As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in their Week 5 contest against the Denver Broncos.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. The RT (Whoever It Is) Holds Up Against Von Miller
I still don’t know who is going to start at right tackle. We know it won’t be Zach Banner, still on IR, so it’ll be either Joe Haeg or Chukwuma Okorafor. Either way, it’ll be a tough matchup against a future Hall of Famer like Von Miller, who can still bend and corner with the best of them. Either guy will need help and Okorafor is the better pass protector but Haeg is the better run blocker and this team needs to run the football. We’ll see who the guy is.
2. Pittsburgh’s Run Defense Gets Back On Track
Mentioned this yesterday. Run defense needs to be better than it has against the Bengals and Packers. Some of that involves not playing from behind late but the run defense has been an issue during all portions of these games. Denver wants and really needs to pound the rock with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. Williams is an exciting rookie. Have to gang tackle him or he’ll rip off too many yards after contact.
3. The Offense Can Run In The Fourth Quarter
A luxury they haven’t had this season. Get this. Excluding kneeldowns and QB scrambles, the Steelers have run the ball a grand total of eight times in the fourth quarter over the first four weeks. Part of that is circumstantial. Pittsburgh hasn’t held a fourth quarter lead in their last three games and when you’re down multiple scores like they have been, throwing becomes about the only option. So running the ball in the fourth quarter against Denver means either Pittsburgh is playing with a lead or they’re down by only one-score.
Still, this team can’t have the gameplan of throwing the ball every snap. Of teams who have played four games (excluding the LA Rams who’ve played five), the Steelers are tied for the second most passing attempts. That’s not a recipe to success.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Justin Simmons Wins The Third Down Chess Match
Simmons has burned the Steelers many times, many ways over the years. Plays defensively and on special teams (don’t let him leap over the line again, though good news, he’s played just five ST snaps so far this year). They like to rotate and have him lurk over the middle of the field on third down. Have to account where #31 is at. If you don’t, he’ll let you know by the end of the play.
2. Noah Fant Hurts Them Again
Fant may be their top weapon offensively especially if Courtland Sutton, battling an ankle injury, doesn’t play or is forced to play limited snaps. Fant had a couple downfield catches on seven routes, one for a TD, in last year’s game against the Steelers. He’s not having a gaudy year statistically but he can be a matchup nightmare over the middle of the field. Joe Schobert needs to be as strong in coverage this week as he was last.
3. Pittsburgh Can’t Win Field Position Battle
Underrated issue this season. Partly blamed on Pressley Harvin’s struggles and partly on the Steelers’ turnovers (followed by the defense’s poor response). Steelers need all the help they can get and losing the field position puts their defense in an even more difficult spot. Those little and often overlooked facets of the game matter the world to the team right now.