The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom look to be in a starting role (or complementary role in Freiermuth’s case) for the season opener.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. They have a 53-man roster, though it will always change to some degree. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: How well will the Steelers be able to generate pressure given their absences (and potential absences) along the front line this Sunday?
The Steelers will be without at least Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Alex Highsmith, and Carlos Davis on Sunday. They may be without T.J. Watt as well. He has practiced on a limited basis all week and is listed as questionable to play.
Basically, they’re going to be asking Cameron Heyward and Melvin Ingram, and if they’re lucky, Watt at about 80 percent or so, to create their pressure, or else they’re going to have to try to blitz with a bunch of people who are not experienced at blitzing or who are coming off of major injury and are not established blitzers yet (e.g. Devin Bush).
Will it be enough? The Cincinnati Bengals are going to be spreading the field, so it will be a challenge to even blitz, and they may spend a lot of time in the dime defense against this week like they did in the opener against the Buffalo Bills.
There will be a lot of pressure on Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, Jamir Jones, and Henry Mondeaux to try to pick up the slack in the hopes of preventing the defense from being forced to commit extra rushers just to get some pressure on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. And that might be too much to ask. But we’ll find out tomorrow.