Steelers will look to establish their own running game
Pittsburgh fell behind early to San Francisco and could never really try to establish its running game, a point of emphasis down the stretch last season. The Steelers rushed just 10 times for 41 yards the entire game, and that total included Najee Harris’ 24-yard run on their only scoring drive of the contest.
Pickett struggled in the opener, despite a final stat line that said he was 31-of-46 for 232 yards and a touchdown. He tossed two interceptions and was sacked five times. The second-year signal caller is going to have to play better Monday night.
Tomlin recently pointed out in his weekly press conference that he felt as if the Browns’ cornerbacks — Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome — were the difference in the game against the Bengals. He cited their ability to stand up the receivers at the line of scrimmage and basically take away Joe Burrow’s favorite targets.
One of Pickett’s favorite targets, wide receiver Diontae Johnson, is out for an unknown period of time after suffering a hamstring injury against the 49ers. So, combine that with the presence of Ward and Newsome, and it’s not hard to imagine offensive coordinator Matt Canada coming up with a heavy run package for this game.
This may be the game that the Steelers really focus on using “12” personnel, with one back and two tight ends. While starting tight end Pat Freiermuth is recovering from a bruised chest, he is expected to play. Even so, they could still elect to give rookie Darnell Washington more playing time. Washington blocked well against the 49ers and could be called on to do the same against the likes of Browns’ defensive ends Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith.
Establishing the running game will be a tough assignment, especially considering Steelers’ right tackle Chuks Okorafor is in concussion protocol treatment. If he’s not able to go, left tackle Dan Moore, Jr. will move over to the right side, and first-round draft pick Broderick Jones will get his first career start at left tackle.