The Pittsburgh Steelers are one big game into their 2021 regular season, with 16 more to go. Coming off of an upset victory over the favored Buffalo Bills in week one, they now play host to the Las Vegas Raiders, who snuck away with a win of their own, fortunately for Pittsburgh, over their AFC North rivals in the Baltimore Ravens.
The first thing I’ll be looking for in this game is how the offensive line may have progressed from the first week to the second. Needless to say, this is the first time that this exact offensive line combination had ever played in a game before, including the preseason, so it can only be expected that improvement will come over time.
For one thing, Chukwuma Okorafor spent the entire offseason playing at left tackle. While he is experienced playing on the right side, it is something that he has to reacquaint himself with after being dedicated to the transition to the left side. The hope is he can play a bit smoother and more reliably in his second week back in the saddle.
Of course, there is also the focus on the two rookie starters, Kendrick Green at center and Dan Moore Jr. at right tackle. Both of them suffered from their wins and losses, but Green ends up on the ground too often, even if he puts his share of d-linemen on their backs as well; as for Moore, he’s a work in progress, particularly in pass protection.
The focus of the offseason, however, has been on the running game. The Steelers did run the ball better in the second half last week. Can they build off of that against the Raiders, or will it continue to be tough sledding, even at home?
Defensively, my attention is occupied first and foremost by the edge pressure of T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Melvin Ingram, which is the unit’s bread and butter. I expect to see all three of them on the field today, and I want to know how that is formulated, how much it is used, and how effective it is.
After looking more or less like his ‘old self’ last week, does Devin Bush stay on the field for every snap? I didn’t analyze every play they were out there together, but it seemed to me Joe Schobert was wearing the dot on those occasions, even though Bush actually played more snaps.
In the secondary, Tre Norwood and James Pierre have been the fifth and sixth men. Does Norwood continue to enjoy a front-and-center role in the secondary as the primary slot defender? Will they try to line up Minkah Fitzpatrick against Darren Waller?
Rookie punter Pressley Harvin III had an uneven showing in his debut last week, with a couple of junior varsity efforts, including just a 30-yard boot from his own end zone. How does he bounce back from that—and how does he kick inside of Heinz Field? He has a big leg, after all, or so the rumors say.