football is back. not seriously. the pittsburgh steelers kick off against the buffalo bills in week 1 in a game that already seems to be holding its own this nfl season.
The bills come from an AFC championship loss to a quarterback many compare to Ben Roethlisberger. some say he is better.
Reading: 5 things to watch steelers vs. bills
the steelers haven’t beaten buffalo in two years, but their previous games haven’t had many star players. Outside of three guys, this team is healthy and ready to prove something, according to t.j. watt.
so what are we looking out for?
the offensive line
Look, everyone keeps talking about the offensive line and the possible problems it could have this season. that’s because that concern is real.
The Steelers will start with two rookies up front and just finished their five starters a little over a week ago. fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. he is guarding the blind side of big ben while chuks okorafor is back to the right.
“Like anything, there will be growing pains,” Roethlisberger said of his rookie linemen. “We’re all going to experience them, even someone in their 18th season is going to experience a growing pain. The key is: do we learn from those growing pains? How often do those growing pains come? Do we learn at once?” I’m excited for them.”
Those growing pains need to be minimized quickly if the Steelers’ offense wants to do anything in Buffalo.
t.j. watt, alex highsmith, melvin ingram
Without Watt on the field this summer, all eyes have been on Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram at outside linebacker. honestly, it was hard to tell which one was better during training camp.
ingram brings experience and a second wind after some injuries held him back in recent seasons. he’s shown every part of his pro-caliber game with the steelers and will be the first guy off the bench for this group.
highsmith has made the biggest jump from year one to year two of all steelers sophomores. replacing bud dupree is no longer a concern. it’s more like, how much better can this group be with him as the starter?
watt signed a $112 million contract and made sure everyone knew it would only make him hungrier.
“I truly believe that nothing monetary will change me as a person,” Watt said during his contract news conference. “The work that I do will not change, it will only grow. As I said at the beginning of this press conference, it is my job to show all these people who have put this amount of money up for me and stood on the table for me to say that I they want here they’re right. and i know i can do it. i know exactly what it takes. i’ve been doing it all my life. it’s about keeping doing it and staying hungry, and i guarantee everyone here right now and everyone in this building I’m still hungry.”
If you haven’t bet on someone to win Defensive Player of the Year this season, that’s a good bet.
matt canada’s new offense
the steelers kept things quiet in the preseason but this is week 1. matt canada has been carving out a new and improved offense all summer and this is the first time this team will bring it to life in a real game .
expect a lot of 12 teams from two tight ends, derek watt involved here and there and najee harris being used creatively.
canada knows this team has its strengths, and roethlisberger is likely to continue to make plays on the dirt. however they will be looking to hand over the reins to this new oc in week 1. he will be excited to see it.
james pierre vs. stefon diggs
Steelers don’t bounce their cornerbacks back and forth. Joe Haden will be lined up on the left side while James Pierre will play on the right side. For Cam Sutton, he’s just as likely to play the entire game on the slot as he is to bounce in and out, so it’s a wait-and-see scenario.
defensive coordinator keith butler said the team has a plan for diggs, but won’t reveal it. That’s respectable. Diggs is a fully professional receiver who torched Steven Nelson and company last season. letting that happen again could be detrimental to this game.
pierre will have to take a big step during his first start in the nfl. If you can slow down the digging, the steelworkers found a diamond in the rough. If he can’t, Sutton will be out sooner rather than later.
this game could easily be a shootout between josh allen and roethlisberger. but in that same sentence, it’s easy to see that the final score is less than 40 points combined.
the steelers have always adhered to the standard that anything less than 20 points allowed should lead to victory. that’s not an easy task against bills, but with this defense, it’s certainly a possibility.
pittsburgh has a real chance to walk out of buffalo with a win if the defense can give the offense a chance to get past the counts. To do so, they’ll have to keep Allen below that 20-point line.
noah strackbein is an editor at allsteelers. follow noah on twitter @noahstrack and allsteelers @si_steelers.
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