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Always a pleasure to hear from you, @lillloyd . IMO there's plenty of reason for Steelers fans to be optimistic about this game. Early is always the best time to catch New England, and that should be doubly true this year with an offense that hasn't played together before, even in preseason. And the Pittsburgh defense is a heck of a baptism by fire for the Karras & Wynn offensive line.

That said, top to bottom this team looks as good as any I've ever seen.


Not the kind of guy to say I told you so ... Supporter
Happy Antonio Brown Week! FWIW, my delight in watching the AB circus finally implode is somewhat tempered by the fact that I've resigned myself to AB winning the next 3 Super Bowls with the Pats.

I took last year off from this space (one calendar year technically, but for the record all Steelers fans aged about 50 years), but I'm back now as I am a glutton for punishment. As always, looking forward to football talk - if you want trash talk that's cool but I'm not really that guy.

Without further ado:


All the spotlight seems to be on the Patriots and Steelers *offenses* and how they'll cope with changes, losing Gronk / AB etc. is a bit of a shame since both teams should arguably field their best *defenses* in years.

As they say "it all starts up front", and that is particularly true for Pittsburgh. Heyward is a given, and Watt's development over the back half of 2018 makes me think he has a real shot at 15+ sacks this year. Javon Hargrave at the nose is an ascending player with exceptional quickness that I fear will be lost to FA next year. But the real key here is the health and development of two veterans, Stephon Tuitt and Bud Dupree. Tuitt can be dominant if he can just stay healthy, and Dupree is in a contract year and has shown signs that the light bulb just *might* finally be coming on for him.

To have any chance in Foxboro, this unit will have to dominate the Andrews-less Pats front. On paper this seems possible, but Scars' units are always much better than the sum of their parts.

Much has been made of the addition of Devin Bush, who has been breathtaking in the preseason, and I have no doubt that long-term he will be a major asset to the defense. But IMO it's asking too much to have a rookie calling out the defenses against a BB/TB-led offense, so expect more of Vince Williams and Mark Barron on the inside. No doubt NE understands this and will scheme up ways to get Williams isolated in pass defense, which is a major advantage to the Pats. Barron is a major upgrade over Jon Bostic in terms of athleticism and speed (the speed at ILB is night and day vs last year), but Barron's pedigree as a former safety doesn't really translate as well as I would have thought to actual coverage skills. So Pitt should still be vulnerable underneath. But as run defenders, the team speed improvement provided by Barron and Bush is very significant on anything run outside the tackles.

On the back end, the major upgrade isn't so much the signing of Steve Nelson (although to be fair, anyone is an upgrade to the mess at that CB position last year), as it is the substantial year 2 improvement from safety Terell Edmunds, who has tremendous range and seems to be processing things much faster. There is improved depth as well, but this is by no stretch an elite defensive backfield. The hope is that they won't have to be - perhaps they can get away with merely being average, if the front 7 plays to its potential.

A key injury to Sean Davis puts Kameron Kelly into a starting role. I'm not particularly high on Davis, and Kelly has been terrific in camp, but not having a starter on the back end is no way to go into New England. I'm sure Kelly will be targeted early and often.

FWIW, expect a ton of man coverage from the defense - thankfully the days of rolling out zones for Brady to pick apart seem to be over.


"Addition by subtraction"...hmm. We'll see. "Mr Big Chest" was All-World when he was actually on the field. There is no replacing that kind of talent, but you could do worse than having JuJu sliding into the #1 role.

The main question at wideout is how do all of these guys fit together? JuJu does a ton of damage from the slot, but he may be asked to work more outside this year. Pittsburgh plays about 70% of its snaps out of 3-wide alignments, so regardless of pecking order you'll see Donte Moncrief and James Washington on the field with JuJu most of the time, which would theoretically allow JuJu to remain more in the slot where he's most comfortable. There's probably no bigger wildcard to the Pittsburgh offense than Washington, who was again lights-out during the preseason. If he can become a viable, consistent weapon as a downfield threat, a lot of the sting will be taken out of AB's departure...if he can't, it's hard to imagine Pittsburgh's offense coming anywhere near its previous explosiveness.

