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.
Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Canada have issues to rectify, and soon
After just four games into the 2021 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) are at a crossroads.
The path this team chooses this week vs the Denver Broncos (3-1) will go a long way in determining if the team is headed for a rebound, or a fairly high draft pick next April.
The biggest issue with the team has been the woeful offense displayed. Averaging just 16.8 points per game, the problems plaguing this unit are plentiful. Roethlisberger hasn’t been given much time to throw in the pocket, nor have they given Najee Harris much room to run with. When Big Ben does have time to throw, either he is missing his receivers for potential touchdowns, or the wide-outs fail to get open or create any space. This offense has become the very definition of Murphy’s Law.
Many in the media and fan base are calling for the benching of Roethlisberger, who continues to complete the majority of his passes only a few yards downfield. The receivers are rarely hit in stride, and completing passes in the middle of the field past 15 yards has become forbidden. Roethlisberger has also rarely gone through his progressions, locking on to just the initial target like a rookie.
Then there has been the 4th down calls.
So who or what is the biggest issue, and how will it be fixed?
Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada said the blame rests with him.
“To be honest, all our plays have answers in zone and man,” Canada said. “The play didn’t work, it’s my fault.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained it in more detail.
“There were other eligibles beyond the line of gain, so yes, I had a great deal of confidence in the plays that were called,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, we’d like the outcome to be different. I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment Green Bay and Joe Barry, their coordinator, in particular. They did a few things differently in those circumstances and created issues for us, so kudos to them. But yes, I felt good about them. No, I didn’t feel good about the result of them, and so we’ll roll the ball out and work again for preparation in those moments this week.”
Tomlin further clarified that #7 doesn’t have as much say in some of the play calls as he has his entire career.
“He has a lot of freedom in that regard, but maybe not in those moments,” Tomlin said. “Those moments are so weighty and there’s so much preparation in those moments, oftentimes, those decisions are had and thought through and discussed prior to being in them. There’s more fluidity in that decision-making and more certainty in terms of the play selection.”
Tomlin believes his quarterback is the same guy he has has his entire career as Steelers head coach, except for one attribute.
“Everything [is fixable] except mobility,” Tomlin said. “I don’t have an answer for that, or lack thereof. Ben used to be able to run really well when he was young. Those days are behind him. Other than that, I don’t see much that’s not a discussion in terms of technical alterations or quality of play that can be improved.”
Both Tomlin and Roethlisberger are well aware of the growing restlessness of the fan base.
“Ben and I have been at our jobs long enough that we know and understand what comes with it,” Tomlin said. “We love Pittsburgh, Pa. We love Steeler Nation and appreciate the passion that they have. We understand the responsibilities that come with our roles, him being the quarterback, me being the head coach.
“Often we get too much credit when things go well, and we’re always ready to absorb the negativity of our positions when things aren’t going well. That is just life for us.”
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- Take the shackles off Ben Roethlisberger: Matt Canada, the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, needs to allow Roethlisberger the ability to call audibles and make changes that will benefit this offense. This madness we are watching has to be rectified by any means possible. If Canada doesn’t want this, then just bench Big Ben as what’s the use?
- Relentless pass rush: Defense lead by TJ Watt needs to make Teddy Bridgewater’s life a miserable one Sunday. Relentless pressure will no doubt lead to the ability to…
- Create turnovers: A big part of the success had by the defense last year was in the takeaways department. With the offense stuck in neutral, getting turnovers, especially creating short fields, could be the difference between 2-3 and 1-4.
Short, sweet, and simple. Pittsburgh will not drop their third home game in a row. Some how, some way, this team will figure out a path to victory this week, especially if Ben Roethlisberger is given full control of this offense and not treated like a rookie.
The Steelers defense will be facing a wounded Broncos offense, lead by QB Teddy Bridgewater, who is questionable, but is expected to play. Bridgewater suffered a concussion last week vs Baltimore. RB Melvin Gordon III is banged up, as is receivers Courtland Sutton and Diontae Spencer. Jerry Jeudy remains on IR.
If the Pittsburgh offense can get out of its own way, the defense will take care of the rest… Steelers 20 Broncos 17
Game Day Information
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos
- Vegas line: Pittsburgh -1.5
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Field: Kentucky Blue Grass
Game-time: Sunday, October 10th at 1:00 pm
TV: FOX (Local on WPGH-TV)
- Announcers: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) Mark Schlereth (analyst) | Sarah Kustok (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)
National Radio: ESPN Radio
- Announcers: Sean Kelley (play-by-play) Sean Kelley (analyst)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: Sunny and 75. Winds out of the South at 7 mph.
Steelers vs Broncos History
Series History: Began in 1970
Overall Record: 12-20-1
- Home: 7-7
- Away: 5-13-1
- Postseason: 3-5
Streak: Steelers won the last game.
Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 26-21 (Sept. 20, 2020)
Last postseason meeting: Broncos Win, 23-16 (Jan. 17, 2016)
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 1-3 (4th in AFC North)
Last game: Packers 27 Steelers 17
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 146-81-1
- 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. When the receivers are open, Roethlisberger has missed them for touchdowns.
- Points per game: 16.8
- Total yards per game: 313.5
- Passing yards per game: 258.3
- Rushing yards per game: 55.3
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has 1,053 yards passing with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been sacked 10 times. Big Ben hasn’t been given much time in the pocket, and when he is given time, he has missed wide open receivers for easy touchdowns.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr. and Kalen Ballage.
- Rookie Najee Harris has managed just 185 tough yards in his young career. Harris also leads the team with 26 catches for 178 yards and a score.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington*, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Cody White.
- Diontae Johnson is 2nd on the team with 23 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Chase Claypool has been up and down and has 15 receptions for 211 yards. Juju Smith-Schuster has 129 yards receiving off of 15 catches. James Washington is out this week. Ray-Ray McCloud has four receptions for 35 yards.
Ends: Eric Ebron, Pat Friermuth, and Zach Gentry.
- Eric Ebron has three catches for 27 yards, while rookie Pat Friermuth also has nine receptions for 93 yards and a score.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
Extra Points: 7-7
Field Goals: 6-7
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 3-3
- 30-39 yards: 0-0
- 40-49 yards: 1-2
- 50+ yards: 2-2
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
Strengths: Great pass rush that limits opposing run game as well.
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: 23.3
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 357.8
- Passing yards allowed: 258.8
- Rushing yards allowed: 99
- Sacks: 8
- 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, 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 five sacks so far. Bush had ten tackles in his first game back, but only eight since. Schobert leads the team with 29 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 28 tackles. Edmunds has the Steelers lone interception. Pierre will start in place of the injured Sutton this week, but expect to see more time for Justin Layne as well. Former first rounder Karl Joseph has been elevated to the 53 man roster and will play this week.
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 Denver Broncos
Overall record: 3-1 (Tied-1st in AFC West)
Last game: Ravens 23 Broncos 7
Head coach: Vic Fangio (3rd season with Denver)
- Overall regular-season record: 15-21 | 15-21 with Denver
Strengths: Teddy Bridgewater has been good, but not great. He rarely makes dangerous throws that could result in a pick.
Weaknesses: The run game isn’t that special. The offensive line has given up eight sacks.
- Points per game: 20.8
- Total Offense per game: 373
- Passing yards per game: 251.3
- Rushing yards per game: 121.8
Starting Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater | Back-up: Drew Lock
- Teddy Bridgewater is questionable this week, but has thrown for 892 yards with five touchdown passes and no interceptions. He has been sacked nine times. Drew Lock would play if Bridgewater is out.
Starting Running Back: Melvin Gordon | Back-up: Javonte Williams
- Melvin Gordon is also questionable, and has rushed for 248 yards with two touchdowns. Gordon also has eight receptions for 87 yards. Rookie Javonte Williams will see time and has rushed for 186 yards and a score.
Wide Receivers: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy*, KJ Hamler, and Kendall Williams
- Courtland Sutton is another Broncos weapon that is questionable, and he co-leads the team with 18 catches for 257 yards. Tim Patrick has caught 15 passes for 213 yards and two scores. KJ Hamler is trhe third option at wideout with Jerry Jeudy on IR. Hamler has five receptions for 74 yards.
Tight Ends: Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam
- Noah Fant is tied for first on the team with 18 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Albert Okwuegbunam has contributed nine catches for 57 yards and a score.
Placekicker: Brandon McManus
Extra Points: 8-8
Field Goals: 9-9
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 2-2
- 30-39 yards: 3-3
- 40-49 yards: 4-4
- 50+ yards: 0-0
Broncos Defense (Base 4-3)
Strengths: Good pass rush and excellent run defense.
Weaknesses: Secondary can be exposed.
- Points per game allowed: 12.3
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 267.8
- Passing yards allowed: 197.8
- Rushing yards allowed: 70
- Sacks: 11
- Interceptions: 4
Scouting report: Safety Kareem Jackson leads the team with 21 tackles and has a interception. LB A.J. Johnson has 20 tackles and two sacks. Fellow LB Von Miller has 13 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Broncos Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Diontae Spencer
Punt Returner: Diontae Spencer/Kendall Hinton
Scouting report: Diontae Spencer is averaging 18 yards per kickoff return and 9.0 yards per punt return.
Injury Report (10/8/21)
- Out: DT Carlos Davis (Knee), CB Cam Sutton (Groin), CB Cam Sutton (Groin), WR James Washington (Groin)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: None reported
- Out: TE Albert Okwuegbunam (Hamstring)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: QB Teddy Bridgewater (Concussion), RB Melvin Gordon III (Lower Leg), WR Diontae Spencer (Chest), CB Pat Surtain II (Chest), WR Courtland Sutton (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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