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 tonight against the New England Patriots. My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They hide their post-snap coverages.
No secret the way to beat Tom Brady is to make him process. This isn’t about confusing him. At this point in his career, he’s seen it all. But every quarterback has to read a defense. Show him a different look than what you gave him pre-snap by rotating safeties, not tipping blitzes, and showing good self-scouting/tendency breakers will make him hold onto the football. That’s how you get pressure on someone who gets the ball out as quick as anyone in the game.
2. Kameron Kelly plays like the team hopes.
We’re talking a lot about Devin Bush and his NFL debut. Same should apply with Kelly. No, not a rookie, but this is his NFL debut and he’s going to be playing in a lot more space where mistakes are magnified ten fold. He’s earned the starting nod in replacing Sean Davis but he’s still largely an unknown. Can he cover the deep half, separate player from ball over the seam, and have sound run fits? So far, so good, but the regular season is a whole different ball game.
3. Offensive line has their head on a swivel (especially on 3rd down).
Of course, the Steelers’ o-line is a strength of this team. But nothing is guaranteed. The Patriots love creating chaos on third down, running amoeba fronts with just one defensive linemen in order to maximize speed and the ability to create different pre-snap looks. These blitzes almost always come with some sort of stunt or twist, banking on just one linemen screwing things up. Steelers rep stunt pickup as hard as anybody but on the road, in Week One, they gotta be detailed.
The Steelers Lose If…
1. They don’t intercept Tom Brady.
Simple as that. Really. Brady’s never thrown an INT in Foxborough and the Steelers have never beaten him on the road. Most NFL defenses won’t succeed without creating splash plays. Offenses are too technical, too talented, and the rulebook too heavily in their favor. March to 25 takeaways begins today. Impossible to expect them to notch three or four, though if they do, drinks on me, but one impact play could be the difference. It sure was last year.
2. Chris Boswell has repeat of 2018.
Boswell had a really strong preseason. By my count, he missed just two kicks in camp and the preseason. While there was pressure on all those kicks, his job and roster bonus were on the line, the regular season is a whole different world. Fingers crossed and again, all looks good now, but we said the same last year. If the Steelers win, it’ll be close, and could come to a key field goal or extra point as being a deciding factor.
3. James Washington can’t win vertical.
Washington had a terrible rookie season but perked up at the end of the year, including a 32 yard completion deep down the right sideline. He’s going to need to do that again, and then some, I’m sure, this time around. Randy Fichtner should do a nice job getting JuJu Smith-Schuster open but you can’t count on just him. Everyone else has to get involved and there’s no larger X Factor to this offense than Washington.
Season Prediction Record
(7-8-1 last year which, I know…yikes).