The Pittsburgh Steelers are hours away from beginning their quest to bounce back from an ugly Week One loss, 33-3, against the New England Patriots, this afternoon playing host to the visiting Seattle Seahawks. They had lapses in all phases of the game, so here are some of the things that we will be watching for in today’s game.
First and foremost, we simply need to see better ball security. While the skill position players dropped five passes, there were several others that were contested and either should have been caught or should have seen the target put himself in a better position to prevent the ball from being defensed.
Specifically, we need to see a bounce-back showing from Donte Moncrief, who was responsible for three of those drops. Five of the seven incomplete passes in his direction were on-target, and he got his hands on four of them (the fifth was defensed in front of him before he touched it).
Beyond that, questions persist about the role of second-year wide receiver James Washington. He saw fewer than 50 percent of the team’s snaps in the opener, even after coming down with a big 45-yard catch. Yet he only caught two of the six targets in his direction, so there is still a chemistry question.
Randy Fichtner said last week that the Steelers tried and failed to establish the run. Will they be able to do so this week? Such a plan calls for more north-and-south running, as not only were they not able to get out to the perimeter last week, the Seahawks have the edge defenders and linebackers to make that a fool’s errand, more likely than not.
Fichtner also said that they had designs for a bigger pony package than was revealed last Sunday, used on just two snaps. So will we see James Conner and Jaylen Samuels on the field more often? On the first play, both were in the backfield, and Conner served as a lead blocker for Samuels…for a two-yard gain.
The offense only used four different personnel groupings last week, with no multiple-tight end looks. I can’t imagine that not changing this week. I also suspect that we will see Zach Banner being called upon as a tackle-eligible, especially if they get into a goal-line situation on early downs.
Defensively, I would expect to see greater clarity at the inside linebacker position. Devin Bush started and played pretty extensively, and I would expect to see that continue. Mark Barron even worked as the sole ‘backer in the dime defense.
With Sean Davis returning, that will make Kameron Kelly available for the sub-package looks that we saw in the third preseason game, which could offer the defense an alternative slot defender to Mike Hilton, who gave up yet another score down the seam last week.
As far as special teams goes, the next time we see Ryan Switzer make a play or make a tackler miss will seemingly be the first. This is the first year since the Civil War that the Steelers have had the same kick returner in consecutive years. One would think that with that comes some added consistency. It’s bound to show up at some point…right?