The Pittsburgh Steelers have one more game to play before they get to their bye week and get a chance to get some rest, and potentially get some players back. But they still have to get through the Seattle Seahawks, even if they are without Russell Wilson for this one, and they had better not take that absence for granted.
In fact, that is my number one emphasis for the game. No Russell Wilson does not mean that the Seahawks won’t be able to push the ball down the field. They can choose to underestimate Geno Smith at their own risk, but the reality is that he has weapons at his disposal like D.K. Metcalf who are able to make him look good.
And the Steelers’ secondary, well, they don’t have the guys to cover them one on one, especially Metcalf, who is a physical freak. That is why they must find success countering with their own physical freak, Chase Claypool, who should match up well against Seattle’s unremarkable secondary.
The question is, where will he play; or rather, who will play in the slot? This is the first time the Steelers have had all of Diontae Johnson, Claypool, and James Washington healthy with JuJu Smith-Schuster not. The latter is done for the rest of the year, so what does that mean for the rest of the trio; where will they line up? Who goes into the slot, if any of them?
One of the things I’m most interested in is how the loss of Smith-Schuster influences the tight end usage. Will we see more two-tight end sets? Will they be more involved in the passing game than they have been, particularly on possession downs, and as Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry continue to grow on a weekly basis?
But the biggest story is the offensive line. What can they offer as an encore performance after having their best game of the season last week? Can they play at least as well against the Seahawks as they did against the Denver Broncos, and can their skill players equally capitalize on the opportunities afforded?
On the other side of the ball, I need to see how Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton handle Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. I also need to see what the Steelers’ plans are for covering them. They seem to throw out a new wrinkle every week, though it’s not necessarily always an effective one.
This should also be a good matchup for the edge rush, maybe especially for Alex Highsmith, who has a shaky-this-season Duane Brown opposite him. It would be nice to see him get his first sack of the year today.
More generally, I want to see how they expand the three-outside linebacker package, which head coach Mike Tomlin certainly seemed to suggest last week was no one-game wonder. He said that it had been their intention to use it, but they have only now had the availability, in-game and in practice, to do so.