Steeler Nation doesn’t just reside in the surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the NFL franchise that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions are a team that always strives for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less in return. This is the ultimate Steelers Game Day Preview that all followers of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation), who covers both Pitt football and the Steelers for NGSC Sports, brings you inside the huddle for both teams with a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive game plans for success, prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and an up to date team injury report. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.
Steelers offensive woes killing the season
When you think of some of the great running backs who have played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the list is impressive.
John Henry Johnson, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Merril Hoge, Willie Parker, Jerome Bettis, and Le’Veon Bell are all a part of the lore that describes Steelers football, which is stellar defense, physical play, and great running backs who can give an offense great ball control.
Each were amazing in their own ways, and now rookie Najee Harris would like to add his name to that list of Steeler legends.
So far, Harris’ offensive line has been horrid, providing little or no holes to run through.
After three games, the Steelers (1-2) are averaging just 53 yards per game on the ground.
That, my friends, is unacceptable by any team’s standards.
To boot, the offensive line has barely given Ben Roethlisberger any time to throw the ball. When Roethlisberger does have time to throw, rarely, if ever, are his receivers open, nor do they ever catch a ball in stride.
The Steelers offense, as a whole, has been a disaster.
All of these problems start at the top, and that means it’s time for head coach Mike Tomlin, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and 18 year veteran QB in Roethlisberger to have a big talk.
Somewhere among all those years of football knowledge has to be suggestions to fix this offense.
Which begs these questions to be answered:
- Who is really running the offense, Big Ben or Matt Canada?
- Why are Steeler receivers not getting open?
- Why are there not patterns that allow Roethlisberger to hit receivers in stride?
- Why not utilize a fullback in Derek Watt to give Harris and extra blocker in the running game, or just loading up on the offensive line with big packages?
- Is it possible to use a two-receiver set with a tight end and a full back?
- Why is the middle of the field past 15 yards downfield never used to catch a pass?
To quote Packers legendary coach Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there??”
Inquiring minds would like to know, and the sooner, the better.
Harris still believes that this offense is just off their game, and the success is coming if they keep up the hard work given in practice.
“It’s just people just blowing some stuff out of proportion,” Harris said after Friday’s practice. “We are not going to just pop like that. It’s never been that easy, especially in the NFL. But we are always one block away, one read way, one whatever away — if just keep sticking to it, though.”
Though the line has been bad, Harris still points the finger at himself to find improvement.
“There are some holes I have missed, obviously, I need to get better at it,” Harris said. “And I have to be better at that every day and get a feel for the line and how they blocking, things like that.”
Three games in, Pittsburgh is scoring just 16.7 points per game, which ranks 28th out of 32 teams.
“We understand where we are,” Tomlin said. “We don’t want to be here. We don’t like it, but forget about not liking it. What are you going to do about it?”
Speaking of Roethlisberger, this will only be the 3rd time both he and Green Bay Packers (2-1) quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have faced each other while healthy. The Steelers won the game in 2009 by a score of 37-36, and the Packers, of course, won Super Bowl XLV 31-25. Since then, the Steelers defeated the Rodgers-less Packers the last two times they have met, 38-31 in 2013, and 31-28 in 2017.
“It’s the old cliché — everyone says it’s the quarterbacks against each other, and then we’ll say, ‘No, we play against the defense,’” Roethlisberger said. “But it’s still an honor to share a stadium with one of the greatest and a guy that I admire, and a lot of people admire, that has just done it at such a high level for a long time. It’s pretty cool to watch his mastery of the game.”
As for Rodgers, he expressed his thoughts on the Steelers and their fanbase.
“It’s a great, blue-collar town. There’s a lot of great people that live there. It’s got a lot of history, that city,” Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show.
“Mike Tomlin, you know, been there forever. … I have a ton of respect for Mike. I think he’s a fantastic coach. I love the way that he leads. I love the way he talks after the games. He always seems to keep things really even keel. It looks like he’s someone that the players love playing for him.”
Rodgers will have to be on the lookout for the Steelers pass rush, which will be greatly aided by the return of both T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
“I feel really good about where my body’s at and where I’m at going into the game,” Watt said.
It will be special homecoming for Watt who grew up a huge Packers fan while living in Pawaukee, Wisconsin, located about two hours south of Green Bay.
“Obviously, Green Bay is very, very big back home,” Watt said. “Being able to play in a historic venue like Lambeau is something special.”
While Watt and Highsmith are back, Juju Smith-Schuster also received a clean bill of health.
