Even with a game under our belts, it’s still a bit surreal to be writing about a football game considering everything that has happened throughout the year—not in the NFL, but in the world, and around the country. The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are set for their home opener in front of an empty stadium only serves to aid that odd feeling.
But at the end of the day, football is football, and that’s what we’ll see tonight. We should see some good football from Pittsburgh, though the biggest question for them going in is the offensive line, which will already feature two new starters from the week before.
David DeCastro remains out, missing his second game due to a knee injury suffered in training camp, and Stefen Wisniewski, the man who started in his place, is sidelined with a pec injury. That means rookie Kevin Dotson is starting instead, and that should be interesting.
On top of that, he’ll be working next to Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle. While it will be his third start of his career, he is coming in after Zach Banner, who defeated him in a competition for the job, suffered a season-ending injury.
Can the right side of this line hold up and protect Ben Roethlisberger, who is still getting his legs back under himself, just one game into his post-surgery career? While he generally played well last week, he also showed signs of rust, and juggling the offensive line week to week won’t help.
As far as the offense goes, the biggest thing I’m looking to see at the skill position is if Diontae Johnson can settle down. He looked a bit like a rookie last week, even dropping a ball, but he can be deadly if he builds up a chemistry with Roethlisberger, who targeted him a game-high 10 times.
We’re also looking to see Eric Ebron integrated into the offense. He was only targeted twice, and did come up with one key third-down conversion. At running back, with James Conner returning, how they divide the workload with Benny Snell coming off an impressive 100-yard game will be something to monitor.
Defensively, can T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree keep up the pressure, and finish a couple of them this time? according to Pro Football Focus, they combined for 15 quarterback pressures against the Giants, but neither actually registered a sack.
The gameplan going in once again is stopping the run, and this week they’ll have to contend with Melvin Gordon, who looked good in his first game with the Broncos. Drew Lock is still struggling with his deep-ball accuracy, but he is attempting more of them, so the secondary has to keep a lid on things as well after letting one slip last week.
And special teams. We go back to Johnson again. He didn’t look confident back there as the punt returner. Ray-Ray McCloud did look confident the one time he got to return a kick, nearly breaking one. What can he do with more chances?