By Jeremy Hritz
OK. Celebration time is over. Time to get back to work.
This Sunday, it is the Las Vegas Raiders who will be traveling to Heinz Field on Sunday for a 1:00 PM battle, and the Steelers have a great opportunity to begin the season not just 2-0, but 2-0 in the AFC, and to build momentum towards a serious push for the postseason. Sure, it is only week 2, but stacking wins early is critical, especially with the most brutal part of the schedule waiting for the team at the end of the season. With that said, here are my Steelers Study Notes for Tuesday, September 14th.
- I was a bit hard on the offensive line following the game, though they truly did not play well. The thing to remember about the OL is that a) they are young and b) they are inexperienced. This unit will get better, and around week 4 or 5 of the season, we should see growth. If we don’t, then it may be time to worry.
- While the whole OL did not play well yesterday, Chukwuma Okorafor was the most guilty of offenders in playing poorly. His bad play is a carryover from last season, and he hasn’t shown anything, preseason or week 1, to give any belief that he can improve. Mike Tomlin has a habit of standing by his players and giving them a chance to prove themselves, and I believe he will do just that with Okorafor. However, if he does not pan out, the right tackle position could be in trouble. Who knows if Zach Banner can get, stay healthy, or even be effective as a starter? Considering that, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Steelers sign a free agent or coordinate a trade.
- Alex Kozora from Steelers Depot offered up the General Joe Haeg on episode #19 as a potential starter at RT if the team wanted to bolster the running game. Could the Steelers be giving him a long look this week?
- Beyond Haeg, there really is no viable option, other than Chaz Green who is on the practice squad, but he would make Okorafor look like an All-Pro. Team needs some real help here.
- On second watch, the Steelers wide receiver room is outstanding. While nobody is the freakish size-speed combo (OK, maybe you can argue Chase Claypool), with all of their unique talents combined, when hitting on all cylinders, they can be remarkable. Once this running game gets going and the TEs continue to get involved, this group of receivers could really make some noise. Quietly a strength of this team.
- Nice to see Zach Gentry get some snaps. And yes, he caught a pass. Even though it was for negative yards. Looking for him to grow in his game and become a steady contributor in the run blocking game.
- No snaps for Bennie Snell at RB yesterday. Najee Harris got the full load. Some Steelers writers are criticizing this, but this is why he was drafted. Feed him the ball and let him find a rhythm.
- Wow, that defense is good. The pass rush was simply incredible, and I am excited to see more of TJ Watt, Melvin Ingram, and Alex Highsmith getting after the quarterback. The linebackers all around played an excellent game against a Super Bowl-caliber team in a hostile environment and still held strong. Don’t overlook the fact that the Steelers did this ON THE ROAD.
- Cameron Sutton was exceptional, and I’m not sure Steven Nelson ever played that strong of a game during his time with the Steelers. While only one game, you have to be encouraged by his play and be excited about what he will contribute throughout the season.
- I’m going to begin watching tape on the Raiders today, so I’ll have a better feel for what the team will present on Sunday. They beat the Ravens in Las Vegas, 33-27 in overtime, in a game that Derek Carr threw for 435 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, The Steelers have to be ready for such a passing attack, but the OLBs should have plentiful opportunities to get after the QB.
That is all for Tuesday! Make it a great day!