WR Chase Claypool is questionable, while lineman Chukwuma Okorafor, Rashaad Coward, and DL Carlos Davis are all out.
Green Bay will be without WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling and starting lineman Elgton Jenkins.
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- 1st Drive and 1st quarter offensive flow: Where has it been? Everyone associated on this offense has to be on the same page and start getting the job done. They have been painful to watch. 1st drive and 1st quarter are the key to this game.
- Attack downfield: Enough of the dink and dunk passes. Ben Roethlisberger needs to start throwing deep down the field, and that includes the middle of the field. It’s up to the offensive line to give him time and for the receivers to find some open lanes.
- Limit splash plays: Aaron Rodgers will keep firing all game, so the better this defense does in limiting big plays to Davante Adams and big runs by Aaron Jones, the better the chance at an upset on the road. Make Green Bay earn their points.
- Harass Aaron Rodgers: The key to success with this defense is pressure and take-downs of the opposing quarterback. With T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith both back, it’s time for this defense to get back to it’s specialty.
No one here writing is a football genius, but it’s obvious to those who have both watched and played the game what plagues this Steelers football team, and it starts at the very top with head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The lack of adjustments and game planning has been appalling.
There is plenty of talent on this team, especially defensively. It’s up to the coaches to put the players on offense in positions to succeed and the players to rise to the occasion and start making plays, whether that be blocking, passing the ball, running routes, making catches, and just plain finding a way to get the job done.
Till I see it, it’s hard to believe in this team. The defense will step up and play well this week, but it won’t be enough until this offense gets it collective heads out of their nether regions… Packers 23 Steelers 13
Game Day Information
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers
- Vegas line: Green Bay -6.5
Venue: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.
- Field: Kentucky Blue Grass
Game-time: Sunday, October 3rd at 4:25 pm
TV: CBS (Local on KDKA-TV)
- Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Tony Romo (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson (reporter)
Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM
- Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Craig Wolfley (analyst) | Max Starks (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: 69 with a 50% chance of storms. Winds out of the North at 10 mph.
Steelers vs Packers History
Series History: Began in 1933
Overall Record: 16-19
- Home: 8-7
- Away: 8-11
- Postseason: 0-1
Streak: Steelers won the last two games.
Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 31-28 (Nov. 26, 2017)
Last postseason meeting: Super Bowl XLV- Packers Win, 31-25 (Feb. 6, 2011)
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 1-2 (4th in AFC North)
Last game: Bengals 24 Steelers 10
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 146-80-1
- Playoff record: 8-8 (Qualified for playoffs 9 times)
- 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster
- Steelers Team/Individual Statistics
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Schedule
Strengths: Is there one? Can this offense start finding any consistency at all?
Weaknesses: Offensive line and the complete lack of any type of rushing attack. The receivers rarely find a way to get open.
- Points per game: 16.7
- Total yards per game: 320
- Passing yards per game: 267
- Rushing yards per game: 53
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has some misfires in his first few games, and hasn’t been given much time to throw. Hopefully these issues will before this season is reduced to ashes. Overall, Big Ben has 801 yards passing with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He has been sacked eight times.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr. and Kalen Ballage.
- Rookie Najee Harris has managed just 123 tough yards in his young career. Harris also leads the team with 20 catches for 149 yards and a score.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson*, Chase Claypool, Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud.
- Diontae Johnson is third on the team with 14 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and will return after missing last week. Chase Claypool has been up and down and has 15 receptions for 211 yards. Juju Smith-Schuster has 118 yards receiving off of 13 catches. James Washington has recorded five catches for 30 yards and will see an uptick in play if Claypool is out this week. Ray-Ray McCloud has three receptions for 33 yards.
Tight Ends: Eric Ebron, Pat Friermuth, and Zach Gentry.
- Eric Ebron has one catch for 19 yards, while rookie Pat Friermuth also has eight receptions for 82 yards. Both will see more throws in their direction as Roethlisberger utilizes his tight ends often.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
Extra Points: 5-5
Field Goals: 5-6
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 3-3
- 30-39 yards: 0-0
- 40-49 yards: 1-2
- 50+ yards: 1-1
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
Strengths: Great pass rush that limits opposing run game as well. That’s IF T.J. Watt is active… and he will be.
Weaknesses: DE Stephon Tuitt is still on IR. Bad tackling and lack of turnovers caused is not helping matters much this season.
