The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for their second straight victory to start the season. Here’s what they must do to defeat the New England Patriots in Week 2.
After a huge Week 1 win against the Cincinnati Bengals, fans were interested to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers were still underdogs in Week 2 against the New England Patriots despite this game being at home. Not only did Mike Tomlin’s team pull off the win last week, but the Patriots managed just 7 points and are playing their second consecutive road game to begin the season.
The defenses for both teams looked pretty strong in Week 1, but the offenses were among the worst in the league in the season opener. This game promises to be a slugfest and could be a battle of field possession with limited trips in the red zone. Here are the keys to victory for the Steelers against the Patriots in Week 2:
Steelers defense must slow down the run
There isn’t one particular star player the Steelers will need to focus on in this contest. After playing a Bengals team loaded with top-notch skill players, the Patriots are just the opposite. But don’t underestimate how valuable their rushing attack could be in this game.
In Week 1, the Dolphins held RB Rhamondre Stevenson in check (8 carries for 25 yards), but starting running back Damien Harris rushed for 5.3 yards per carry, via ESPN stats. If the Patriots get off to an early lead, they can rely heavily on the run game. The Steelers need to be proactive when it comes to stacking the box and making sure the Patriots can’t get comfortable here. I would much rather they make Mac Jones beat them through the air than surrender big chunks of yardage on the ground.
Steelers must utilize the middle of the field on offense
This was a huge issue in Week 1, and I blame both Mitch Trubisky and Matt Canada. Though Trubisky did take enough shots down the field, they were typically 50/50 balls on go routes down the sidelines. Meanwhile, the middle of the field was barely utilized. In fact, Trubisky threw just three passes beyond 8 yards over the middle of the field, according to Next Gen Stats — and one of those was on a free play.
At the same time, Canada needs to run more passing concepts that open up the middle of the field for Trubisky, as Diontae Johnson and George Pickens weren’t utilized here nearly enough. Steelers won’t have success through the air again this week if every pass is near the line of scrimmage or to the sidelines.
Steelers must run the ball more effectively
This one is much easier said than done. While the pass protection held up well enough last week, the run blocking was very poor. However, there were also a few missed opportunities by Steelers running backs upon examining the all-22 film.
Though Chase Claypool was an asset in this department, both Najee Harris and backup RB Jaylen Warren rushed for 2.3 yards per carry. This simply isn’t good enough to help sustain any time of offense or move the chains. Even with a slightly banged-up Najee this week, the Steelers are going to need to be more efficient on the ground if they want to win this week.
Mike Tomlin can’t expect five takeaways on defense each week to bail his offense out of trouble. If the Pittsburgh Steelers are able to do these three things this week, they stand a terrific chance of defeating the Patriots on their own turf and advancing to 2-0 on the season.