The Steelers have a tall task ahead of them in the Patriots, and these four questions will be central to their matchup.
The Steelers started off the season with a huge win against the Bengals. While the Patriots aren’t the elite team that they used to be, there is still plenty of talent on that roster worth monitoring. In particular, the Patriots boast a strong defense and a capable running game on offense that can easily compete with what Pittsburgh offers.
While a win is a win, the Steelers still have a lot of big questions that will have to get answered. No matter how the second game goes, these questions in particular will be key to the final outcome of the game. With all of that said, here are four burning questions the Steelers will have to answer against the Patriots in week 2.
Will Pickens rise up?
One of the biggest winners of the Steelers offseason was George Pickens. Despite being a rookie without a lot of college experience, Pickens looked like a man amongst boys in camp and followed that up with a solid preseason showing. He was lacking in his first game though, as he only amounted to one catch for three yards.
While the offense has a slew of receiving targets, Pickens showcasing what made him such a hot name in the offseason would be a huge plus. This offense needs a spark, and Pickens has the size and athleticism to be that spark. He needs to become that big play threat that the Steelers envisioned he would be.
What will Trubisky look like?
It was a less than stellar debut for Mitch Trubisky in a Steelers debut. While not a liability, most of Trubisky’s passes were short, which limited the passing game. A lot of fans are unfairly calling for his head despite the fact that this was Trubisky’s first start in well over a season. Expectations shouldn’t have been that high, but better play overall is needed.
Another week in this offense, Trubisky should ideally be more settled down and comfortable as the quarterback. No one should be expecting Trubisky to become an elite player, but at the bare minimum, he needs to be more efficient. If he shows some improvements, all is well. That said, he needs to play better than he did last season.
Can the defense survive without Watt?
The Steelers got a relatively lucky break this week when they learned that despite a pec injury, T.J. Watt should return at some point this season. Watt was off to his usual ways against the Bengals as he was dominant in every facet before leaving with the aforementioned injury. With the offense still filled with questions, the defense will have to be able to hold up even with Watt missing time.
The Patriots head into this game knowing that Watt will miss time, and they will likely try and focus in on that and exploit it as a weakness. Unless the offense looks like a rejuvenated unit, this defense must find a way to hold up. The loss of Watt is huge, and the defense should be expected to regress some from their week one performance. That said, this team can’t implode even without their reigning defensive player of the year on the field.
Can Harris finally get going?
Let me be the first to say that I am nervous about Najee Harris right now. While a talented power runner, Harris looked extremely slow and plodding against the Bengals. I get it, he was playing behind a line that did him little favors, but he should have some expectations as a former first round pick to be able to somewhat overcome those issues.
Worse yet, Harris seemed to reinjure his foot last week. That could further limit his power and effectiveness as a player. I get that all of the issues in the run game don’t fall on him, but he was taken with the expectation of him becoming a bell cow and transforming the offense. He is heading into year two, and Harris may be further hampered now with his injury.
The Steelers found a way to win last week, but a new challenge in the Patriots is ready to take on Pittsburgh. No matter the outcome of this game, these four questions will be the focus of the team, as each of these will be vital to the team’s final outcome this Sunday.