The Steelers are set for their home opener against the Patriots, and here are some bold predictions for the game.
The Steelers enter week 2 with some bangs and bruises, but they still hope to defend their 1-0 record against the Patriots. While not the juggernaut of old, New England is still a well-coached team with the ability to win. This game should be easier on paper than last week, but the team shouldn’t be expecting a cakewalk against the Patriots.
The Patriots have a talented front seven and a talented pair of safeties. Their offense features a pair of talented and versatile running backs. They aren’t a perfect unit by any means, but they are still a team that has to be taken seriously. Here are four bold predictions for the Steelers as they take on the Patriots.
The struggles continue for Harris
It is really hard to like Najee Harris entering this game. After an absolutely miserable first week, he enters week two against a stout defensive line and still playing behind a porous Steelers offensive line. Add in a lingering foot injury and the odds of Harris having a strong game seems unlikely.
He looked slow and indecisive in week one, and none of that will improve this week now with a foot injury. The best way to get him involved early is in the passing game with the hopes that the running game eventually opens up. I think he struggles in every facet though, and even if he sees more touches, his average yards remain pedestrian.
Stevenson hurts the defense
The Steelers did a decent job of holding back a good Bengals offense in the first game. While Joe Mixon wasn’t horrible, he was mostly held in check on the day. What I’m watching for isn’t Damien Harris to have a huge day for the Patriots, but instead Rhamondre Stevenson. The second-year back was hyped as the pass-catching back, and I think he shows that off in this game.
The Patriots offense will likely be hampered due to the questions they have at quarterback. The passing game will likely focus on short and quick passes, and I see Stevenson being a quality target. The Steelers weren’t great covering the backs out of the backfield, and Stevenson is a better receiving back than what the team faced last week. I think he carves this defense up through the air.
Pickens gets a chance to shine
One of the biggest disappointments of the first game, rookie sensation George Pickens was very quiet. He only reeled in one catch for three yards and was mostly nonexistent on the offense. There has been a lot of talk about the team wanting to get Pickens more involved this week, and against a relatively weak Patriots cornerback room, I think he can pounce.
No, he doesn’t post monumental numbers, but Pickens looks good while on the field. This passing offense should be better this week, and I think the rookie makes the most of it. At the bare minimum, Pickens reclaims some of the hype that he had during the preseason and looks the part of a potential threat for the offense.
Highsmith proves he isn’t a fluke
One of the statistical highlights of the Steelers first game was Alex Highsmith. He recorded three sacks on the day and was regularly beating his man to get after the quarterback. To be fair, he did benefit from some of the other Steelers stars applying pressure. He had a good game, but I wouldn’t call it a true breakout yet.
He has a tall task this week as he will be playing without T.J. Watt. That said, I think Highsmith rises to the occasion and records another two sacks. He cements his status as a rising pass rusher and is a great compliment to this defense. Another solid day cements his potential rise to stardom, and I think he keeps the arrow trending upwards.
The Steelers have a tall task this week as they face off against the Patriots. With some new injuries, this game won’t be easy. Keep an eye on these four bold predictions as Pittsburgh takes on New England in their home opener.