After an abysmal performance on Thursday night against the Ravens, the Steelers will be back on the field against the 2-0 Carolina Panthers on Sunday night. Minus the first half against the Browns, the Steelers have been outscored 50-9 this year. The offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in 97 minutes. Remember that awesome Le’Veon Bell touchdown run? Yeah, that’s the last time the Steelers scored a touchdown. I think most of Steelers Nation can agree, that there appears to be an overwhelming feeling of here we go again another 8-8 season in the making. The Steelers need to play better in Carolina and at least prove they are a competent football team. Here are a few players to keep an eye on during the game on Sunday.
The start of Mike Mitchell’s Steelers career has been less than impressive to put it nicely. He honestly doesn’t even look like a good football player. Late in the game against the Ravens, Mitchell had a chance to tackle Justin Forsett but he took an awful angle allowing Forsett to scoot past him for a 41 yard gain. Mitchell has not come close to forcing a turnover, in fact he has not deflected a pass yet. He’s just one player on the defense but compared to the level of play the Steelers got from Ryan Clark in the past, Mitchell appears to be an inferior $25 million talent. That sounds like an overreaction after only two games, and maybe it is, but if Mitchell has another lackluster performance against his former team on Sunday night, the Steelers defense won’t look any better.
The Steelers defense has yet to force a turnover. They have only recorded three sacks in two games, zero against the Ravens last Thursday. Much of the blame for the lack of those numbers could be placed on the talented group of linebackers. Against the Panthers, the Steelers need to be able to get pressure on Cam Newton, while also being able to contain him. Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones hardly got any pressure last week on Joe Flacco. Against the Lions, Newton was sacked four times and due to his mobility sacks are not uncommon. If the Steelers can’t take Newton down they could be in for another long night. As for the inside linebackers, the team needs to make game changing plays. Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier have the athleticism to make those plays but for whatever reason they have failed to do that in the first two games of the season. The defense has without a doubt struggled against the Browns and Ravens, if the linebackers don’t step against the Panthers they will force the Steelers offense to win the game against a great Panthers defense.
Lance Moore is finally back on the practice field after missing the first two weeks of the season because of a groin injury. The Steelers offense could use another veteran receiving option. Justin Brown had one catch against the Ravens, unfortunately he fumbled that reception in the red zone. Only three different wide receivers have caught passes for the Steelers in the first two weeks. If that trend continues, teams will eventually focus on shutting down Antonio Brown. While Markus Wheaton has been great to start the year, he still isn’t a number one option. Lance Moore could be a huge addition to the passing game if he can stay healthy. He certainly should be more reliable than Justin Brown.
Like I mentioned in the linebacker section, the Steelers need to be able to get to Newton and contain him. Against the Lions last week he was sacked four times and he only ran four times for 19 yards. Sacks would be great but the more important aspect for the Steelers defense would be the containment of Cam. In the Steelers first two games they didn’t have to really worry about the quarterbacks taking off and running since they played Brian Hoyer and Flacco. If the Steelers are unable to get pressure on Newton and then they also leave him large amounts of running room, the Steelers will be unable to get off the field at key times. If Newton can lead the Panthers to 20 or more points, the Steelers may be in big trouble against a tough Panthers defense.
There you have it Steelers Nation. Who else should we keep an eye during the Panthers game?