Pitt also returns what is, on paper, one of the top OL units in the game intact. It's a deep and talented group with multiple Pro Bowlers. But there are still significant questions here - how will the unit respond to the departure of the beloved Mike Munchak - Pittsburgh's version of Scars? And why did such a talented unit struggle at times in producing successful run rates? Pitt doesn't need to run the ball often to create 'balance' (they run screens and short passes more than just about any team in the league, which are almost extended run plays)...but they do need to run well when they decide to run it. This is particularly true in this game, as I expect the Pats to bracket JuJu and force the Steelers to either beat them with their (largely unproven) secondary wideouts, or patiently move the ball down the field with the run game. (Patience has never been Ben's forte.)

James Conner is of course not Le'Veon Bell...but Bell was gone all last year and Conner was plenty good in his own right. Watch for Jaylen Samuels to get a fair amount of work to spell Conner and in particular on 3rd down, where he is terrific out of the backfield.

Vance McDonald is great when on the field, and I expect a lot of AB's target share to go to him...provided he can stay healthy (no given). Pitt's TE depth behind the Vanimal is pretty piss-poor.

Last but not least - Ben is Ben. There are a lot of media narratives about his play that are lazy and outdated. For instance, he got the ball out faster on average than every QB in the league last year - he is not the 'hang on to the ball, run around the pocket until someone comes open' guy anymore. On the flip side, Roethlisberger had a reputation for one of the game's very best deep ball throwers - well-deserved, I might add, in prior years) - but he had a truly down year in this respect in 2018. FWIW, Ben's record against Brady is well-documented, but the reality is that Ben typically plays extremely well against the Patriots (our defense, not so much).

Coaching / Intangibles

I've said this many times on this forum - I believe BB and the NE coaching staff translate to about a touchdown in just about every game they play. It's not a slight to Pittsburgh's coaching staff to say NE is superior here; it's simply a fact (one which true pretty much against any team NE faces).

What's interesting here is that it's possible that this advantage is minimized somewhat by the fact that there is no game tape yet on the 2019 Steelers. It's a wild game in that respect - there have been significant changes to both teams, and there's no telling what approach either style will take with their new chess pieces.

On Pittsburgh's end, Tomlin & Co. are a good coaching staff. They get a lot of crap but ultimately it's been a well-coached team; they've just had the misfortune of working in the dynastic Patriots era, and everyone falls short of that measuring stick. I don't know how much to buy into the 'less is more' kumbaya stuff, but it does seem to be a very focused team that is (finally) without internal distractions.


Picking against the Patriots at home is folly, and doing so when raising banners in front of a raucous crowd is doubly so.

That all said, I don't expect a Patriots blowout; I think the combination of this being the first game (where the Pats are probably most vulnerable) and the improvement in the Pitt D makes this a nailbiter, with neither team really seizing control of the game. and the Patriots having to work through some nervous moments. I expect the defenses to look better than the offenses for a good portion of the game, until things open up towards the end - particularly for the Patriots, who should eventually be able to isolate problematic matchups (Kelly, Nelson, Williams) on the Steelers D.

Pats 23, Steelers 20

Best of luck for a well-played and injury-free game!
I think Bush (my 2019 LB1) might be the most important add or player on your D. Barron for that matter too but it looks like he is what he is at thie point. Just can't cover lol. Teams just targeted the hell outta Williams/Bostic tho. We did, KC did, really amyone w a capable QB although your Df they play well, particularly Bush making a smooth jump, could really take that F7 to the next level.

Mike the Brit

Minuteman Target Supporter
Great to hear from you, lillloyd, as always, and what you say makes sense.

Pats fans have had enough experience of over-confidence coming off a banner raising and the strengths of the Steelers (O-line, defensive front 7, Roethlisberger (however much I dislike him, he's a vet quarterback who can make smart plays)) are undeniable. Hard game to predict, but I hope it's well played, well reffed and with no injuries.


In the Starting Line-Up
24-13 Patriots win.

Karras plays better than expected due to Scar’s Marine Corps pixie dust. We run decently between the tackles, which opens up play action.

AB says Hi to several key Pittsburgh players before the game. Like their QB. Unsettling to Roethlisberger.


Football Atheist Supporter
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
Welcome back @lillloyd . I had 27-23 Pats in a close one that features defense early. It's the take that makes most sense.

You've got a tough division this year, and whoever wins might be a 9-7 team doing so. I know people are penciling us in at 16-0, but September. If we can get past you guys, I feel better about 14-2 maybe.

Appreciate the Steelers breakdown! Solid as always
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