Critical questions the Steelers must answer vs Buccaneers
The Steelers are in a free fall, and if they want to have any chance at winning, they will have to answer these questions against the Buccaneers.
It has been about as ugly of a start to the season as the Steelers have seen in recent memory. Injuries to stars and poor play across the board have caused the team to limp to a mediocre 1-4 start, and things don’t get easier this week against the Buccaneers. While not off to an amazing start, Tampa Bay is still a formidable foe.
While the odds seem thin that the team can actually pull out a win this week, the NFL is always primed for upsets. If the Steelers want to have any chance at getting back into the win column though, there are some important issues that will have to be addressed. Here are the four questions the Steelers must answer if they want a chance to win this week against the Buccaneers.
Can Chase Claypool show up
One of the largest falls from graces a Steelers has had in recent years has to be Chase Claypool. The former second-round pick was a dynamic threat as a rookie but underwhelmed as a sophomore. Now, with a move into the slot as a potential mismatch, there was hope that he would rebound. To this point, that hasn’t been the case.
He hasn’t utilized his size and athleticism at all even when he has faced off against smaller defenders in the slot. His lack of production is concerning, as he is a distant third option as a receiver and is likely one of the last reads on most plays. He needs to get back on track soon, as his play this season has been mediocre at best.
Can the Steelers get the run game going
One of the biggest hopes for the Steelers this season was that even with a new offense, they would have a capable rushing attack to rely on. Najee Harris was drafted in the first round last year with that situation in mind. Instead, Harris has played even worse in his second year, as he has found a way to be even more inefficient than how he looked as a rookie.
With the line steadily improving every game, the team needs to get a stable ground game going. A rookie quarterback can’t be expected to throw as much as he did last week and it leads to a win. At this point, this doesn’t fall on just Harris either. Jaylen Warren has been effective in limited usage. Getting him more touches could be what this team needs to jumpstart this run game.
Can the Steelers sendoff Tom Brady properly
A thorn in the side of Steelers fans for years, Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career is winding down. With him now in the NFC, this is likely the last time he will play against Pittsburgh. While the team has had some good games against him, it has been a mostly one-sided rivalry. This is the last chance for this team to exert some revenge on Brady.
It all starts with pressure. Brady was never a mobile quarterback, to begin with, but he is almost a statue now at his age. Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward need to find a way to get some pressure on Brady. Elsewhere, the defensive backs need to compose themselves. Brady doesn’t make many mistakes but capitalizing on any that are made will be key.
Can the rookies get in the endzone?
The Steelers offense hasn’t been a bright spot for this team as a whole, but a pair of rookies are making some noise. Kenny Pickett, while far from perfect, has been a bit of a spark to an otherwise dormant offense. Since he has become the starter, he has also aided in the target share of George Pickens, who now looks like the Steelers best receiver.
The issue is, neither of these rookies have found the endzone through the air. While Pickett recorded a pair of rushing scores in his debut, he needs to get into the endzone through the air. Ideally, these two rookies benefit off of each other and can solve this issue together. Week six seems like a great time for both of these rookies to get their first scores through the air.
The Steelers need to find a way to get back into the winning column. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers don’t pose an easy team to get that win against. If this team wants to have any shot at winning this week, they will need to answer these four questions.