Last week was an incredibly exciting game to watch for Steelers fans. The first few possessions, Ben looked a little sluggish and lost, but once he connected with Juju for the first touchdown, the Steelers had smooth sailing the rest of the way.
I mentioned this in the offseason, but we knew the return of Big Ben could potentially be far more significant than people understand. The Steelers may have the best defense in all of football, and with a reinvigorated Big Ben at quarterback, this team could be on the brink of greatness.
Last season was one filled with hope and disappointment. For all the offensive woes, the defense that emerged may be the best the Steelers have had in a very long time. With Week 1 now in the rear-view mirror, the Steelers are positioned for a deep run in 2020, as long as they can stay healthy. Benny Snell and Dionte Johnson are here to stay. We knew Johnson was going to be a critical part of this offense in 2020, but his play in Week 1 leads us to believe he’s going to be much more of an X-factor than most expected.
Benny Snell, the second-year man from Kentucky, appears to have not only lost weight, but he is also showing a lot of explosiveness and guile in his early runs this season. With James Conner’s health hanging over this team like a dark cloud, it was very exciting to watch Snell step in and make such a big impact.
Steelers vs Broncos Preview
I like this matchup for the Steelers for a number of reasons. For one, the Broncos offense is very young. Young quarterbacks have not fared well against the Steelers over the past year. Hell, older quarterbacks have not fared well either, so all the more reason to be confident this week as the Steelers defense gets a Broncos offense that struggled mightily against the Titans a week prior.
Noah Fant will be the guy to keep an eye on. Fant has the athleticism and speed at tight end to turn routine gains into big ones, so keeping an eye on him, even on check-downs, will be key in this matchup. Melvin Gordon could also potentially be a cause for concern. Though he’s new in the Broncos system, Gordon still possesses good athleticism and vision out of the backfield. Containing guys like Gordon and Fant on check-downs will be critical.
Aside from those two, rookie Jerry Jeudy and the ailing Cortland Sutton are very capable receivers to account for. Both are polished route runners and can take advantage of soft coverages. There is still doubt as to Cortland Sutton’s playing status ahead of the game, so the absence of Sutton means more focus can be put on Fant and Gordon.
Offensively, the Steelers should be in pretty good shape. The Broncos have a number of holes defensively. Though the Broncos did a decent job keeping Derrick Henry from breaking big runs, they did show they can be vulnerable on play action.
Roethlisberger has shown he is comfortable and potent operating in a variety of personnel packages, so this should be a “find and exploit the weakness in matchups” type of strategic attack, rather than a “scheme tactic” type of attack (i.e. personnel groupings to exploit defensive personnel). The big question for the Steelers in this game is the health of their offensive line. Expect to see the Steelers running a lot out of the shotgun in this game and using a lot of pre-snap motion.
Right now, there are two starters on the offensive line out and possibly a third. I expect the Steelers to move off the ground game and shift towards more of a spread, shotgun attack. If they do try to establish the run early, I don’t expect there to be much success, so a sluggish offensive start is what I expect in the game.
With the woes on the offensive line, I think the Steelers will lean heavily on their defense in this game. I expect it to be close throughout, but ultimately the Steelers defense comes up big down the stretch.