Have you felt that giant exhale this week like I have? What that feeling means is that the regular season is finally here. Our Pittsburgh Steelers made it through the preseason with few serious injuries and only one incredibly stupid act by the “Bong Brothers.”
For now, that stuff is in the past and the regular season begins Sunday in Heinz Field against the hated Cleveland Browns. Everything about this game screams a Steelers’ victory. The team is 7-1 in home openers at Heinz Field and is 3-1 in home openers under Mike Tomlin.
None of that will matter to either team entering this game. What will matter are the three things we need to see on Sunday from the Steelers.
1. Who ever wins the running game wins the game. The only reason this isn’t necessarily true is because Ben Roethlisberger has proven he can wins games with his arm. That said, the numbers don’t lie. Pittsburgh finished dead-last in rushing during the preseason while the Browns finished 18th.
Defensively, the Steelers were 30th in the NFL in rush yards allowed while the Browns were 14th. You can tell me about these being just preseason numbers all you want to, but you are what you are and right now, Cleveland holds a solid advantage when it comes to running and stopping the run.
2. No ‘no-huddle’ means No Success. It’s been well-documented that the Steelers’ offense has clearly performed better in the no-huddle offense under Todd Haley than in the traditional offense. Ben Roethlisberger plays better and the team responds better, this isn’t a secret.
The problem in my opinion is that Haley often likes to go away from the no-huddle and I believe it hurts the flow of the offense. The Steelers have to take advantage of the no-huddle and keep the aggressive Browns’ defense from being able to substitute players, especially along the D-line. Not only does this help with the passing attack but it will also create running room as the defense tires.
3. Special Teams Have to Be Special. Let’s be honest; the Steelers’ special teams’ units have struggled in recent years and that cannot continue with all the changes on defense. Brad Wing has to be consistent with both his distance and his placement of punts. The further the Browns have to start back in their own territory the better.
We have serious concerns about Shaun Suisham who looked very inconsistent in the preseason despite his new contract. With a history of bogging down in the red zone, Suisham has to deliver when called upon.
Lastly, Dri Archer and Antonio Brown will handle the punt return duties. This is the first time Archer will be doing this in a regular season game and he cannot afford poor decisions. Letting the ball hit the turf will be a major no-no as field position is critical.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on Trib-Live Radio
photo courtesy redright88.com