The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their ninth game of the 2022 regular season at home on Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Saints, 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 at home on Sunday afternoon to finally come away with their third win of the 2022 season.
On Wisconsin Wattage – The Steelers will have outside linebacker, T.J. Watt, back on Sunday, and will he be a welcome sight. The Steelers have missed Watt since he went down injured in Week 1 and especially in the sack department. Against the Saints on Sunday, Watt will be facing off against right tackle Ryan Ramczyk and those two should know each other really well as they played together in college at Wisconsin. They both were first-round draft selections in the 2017 NFL Draft. They faced each other once before in 2018 and while Watt did have one sack in that game, it didn’t come against Ramczyk. Watt ended that contest with three total tackles, a sack, one quarterback hit, and a pass defensed. He’ll need a much better stat line than that on Sunday against the Saints. If anything, Watt needs to be a pressure machine on Sunday in addition to making a few run stops throughout the game.
No Hill Thrill – While Saints’ utility plater Taysom Hill has only played 130 total offensive snaps so far this season, he has helped produce 460 total yards by either throwing, rushing, or receiving. Not only that, but Hill has also helped produce five of the Saints’ 33 total explosive plays of 20 yards or longer on the season. The Saints’ offense enters Week 10 having averaged 6.34 per running play when Hill is on the field and 8.74 yards per passing play when he is one of the 11 players between the white lines. They use him in numerous ways and that includes sometimes as a quarterback and sometimes as just a blocker. On a short week, look for the Saints to use Hill in several similar ways that they have used him so far this season. The Steelers’ defense can’t let Hill deliver any explosive plays in this Sunday contest.
Pick On Adebo – Now that the Steelers have parted ways with wide receiver Chase Claypool, rookie wide receiver George Pickens could see a few more targets. Against the Saints on Sunday, the Steelers’ passing game plan should include going after second-year cornerback Paulson Adebo, who has been a liability more than a few times since he was drafted. When Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett sees man coverage on the outside from Adebo, he probably should take his shots down the field to either Pickens or fellow wide receiver Diontae Johnson. While Pickens has yet to bust a huge play in the NFL, he should have the opportunity to deliver his first on Sunday against the Saints if Pickett can get him the football. Regardless of who is targeted, however, Adebo is likely the New Orleans cornerback that Pickett should attack on Sunday.
Rookie Runner Reps Required – The Steelers’ running game has been pretty much nonexistent for most of the 2022 season. That said, rookie running back Jaylen Warren has flashed at times on his way to delivering 13 plays that have gained 10 or more yards. Warren enters Sunday having averaged 5.9 yards per touch while starting running back Najee Harris has averaged just 3.6 yards per touch on a much larger sample size. While Harris is sure to be the starter again on Sunday, the Steelers need to seriously consider upping Warren’s playing time and touch count. Of the two running backs, Warren is more likely to deliver an explosive play or two. Warren has shown so far during his rookie season that he can be an every-down running back so he needs to be on the field more moving forward. There are rumblings this week that we might just see that happen and if it does, Warren needs to deliver. The Steelers could use at least 120 yards from scrimmage out of their running backs on Sunday to take some pressure off Pickett. Warren can probably deliver at least 80 of that if given a lot more opportunities.
Use The Force On The Unforced – You’ve noticed them, right? I’m talking about all of the unforced penalties that the Steelers’ offense has had so far this season. If you’re scoring at home, the Steelers have accrued unforced penalties in six false starts, six ineligible downfields, three delay of games, three illegal shifts, and three illegal formations. That’s 21 unforced penalties in total. Of those 21, eleven drives were killed. With a young quarterback in Pickett trying to guide a very inept offense, killed drives because of unforced penalties just can’t happen. Sure, other unforced penalties are going to happen from time to time but if the offense can eliminate the unforced ones, we might see them finish another drive or two with points. The Steelers coaching staff had plenty of time during the bye week to stress unforced penalties and it will now be interesting to see if they can a full game without any, or maybe at least just one.