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 6 contest tonight versus the Seattle Seahawks.
My prediction is at the bottom.
THE STEELERS WILL WIN IF…
1. Secondary Keeps A Lid On Things
Number one thing I’ve preached all week. Defense can’t allow a big play. Seattle’s starting QB is missing but DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett can still make you pay. I don’t care who is throwing the football. Seahawks need splash to compete and they know it. Guarantee Geno Smith will take his shots downfield, hoping for a long completion or pass interference. And if they can connect on a couple of those, this game will – at the least – be competitive. If not, then Pittsburgh should win this one.
2. Run Game Success Rate Remains High
Success rate has been refreshingly sky high the last two weeks, even if the volume and number of runs wasn’t enough in the Packers’ loss. Seattle’s run defense has been extremely shaky so far, bottom third in YPC against, yards per game, and probably run success rate (I don’t have an exact ranking but it’s a strong guess). They’ve allowed 113+ yards on the ground in all five weeks. Pittsburgh does that again at a healthy success rate and they’ll control this game start to finish.
3. Geno Smith Bails Into T.J. Watt’s Waiting Arms
Predicting big performances from a DPOY candidate like T.J. Watt isn’t much of a stretch. But I think he could have one of his best games of the season this week. Smith may be a veteran but showed the pocket presence of a rookie off the bench last week, consistently bailing on clean pockets and rolling to his right. Watt’s already facing an average-ish tackle in Brandon Shell and any QB who leaves the pocket puts his O-line in a no-win situation. I could see Watt finish this game with three sacks and 1-2 TFLs in the run game.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. They Can’t Tackle Metcalf
Probably the toughest guy the Steelers’ defense will need to defend tonight. Metcalf is a height/weight/speed freak who is running a more varied route tree this year, similar to what Mike Williams is doing out in LA. He can take a five-yard slant and turn it into a 20-yard gain (and literally did last week). Cornerbacks have to be able to tackle him in space. Especially Cam Sutton, who has improved his tackling but is giving up several inches and a good 30 pounds on him.
2. Seahawks’ Uncertainty Catches Pittsburgh Off Guard
What kind of offense will Seattle run without Russell Wilson? It’s hard to say. Smith is a veteran who knows their offense but Pete Carroll would be insane to keep their normal gameplan the exact same. What new wrinkle or element will they incorporate? Even over 30, Smith is still mobile. And that can be dangerous as a scrambler and designed runner. Seattle ran some read-options with Smith last week.
3. RBs Can’t Pass Protect
Specifically, focusing on Najee Harris but Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage have gotten a couple more opportunities lately. Ballage in particular has struggled with his check/releases. Safety Jamal Adams isn’t blitzing as much as he did last season but he’s still a serious threat coming from the boundary. What Harris does in recognition and execution picking up the blitz is almost as important as what he does with the ball in his hands.
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