Critical questions the Steelers must answer vs the Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren (30) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren (30) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers are facing a beatable Saints team off their bye week, and here are four questions the team needs to answer on Sunday.

The Steelers had an active bye week, as they welcomed a new cornerback, shipped off Chase Claypool, and, ideally, worked on some of their lackluster game plans. Back on the grind now, the team is desperate for a win heading into their matchup with the Saints. Luckily for them, New Orleans is a very beatable team.

That said, this team has a lot to prove before anyone should be getting behind them. Pittsburgh was preaching change before the bye week, but the offense and defense seemed to remain consistent despite the poor results. A win this week in no way changes the current outlook of this team. With all of that said, here are four questions the Steelers must answer this week.

Can Watt make an impact?

The Steelers lost T.J. Watt at the end of their first game, and the defense hasn’t been the same since. While there have been good performances and a few key quality players, Watt is a true difference-maker on this team. As of this writing, he hasn’t been cleared to play yet, but the odds seem to favor him getting back on the field.

Assuming he does, even if it is on a snap count, can he get this defense back on track? They were a great unit in week one against the Bengals, but the lack of a consistent pass rush since then has hurt them. The secondary is a mess right now, so having a force on both sides of the defense coming after the quarterback would be ideal.

How are the new-look Steelers receivers?

A move for the future was made during the bye week when Claypool was dealt for a second-round pick to the Bears. While this was a great move for a team with little to play for this season, it does leave a massive hole at slot receiver. This team will have to get creative in order to keep this unit productive moving forward.

Personally, I am all for Steven Sims working out of the slot primarily. I think his skill set is best suited there. As well, I expect the other starters to move around more to create different looks for defenses to match up against. I do expect some early miscues as this group adjusts to the new faces, but I think overall the receivers will be fine moving forward without Claypool.

What changes have the Steelers made?

I am not upset that the Steelers are having a down year overall. As a fan, I want them to win, but expecting some struggles after the retirement of your franchise quarterback is common sense. What has me upset is that despite struggling, this team is stagnant in their ways. They tried to add band-aids in the offseason and are sticking to the same script during this season.

The bye week was a perfect time to make some changes, but this team is mostly the same heading into the second half of the season. Matt Canada is still around, and if his offense is the same on Sunday, I will be furious. Some sort of change needed to be made during the bye week. I hope we see in against the Saints.

Is Warren actually the guy moving forward?

Everyone is hyping up Jaylen Warren heading into this game, and for good reason. His play has been solid so far, and more importantly, Najee Harris has been abysmal as a weapon for this team. Some vague comments from the team seem to indicate that he will get more opportunities going forward, and he may even become the starter.

While I have been a fan of Warren and believe he deserves more snaps, I’m curious just how true these comments are. The team is adamantly behind Harris given his draft status, and I doubt they are ready to send him to the bench. As well, Warren becoming the bell cow means he will face more stacked boxes. Can he make this run game better? Is the team truly done with Harris? All of these questions will be vital on Sunday.

Must Read. Steelers players who need more snaps following the bye week. light

The Steelers are fresh off their bye week and are desperate for a win. That said, there are quite a few issues in front of them that have to be addressed before this team can expect better results. All of these questions will be key for the team in week nine.