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 in the 2020 opener against the New York Giants.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Offensive Linemen Reach The Second Level
As I wrote in my scouting report, the Giants’ interior defensive front reminds me a bit of the problems Cleveland gave Pittsburgh last year. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson are a handful. They’re going to run Bear fronts, cover up the guards/center and try to clog the interior. If the Steelers struggle at the first level, Pittsburgh’s unlikely to have much of a run game. But if they can combo effectively, and stay out of 2nd/3rd and longs, the offense should hum.
2. Special Teams? A Non-Story
The best thing you can ask for in Week 1 is for a non-eventful special teams unit. No mistakes, no glaring errors, no surprise moments where the Steelers come out on the wrong end of things. Joe Judge is a long-time special teams coach so don’t be surprised if he has something hidden up his sleeve for Week One as home underdogs. Cleveland (unsuccessfully) ran a fake punt yesterday against Baltimore. Just have a solid, unspectacular outing. Kick the ball out of the end zone, force fair catches. Best way to mitigate the risk of a long return is to simply not allow one in the first place.
3. Pass Rushers Get After The Football
TJ Watt and Bud Dupree have a chance to get off to a hot start. The Giants’ tackles are a potential weak spot. LT Andrew Thomas was the 4th overall pick in the draft but his first snap tonight will be the first of his football career. RT Cameron Fleming is a vet but far from a great tackle and Watt has the clear advantage. Not only can these guys get after QB Daniel Jones, they should be able to force the football out. Daniel Jones fumbled a league-high 18 times. TJ Watt led the league with seven forced fumbles in 2019. You do the math.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Saquon Barkley – And The Giants Run Game – Control The Clock
As obvious a point as I can offer. Control Barkley, control the game. You know the Giants want to run the ball early and often (though don’t be shocked by playaction on the first snap of the game), embodying Joe Judge’s old-school mentality. Barkley is the best player on the roster. Run fits need to be sound, guys have to run to the football, gang tackle, and finish. Don’t worry about going for the ball. Just get #26 on the ground.
2. Miscommunication In Roethlisberger’s Return
The chief concern of Roethlisberger coming back is finding a rhythm with his new, young targets. Guys like Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron, Chase Claypool, even James Washington to a slightly lesser extent. Not being on the same page can be costly. A sight adjustment miscommunication where the receiver runs deep and Roethlisberger is throwing the comeback. A receiver settling when the QB thinks he’s running. The only way to work on those things is to rep them in-game and unfortunately, that’s likely to mean some growing pains along the way. Just have to hope the price to pay are incompletions, not interceptions.
3. Sloppiness Rules The Day
Extension of the last point. Can’t be Steelers beating Steelers. Penalties (especially on special teams), poor tackling, guys dropping passes, etc. That can apply to either side, really any team entering Week One, but the more fundamental team is going to win this one. Pittsburgh has the more talented roster across the board. Can’t do anything to let the Giants hang around in this game.
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