On Showtime’s Inside the NFL, Warren Sapp made it clear that he was not impressed with the Steelers last week.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers—I have three things: old, slow and it’s over,” said Sapp. “It’s just that simple.”
Well, it may not be that simple, but last week’s performance was a major problem and it has to be rectified heading into Sunday when the Steelers host the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks should not present the same challenges that Baltimore has but after Week 1, the Steelers are not a good football team and they cannot take anything for granted.
Here are the keys to how the Steelers can get into the win column this week.
On the first play from scrimmage last week, Ray Rice ripped off a 36-yard run. At that point it was clear that the Steelers would be in for a long day.
In the end, Baltimore ran for 170 yards on 31 carries for an impressive 5.5 yards per carry average. Rice finished with 107 yards and was the biggest factor in the game for the Ravens’ offense.
That is not how the Steelers’ defense wins game. Every week they focus on stopping the run, completely.
After one of the all-time best performances against the run last season, Pittsburgh’s defense got off to a poor start as their defensive front was shoved around all day.
Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch will not present the same challenge as Rice did last week but he is a quality back who the Steelers will have to keep an eye on.
By keeping Lynch from picking up chunks of yards on the ground, the Steelers can force Seattle to put the ball in Tarvaris Jackson’s hands. That is a favorable matchup for Pittsburgh.
This his how Pittsburgh can dictate tempo on defense and put pressure on the quarterback, something they did not do last week.
Bruce Arians runs a different offense in the preseason than he does for the regular season. Is it more vanilla? Yes. Is it more effective? Yes.
Arians’ play-calling helped turn Antonio Brown into a future star. The ground game was rolling. He utilized fullback runs. Ben Roethlisberger was unstoppable with options downfield as well as outlets to the backs and tight ends.
Enter the regular season and the offense looked completely lost. Not exactly a surprise considering the past performances by the offense under Arians.
It is time for Arians to get back to his preseason playbook. Enough of trying to go downfield every down as the offensive line cannot protect.
No more back-to-back bubble screen passes. Keep feeding the ball to Rashard Mendenhall when he is running well and establish the play action pass.
Use your big tight end over the middle of the field and on occasion throw a quick slant to your speedsters at receiver so they can get yards after the catch.
Arians has shown he is capable of calling a good game, now it is time to put that into effect in the regular season.
One turnover is damaging. Two really puts teams at risk of losing. Three is unacceptable.
It is a wonder that the Steelers didn’t lose by 40 points last Sunday with seven turnovers. That is unheard of.
There are three basic plans that the Steelers have every week: stop the run, prevent the big play and protect the football.
The Steelers did not do any last week, but not protecting the football is what sealed their fate.
Roethlisberger only had five interceptions in 12 games last season and already has three this year on top of two fumbles.
Pittsburgh needs to eliminate their turnovers this week. If we see more, it may become a trend and snowball as the season progresses. Seattle may be just the medicine that the Steelers need to recover from this problem.
Marcus Gilbert is not the player who needs to have the best game Sunday, but he will be a focal point for both teams.
In what will be his first start, Gilbert is replacing the injured Willie Colon at right tackle.
Gilbert had a solid preseason but could clearly use more seasoning before entering the lineup. Now he will get trial by fire.
The Steelers could have looked to re-sign Flozell Adams or Max Starks but instead went with Gilbert and Mike Tomlin does not seem concerned.
“We like where he is,” said Tomlin. “He has performed well for us. He’s a talented young guy. He doesn’t have a great deal of experience but we are going to give him an opportunity to play and show what he’s capable of."
Gilbert did appear to be the left tackle of the future and is now the right tackle of the present. He can make the most of his opportunity in his first career start on Sunday.
James Harrison has been slowed by his offseason back surgeries. He is clearly not up to game shape, yet, and is a key reason why the defense failed last week.
Harrison had only one impact play and has to play better this week. He needs to be a disruptive force on the right side of the defense and put pressure on the quarterback.
If Harrison is not playing up to his ability level, the coaching staff may have to consider using more of Jason Worilds.
- Pittsburgh has won eight straight home openers.
- The Steelers are 8-8 all-time against the Seahawks, including 6-2 at home.
- Ben Roethlisberger is five touchdown passes away from 150 career passes.
- Bill Leavy will be the referee for the game. Leavy was the referee in Super Bowl XL.
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