the end of the week that he feels good after coming back from a hamstring injury that kept him out last week, but is he?
And who is even going to be playing on the other side? The Steelers were open—at least the players were—about considering benching Artie Burns, and if the third-year cornerback doesn’t start, then it will be Coty Sensabaugh, who rotated with Cameron Sutton last week in replacing Haden.
Even more important than individual performances is the togetherness of the defensive unit as a whole. We saw receivers being left wide open a week ago, a clear giveaway of communication breakdowns that resulted in some defenders playing a different coverage than others.
Much of the issues in coverage can be masked by a good pass rush, however, which they did not have last week. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree combined for four sacks in the opener. Daniel McCullers was the only defender to have a sack a week ago. Methinks that has to change.
Much will be asked again of rookie Terrell Edmunds with Morgan Burnett likely out. He looked to be in over his head at times last week.
Offensively, the right side of the offensive line is going to be a question mark. David DeCastro is doubtful and Marcus Gilbert called himself a gametime decision, so we could have B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler starting. The Buccaneers having been racking up the pressure this year, but they’ve been a tough team to run on.
Speaking of which, can they get the run game going this week after it was pretty well contained last week? James Conner didn’t have much chance on most of his carries a week ago. And for that matter, will anybody else be involved?
Can Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown establish an early rhythm? They have struggled to do so in the first two weeks, and that can help set a tone for the remainder of the game.