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2022 Week 2 Steelers vs Patriots – What To Watch For

The Pittsburgh Steelers upset the Cincinnati Bengals this past week, and yet are still somehow regarded as slight underdogs to the New England Patriots, who were embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins in their opener. But one win isn’t going to convince many people that the Steelers are now the real deal.

That means they have to start stacking wins, and the Patriots are the next team on the schedule. Even if they might not be the same Patriots without Tom Brady, they remain a formidable, well-coached group who typically shows better on defense than they did last week.

Pittsburgh needs to make sure that its own offense doesn’t look like the elixir New England needs to right the ship, but that will be easier said than done, because this unit certainly isn’t a finished product, in any sense.

Not even on the health front, because, starting with the running game, we have to talk about Najee Harris’ foot. How healthy is it, exactly? How much does he feel when he cuts and makes other sorts of football moves? How is it going to affect his performance and how much he can play?

After a rather quiet debut, expect Matt Canada to try to get George Pickens more involved today. Mitch Trubisky also said that he was going to try to do the same. The rookie had just one catch last week for three yards. This offense is going to need a lot more than that from him if it’s going to scare anybody.

I’m looking forward to seeing the continued evolution of Chase Claypool as a slot receiver. There’s a lot of meat left on the bone there. He only caught four passes for 18 yards last week (and rushed for 36 on six carries, but he can be an explosive weapon over the middle that can stress defenses vertically. Look to see more of this today.

Gunner Olszewski is going up against his former team. While I don’t expect him to see a lot of time on offense, you know he’s going to want to try to make a play in the return game. He wasn’t happy that they didn’t offer him a contract this offseason and wants to show them that they underestimated him.

Defensively, you know where the conversation starts. How does this unit fill in for the absence of T.J. Watt? Malik Reed is going to start in his place and should see the lion’s share of the snaps, but Jamir Jones will be called upon as well. Dare they mix in David Anenih already as well? Perhaps in pure pass rush situations.

More importantly, how does Alex Highsmith respond to the challenge of being ‘the guy’, not just as the team’s premiere pass rusher, but also as the pass rusher the offense is going to scheme around? Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, and the D-line will support him as well, but he’s on his own on the outside.

Then there’s team defense. Can it create a few splash plays today? Because based on last week, it might be necessary to come up with a win. This Patriots’ offense isn’t as potent as what the Bengals have, but is it better than Pittsburgh’s? Well, quite possibly. They can prove otherwise today. But if they don’t, then they need to better capitalize on whatever advantages the defense and special teams provide them.

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