As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) tonight’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa. My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They establish an interior run game.
As noted in our scouting report, I think the key is being able to win between the tackles, especially with the Bucs missing a starter in Beau Allen. Getting the ball on the outside is going to be difficult, especially given the injuries along the o-line, against Tampa Bay’s athletic front seven. That’s what got them into trouble against the Jaguars last year. The Bucs aren’t as talented but are similarly built.
2. Keith Butler gets back to man coverage.
Man coverage will help simplify things. Steelers played much more zone last week than against the Cleveland Browns, largely due to Joe Haden’s absence. His return should allow Butler to get back to that which, in theory, should help things. Will it be enough against this attack? Hard to say. But it’s going to give the Steelers their best chance.
3. Big Ben gets the vertical game going.
Roethlisberger has only completed 3/13 passes that traveled 20+ yards this season. Antonio Brown racked up the targets last weekend but several were terrible throws by Roethlisberger than even the best in the league didn’t have a chance of hauling in.
Tampa Bay’s secondary isn’t a strength, even with getting cornerback Brent Grimes back. Ben’s gotta be better and this offense has to start getting some chunk plays through AB, who has just one such play through two games.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. They don’t have an answer in the slot.
Bouncing off what I wrote this weekend with Mike Hilton being my X Factor. Tampa will throw a ton of bodies in the slot and there’s plenty of talent there. Tampa will get those guys vertical more than most teams so it’s less about a YAC threat as it is preventing the catch in the first place.
They can get chunk yards all over the yard but that’s one place they do it better than almost anyone else.
2. Coty Sensabaugh gets exposed.
Sticking with the secondary. Let’s assume Sensabaugh will start. We don’t know that yet but that seems to be where things are headed. It’s easy to understand the rationale behind it given Artie Burns’ struggles. But Sensabaugh will be facing some of the league’s most athletic receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Desean Jackson. With Haden returning, you know Sensabaugh is the man they’re going after. Expect him to get peppered with targets and all it takes is one or two bad plays to make it look like an awful performance.
3. B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler don’t communicate well.
The good news is that Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t super exotic in their stunts and blitzes. A more traditional 4-3 attack. But still, clean communication is vital and you have two players without a ton of experience at their position (Finney at right guard, Feiler at right tackle). Not good enough communication was an issue in the run game last week between Maurkice Pouncey and Finney, like this failed run early in the game.
Poor communication is a good way to ruin the run game and get your quarterback destroyed. They gotta play clean throughout.