After seeing a unicorn in Green Bay in the form of not only an offensive score in the first quarter but an opening touchdown, Pittsburgh Steelers fans got to see the same old Steelers struggling to move the ball, with the exception of Najee Harris, on offense and getting saves in defense.
Looking at the number of snaps this week, it’s easy to see how few options are left on the depth board.
Joe Haeg replaced Chukwuma Okorafor against the Bengals and was not very good. He was better this week as the line put together their most consistent and efficient game this year, they have improved noticeably every week, and they still haven’t hit the ‘good’ level yet. But you can tell they weren’t bad this week, and that’s a huge improvement.
That improved line showed what Najee Harris can do with proper blocking, and Harris was once again the best offensive player on the pitch. Yes, he hasn’t hit all the holes, but he does more than make up for every mistake he makes.
Benny Snell was Harris’ main replacement again, and once again showed he had never been good at the job. He plays his best when he’s the main player, but he’s not efficient enough to justify that role. Kalen Ballage received his first offensive snaps as Steeler, but couldn’t touch the ball. We’ll see if Ballage can get past Snell for the role of the full-back that comes to bring home how good Najee Harris is.
Ray-Ray McCloud was only given a few snaps again after arriving last week when the Steelers lost multiple receivers, Cody White even got a few snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. James Washington’s is presented again, as he usually does, looks good when the quarterback looks terrible.
Eric Ebron tripled his season catch total from 1 to 3. His 2 catches on 2 targets give him his first 100% catch rate match of his Steelers tenure. He also placed behind Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry in yards. Steeler’s tight ends were 4/4 with 29 yards on the game. Not the production we expected from a venue with Freiermuth and Ebron.
Where do the Steelers go from here? There is talent on the pitch, but no production to match. The offensive line has taken the lion’s share since Week 1, but it is improving and the offense is not. The negativity surrounding Ben Roethlisberger and the fans’ faith that he will be a game-changer as they are used to seeing him after a bad game seems to be fading away.
The Steelers aren’t likely to put Roethlisberger on the bench, but looking at the roster, where else can fans hope for a spark?
We’re going to jump right into what I consider to be the top snapshots on this list. Last week it was announced that Arthur Maulet played all the nickel snaps and Tre Norwood and James Pierre played the dime snaps. Watching the movies from last week and looking for them in this week’s game, it held up. Tre Norwood has movies there now, and the rookie’s flaws are going to be exploited by veteran receivers. In dimes, they can protect him more. Maulet was not great, but he was solid. James Pierre is a sophomore player, but he still has areas in which he needs to grow. This isn’t the veteran squad the Steelers had in 2019 and 2020, and there are clear areas for teams to attack this secondary, and they are I do.
It becomes clear that Joe Schobert won’t be good in the role of linebacker Buck, he’s more of a Mike in this defense. To be clear, these are no longer positions on this defense, the roles of Buck or Mike change with play. Devin Bush has been better as linebacker Mike, but with this roster he is the best ILB to face the blockers. , blitz and traffic navigation. He’s not 100%, I saw Aaron Jones run away from Bush and turn the corner towards him, the first time I saw this happen to Bush, his speed is not there right now .
Speaking of not playing at full speed, TJ Watt didn’t seem like 100% either. When Dupree and Watt were together, the quarterbacks did not overtake the Steelers rushers. Aaron Rogers did that to TJ Watt this week. On the pitch and playing hard doesn’t mean you’re 100%, and while Watt did have a good shot and was one of the best players in defense, he clearly wasn’t 100%. Ingram and Highsmith both played, and they both looked good, but not great. You must be wondering how much more we can get from them and how much they will need dominant TJ Watt to produce.
On the defensive line, Isaiah Buggs has played the most games this season, both in total shots and percentage. In fact, he matched his career in snaps and set a new mark for percentage of snaps. He didn’t play badly at all, he had a good game. But we also know the limits of Bugs. He won’t give the Steelers what Stephon Tuitt or Tyson Alualu give them. Buggs is a nice reserve, and he’s stepped up for the Steelers this week, but in a game where the line struggled in the running game, and didn’t put much pressure on Aaron Rogers, that’s not enough. The Steelers need impact play, and there aren’t many places to get it.
The injury report will be critical to watch this week as the team prepares for the Denver Broncos in Week 5 at Heinz Field. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest black and gold news and notes as they continue throughout the regular season.