So, things could have gone better for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the past week. Aside from the fact that they, you know, failed to beat a winless team at home, they have a major availability issue heading into tonight’s game, particularly on defense.
In fact, they will be without two of their three most important players on that side of the ball, with edge rusher T.J. Watt dealing with knee and hip injuries and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the COVID-19 protocols. And they don’t have depth at those positions in which you would be overly confident.
The next man up at outside linebacker is Taco Charlton, who has bounced around the league for a reason. The next man up at free safety—possibly—is Tre Norwood, a seventh-round rookie out of Oklahoma. Oh, and cornerback Joe Haden is missing, too.
And so the secondary is now Cameron Sutton and James Pierre at cornerback, Arthur Maulet in the slot, and Terrell Edmunds and Tre Norwood (primarily, at least) at safety. Suffice it to say that that’s not what they signed up for heading into this season.
In other words, depth is going to be a critical element of this game—and that’s without even talking about the offensive side of the ball, which is equally problematic in its own ways. Do the Steelers have enough insulation to win a game on the road against a quality opponent?
It depends on who they can get to step up—and how well they can avoid unforced errors. Going 0-3 in the turnover differential department is a feat that they cannot repeat under any circumstances this week. Clean football is imperative when you’re shorthanded.
Hopefully, getting Chase Claypool back at wide receiver will provide a major boost to the offense. And one would expect tight end Pat Freiermuth to have more of an impact this week as well, hopefully with some more accurate downfield targets.
This would also be a good time for the special teams units to make a play. Ray-Ray McCloud hasn’t had many returns with much length to them, his longest being 40 yards. It’s time for him to make a play here—and hopefully to have less of a role on offense.
Meanwhile, the defense will have to figure out how to slow down Justin Herbert’s receiving threats like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. I think it goes without saying that matching them up one-on-one with Arthur Maulet and Cameron Sutton or James Pierre is the answer. They’re going to have to get creative.
And that’s going to be on trying to confuse the young quarterback, or at least making him think after the snap in the hopes of being able to get to him quick enough to pressure as many pass attempts as possible. This would be a good time to get their blitz game right—which it hasn’t been. Devin Bush, time to step up here.