- Points per game allowed: 22
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 354.7
- Passing yards allowed: 266.3
- Rushing yards allowed: 88.3
- Sacks: 5
- Interceptions: 1
Defensive Line: Cam Heyward, Isaiah Buggs, and Chris Wormley.
- Cam Heyward and Chris Wormley bookend Isaiah Buggs in the middle. Wormley will be in for starter Stephon Tuitt who is out indefinitely. Heyward has a sack and a fumble recovery.
Linebackers: T.J. Watt, Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, and Melvin Ingram/Alex Highsmith.
- Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leads a solid linebacker corps alongside Devin Bush, who returns from a knee injury in 2020, Joe Schobert, a Pro Bowler acquired from Jacksonville, and Alex Highsmith. Expect to see plenty of time for Melvin Ingram, another former Pro Bowl player who began his career with the Chargers. Watt has three sacks so far. Bush had ten tackles in his first game back, but only two since. Schobert leads the team with 21 tackles.
Secondary: Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Sutton.
- Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will be at the corners with Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and Terrell Edmunds at strong safety. CB James Pierre will see plenty of field time in the nickle. Fitzpatrick has 20 tackles. Edmunds has the Steelers lone interception.
Steelers Special Teams
Punter: Pressley Harvin III
Kickoff Returners: Ray-Ray McCloud
Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud
Scouting report: McCloud is averaging 22.8 yard per kickoff return and 10.0 yards per punt return.
Scouting the Green Bay Packers
Overall record: 2-1 (Tied-1st in NFC North)
Last game: Packers 30 49ers 28
Head coach: Matt LaFleur (3rd season with Green Bay)
- Overall regular-season record: 27-7 | 27-7 with Green Bay
Strengths: When the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams are going, the Pack are tough to beat.
Weaknesses: Rodgers can be sacked and pressured when facing a team with a great pass rush. The more hits Rodgers takes, the less effective he becomes as he’ll start making bad throws to get rid of the ball.
- Points per game: 22.7
- Total Offense per game: 318.7
- Passing yards per game: 239
- Rushing yards per game: 79.7
Starting Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers | Back-up: Jordan Love
- Aaron Rodgers has thrown for only 649 yards, but has six touchdowns and only two INT’s. He has been sacked five times.
Starting Running Back: Aaron Jones | Back-up: A.J. Dillon
- Aaron Jones is one of the better RB’s in the game and has rushed for 158 yards with two TD’s. He has also recorded 10 catches for 75 yards and three touchdowns. A.J. Dillon comes in for a change of pace now and then.
Wide Receivers: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling*, Randall Cobb, Allan Lazard, Amari Rodgers, and Malik Taylor
- Davante Adams is one of the league’s best receivers. Adams has 25 receptions for 309 yards and a score.Marquez Valdes-Scantling is out this week. Randall Cobb only has four catches so far for 58 yards. Allan Lazard has been quiet as well, with three catches for 58 yards. Amari Rodgers and Malik Taylor will see some playing time with Valdes-Scantling out.
Tight Ends: Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis
- Robert Tonyan is the top tight end for Rodgers with six catches for 66 yards and a TD.
Placekicker: Mason Crosby
Extra Points: 8-8
Field Goals: 4-4
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 0-0
- 30-39 yards: 2-2
- 40-49 yards: 0-0
- 50+ yards: 2-2
Packers Defense (Base 4-3)
Strengths: De’Vondre Campbell is the Pack’s best defender at linebacker.
Weaknesses: Barely average defense with a weak pass rush.
- Points per game allowed: 27.7
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 321.3
- Passing yards allowed: 206
- Rushing yards allowed: 115.3
- Sacks: 5
- Interceptions: 2
Scouting report: De’Vondre Campbell the team with 30 tackles and has an interception. DT Kenny Clark has 13 tackles and one sack.
Packers Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Kylin Hill
Punt Returner: Amari Rodgers
Scouting report: Kylin Hill is averaging 22 yards per kickoff return. Amari Rodgers is averaging 8.3 yards per punt return.
Injury Report (9/30/21)
- Out: DT Carlos Davis (Knee), OL Chukwuma Okorafor, OL Rashaad Coward
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: WR Chase Claypool (groin)
Green Bay Packers
- Out: WR Marques Valdes-Scantling (Hamstring),
- Doubtful: G Elgton Jenkins (Ankle), CB Kevin King (Concussion)
- Questionable: LB Krys Barnes (Concussion), S Vernon Scott(Hamstring), DL Jack Heflin (Ankle)
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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