By Jeremy Hritz
The NFL season is here! How great does it feel to read that? Hopefully as good as it feels to me to type it this beautiful Thursday morning. The Steelers are just a few short days away from their regular season opener, and the wait is agonizing, I understand. To help tide you over until gameday, enjoy my Steelers Study Notes for 9/9/21.
- TJ Watt finally practiced on Wednesday, giving Steelers Nation hope not only that he will play on Sunday, but that the signing of a new deal is imminent. On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin said three things: 1) that he expected Watt to practice on Wednesday, 2) that he expected him to play on Sunday, and 3) that he was optimistic Watt would get a deal done. Here’s hoping for the trifecta.
- Speaking of Watt, I have read some concerns about what he will be able to contribute on Sunday against the Bills having not participated in training camp and preseason fully. Dude is going to be the highest paid player in the NFL for a reason. He will be fine and he will perform well. Will he be in hitting shape? Probably not 100%, but we are talking elite NFL talent here.
- Gerry Dulac wrote in regards to Watt’s pending contract in his chat on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday: “No extension before Sunday but afterward.” Doesn’t this contradict the Steelers’ stance of not negotiating once the regular season begins? Dulac was also asked about his report that Watt would sign after the final preseason game to which he responded: “Well, I’ve been told by those who handle these things, sometimes strange things happen. And something not so strange happened.” What? Can someone interpret this for me?
- In regards of the Steelers injury report, Tyson Alualu sat Wednesday practice out with an elbow, while Alex Highsmith (groin) and Kendrick Green (thumb) were both limited. The Steelers need to be at full strength this weekend against the Bills, especially with Tuitt being out, so hopefully these gentlemen get right before Sunday.
- Can’t explain it, but I think Dan Moore, Jr. is about to explode on the NFL this weekend and make Kevin Colbert continue to look like a genius. There’s something special there. And when Zach Banner returns, it will be Chuks Okorafor in jeopardy of being benched, not Moore.
- Speaking of Moore, how special is this rookie class? Not sure I’ve been this encouraged by a group prior to the start of the season before.
- Anybody else remember how many players the Steelers were missing on defense last year against the Bills and how bad the running game was? Yeah, that’s not the case this weekend. Just saying.
- Big Ben commented that there will be growing pains early in the season for the offense with a new offensive coordinator and offensive line. Roethlisberger said the offense “may not be pretty,” but when have the Steelers ever been a team to win prettily? So I guess the ugly wins will be uglier? I like it.
- One last note to close out. The Steelers and the rest of the NFL played in mostly empty stadiums in 2020, but this year, there will be full crowds. The noise factor will assuredly require some adjustment. About the crowd noise, Roethlisberger said, “It’s going to be tough,” and that they were simulating it in practice. What better way to start the year than against a top-tier opponent in hostile territory with rabid and loud fans? Win this game, and make a serious statement that the Steelers will be competitive in 2021.
That is all for this Thursday, enjoy the NFL opener and have a great day!