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2018 South Side Questions: Biggest Difference Since Opener?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: What is the most significant difference between this Steelers team and the one that started in the home opener?

The Steelers ended up tying the Cleveland Browns to start the 2018 regular season. They had a chance to win in overtime, which they blew, before escaping the chance to lose as well, so the two teams split the result down the middle.

A lot of things have changed between now and then for the Browns, including who their starting quarterback is, but what about the Steelers? What is different for them now six games, and seven weeks, into the season?

One change is the presence of Vance McDonald, who was still working his way back from a foot injury in the season opener. He has essentially become the Steelers’ number three target over the course of the past five games and has especially played big roles in the first half.

Another difference is the fact that there is no established starter at the right cornerback position. Artie Burns had been there in the opener, but has since been demoted and instead been reduced to working in a rotation with Coty Sensabaugh.

Meanwhile, rookie safety Terrell Edmunds has gained a whole lot more experience since his first start in that game. James Conner has gained a lot more confidence over the course of the past month and a half as well. James Washington, however, is still trying to establish himself.

Arguably the biggest change, at least hopefully, will be improved play from Ben Roethlisberger, who had likely his worst game of the season in the opener, including three interceptions, even if at least one was clearly not his fault. He has played better since then, especially in the past two games, including his accuracy.

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