Baseless Speculation about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Second Quarter

img_0465That would be “quarter” as in “quarter of the season.” Ivan Cole did a well-researched and thoughtful series last week about how the Steelers are doing so far. But as we fans know, speculation is more fun than research, although a little bit may be involved.

The schedule for the remaining three games is:

  • Week 6—Steelers at Dolphins
  • Week 7—Patriots at Steelers
  • Week 8—Bye
  • Week 9—Steelers at Ravens

The first question is, which of these are so-called “trap” games, and will the Steelers fall for it? I think you could certainly view the Miami game as a trap game. The Dolphins (who you can read about tomorrow in the opponent preview) are not impressive so far. The Patriots game is the furtherest possible thing from a trap game. The Ravens game is going to be interesting.

Despite the fact that you could view the Dolphins game as a trap game, I don’t think the Steelers will fall for it. In fact, I think it highly likely they will win it without a tremendous amount of difficulty (although this doesn’t mean Steelers fans won’t still need massive quantities of Tums.) I have no idea whether the Week 3 game across the state was something the Steelers took lightly, but if they did they learned a valuable lesson. I don’t think they will make that mistake against the Dolphins, as it is still too soon after the epic drubbing they received in that appalling game.

As for the Ravens game, we know to our cost that it doesn’t matter in the least how poorly the Ravens have been playing or how much turmoil seems to be occurring on the team when it comes to Ravens-Steelers. Nothing makes the Ravens (and their fans) happier than beating the Steelers, or so it would seem.

And at the moment there is a fair amount of turmoil. They just fired their offensive coordinator. However, the last time they did that they won the Super Bowl. I don’t really expect that to be the outcome this year unless Joe Flacco suddenly turns into Playoff Joe. But with the Ravens you never kno, and at 3-2 they’re definitely in the hunt.

Just like last season, they have lost their games by very small margins (by one point to the Raiders and six points to the Washington team.) They have also won by rather small margins (six points over the Bills, five points over the Browns, and two points over the Jaguars.)

The bottom line is, no matter how many points the Steelers’ offense is putting up on a regular basis, the final score of a Steelers—Ravens game is likely to be something along the order of 13-10. I don’t expect this game to be pretty, but assuming the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger this year (he was out for the Heinz Field game last season) I expect them to win it.

And finally, the game we would all love to know the outcome of—Steelers vs. the Patriots. Tom Brady will be playing unless something untoward happens. And frankly, given the outcome of the four games without Brady, it seems the Patriots would have been almost as likely to win with almost any other quarterback. But I actually give the Steelers a better chance to beat them with Brady than without.

Why? Because you know Ben is dying to win that game. Ben seems like a pretty competitive guy under almost any circumstances, but I expect it kicks into another gear for games against Brady. So I expect the offense to put up plenty of points, once again assuming Ben, AB and Le’Veon Bell are all present and accounted for.

As to how the defense will deal with Brady and Co., it will be a very interesting test. The young guys in the secondary seems to be learning on the fly, to the extent that Keith Butler has been unleashing more pass rush the past few weeks rather than trying to protect the secondary. And as we know, if you can get to Brady and knock him down a few times he gets a little antsy. And besides, who doesn’t want to see Tom Brady on his backside? It wipes the smug look off his face temporarily, which is always a blessed relief.

Perhaps the most interesting question about the second quarter is how differently the lineup will look by Week 9. In theory Bud Dupree might be back, although it seems unlikely at this point. Eli Rogers might be back in the slot. Cameron Heyward will hopefully be back from his hammie, as will Robert Golden. Ryan Shazier might actually be able to play. Marcus Gilbert will hopefully be back by then. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

On the other hand, each game seems to bring new names and faces to the injury list. Jarvis Jones was injured last Sunday, although it must have happened right near the end of the game. It’s a wrist injury, which could mean not much or a lot. I don’t know whether this season is particularly bad, but it seems a lot of players are being injured across the league, not just in Pittsburgh. Heck, all you have to do is look at the quarterbacks Cleveland has played so far this year (five and counting, I believe) to wonder what is going on.

But injuries are a part of the game, and as Mike Tomlin said about Sammie Coates’ hand/finger injury which required stitches at halftime last week, the Steelers take no comfort from excuses of this nature, or something to that effect. And his “Next Man Up” philosophy is being demonstrated right before our eyes as rookies and practice squad guys are stepping up and playing well.

In short, the next three games will tell us a lot about this year’s team. Let’s hope it tells us what we want to hear.

 

 

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