The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their second game of the 2022 regular season at home on Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots and they’ll enter that contest listed as a slight underdog. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the home game on Sunday to come away with their second win of 2022 season.
Another Rookie Orientation Needed – Last week, veteran Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward did a great job of welcoming Cincinnati Bengals rookie left guard Cordell Volson to the NFL. On Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Patriots will also likely start a rookie at left guard in the form of Cole Strange, the team’s first round draft pick out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. While strong played well overall in week 1 as a pass protector, his blocking in the running game certainly showed need for improvement. Heyward should get a lot of snaps against Strange on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see if he can school the rookie in the same manner that he did Volson in Cincinnati a week ago.
Need More Mitch Trudeepsky – Against the Bengals in Week 1, Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky attempted seven passes that included air yards of 20 yards or longer, according to our charting of the game. Trubisky only completed two of those attempts, however, with both coming in overtime. While the Patriots did lose in Week 1, they only allowed two deep pass completions from Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on five total attempts. The Steelers figure to try to get rookie wide receiver George Pickens more involved in the passing game in Week 2 and on the heels of him running quite a few deep routes against the Bengals. Trubisky will need to pick his deep pass shots on Sunday against a Patriots defense that will likely make a concerted to keep a lid on big plays. Trubisky will likely need to connect on more than two deep pass attempts on Sunday if the Steelers are going to beat the Patriots.
Third & Much Better – Against the Bengals in Week 1, the Steelers’ offense was miserable on third downs as the unit converted just four of their 15 (26.7%) total opportunities. To make matters worse, three of those failed third down opportunities required four or fewer yards. The offense was one of seven on third downs of five yards or longer. Those sort of conversion rates, if duplicated in Week 2, aren’t likely to result in the Steelers leaving Acrisure Stadium with a win on Sunday. Staying out of third and long situations on Sunday will go a long way in helping the Steelers offense maybe convert better in Week 2 on that important down. Should the Steelers lose this Sunday game and it not be due to multiple turnovers, their third down stats is likely to tell a huge story.
Don’t Get Cracked For Big Runs – As a whole, the Patriots offense did not look great against the Dolphins in Week 1. Even so, their running game did show some life at times during the game. The Patriots ran their crack toss several times last Sunday and they had success with that play, in addition to some other outside zone runs. The Steelers’ run defense is sure to be tested outside the tackles on Sunday and especially with outside linebacker T.J. Watt sidelined. The defensive backs are likely to be asked to replace on crack plays and either force runs back inside or make the tackle. Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson is a load and tough to bring down in the second level. Keeping him and Damien Harris from registering a couple of big runs outside the tackles on Sunday could go a long way in keeping the Patriots offense out of the endzone.
Going To Need Some POOTOS – Against the Bengals in Week 1, the Steelers scored 17 points off of turnovers as a result of their defense registering five total takeaways. Last week against the Patriots, the Dolphins’ offense had 10 points off of turnovers with seven of them coming on a defensive touchdown. The Patriots’ offense is now led by second year quarterback Mac Jones, and he now has 14 interceptions and nine fumbles in 18 career games. In short, it will be surprising if Jones doesn’t turn the football over at least once on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Assuming the Steelers defense can get a takeaway or two on Sunday, their offense needs to make sure to convert each and every one into touchdowns and not field goals. Points aren’t likely to come easy for either team on Sunday so whichever team registers the most POOTOS might just win the game.