By Jeremy Hritz
Practice begins today for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they begin to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks. While some would argue this is not a must-win game because it is against an NFC opponent, if the Steelers want to have any shot at a postseason berth, they have to secure the victory this Sunday night against a wounded team that is ranked dead last in the NFL on defense. Check out my thoughts on this and more in today’s Steelers Study Notes.
- Seattle’s defense is ranked 32nd in the NFL, and this could be an opportunity for the Steelers offense to build more momentum and experience success as they head into their bye week. The Seahawks are giving up over 140 yards on the ground each game, in addition to over 300 yards in the air. And to top it off, a journeyman QB who hasn’t started a game in ages will be taking over for the outstanding Russell Wilson. If ever there was an opportunity for the Steelers, Sunday Night is it.
- Just don’t blow it. We have seen the big letdown games in the Tomlin-era, and that just cannot happen this weekend.
- Najee Harris is currently on pace for a 1000-yard season, 1043 to be exact; however, if he continues to have games like he did against the Broncos, he will eclipse that numbers, and there is great potential for him this weekend to have a massive outing. Could be a big day for the rookie.
- There is no question the injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster is sad, and it is unfortunate to see his season end with such an injury. At the same time, this is a tremendous opportunity for James Washington to showcase his skills and abilities, especially considering this is the final year of his contract. Washington was reported to be dissatisfied with his role over the summer, wanting more opportunities, and now he will finally get them. Don’t be surprised if he elevates his game to another level and becomes a go-to for Ben Roethlisberger over these final 12 games.
- The Steelers will soon have a dilemma on their hands at offensive line when Zach Banner returns. Chuks Okorafor played well this past Sunday, keeping Von Miller off of the stat sheet, and Dan Moore started to put his promise into practice on the field. So what happens when Banner does return? Does Okorafor shift to left tackle? Does Moore go to the bench? Or does Banner wait his turn until he is needed? There is something to be said for continuity, and I would not disrupt the newly found chemistry of the offensive line until there is a need.
- Please, no more carries for Bennie Snell. I used to pound the table for Snell, despite his lack of a second gear as a runner, but now, he is prone to mistakes and has been a drive killer. While Kalen Ballage didn’t fare much better, the Steelers should find out what they have in him as a runner, and when Anthony McFarland returns, give him the bulk of the additional carries.
- If the Steelers are able to defeat Seattle heading into the bye week, they will be in excellent position to go on a little run. Their most difficult game will be against the Browns on Halloween following their bye, but after that they have the Bears and the Lions. If they can sneak the game against the Browns, the trajectory and narrative of this season will completely change.
- More than likely, Devin Bush will not play this weekend, so Robert Spillane will get the hat. Bush will be needed if this defense is to play at a high-level.
- Finally, I have been super impressed with the play of both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool the last two weeks, and I fully expect them to continually get better as the season goes on. They now have an opportunity with Smith-Schuster out to be the focal point of the passing attack and to create more big plays, which I believe they will do. Both players are capable of splash, and I believe we are going to see more of that this weekend.
That is all for this Wednesday! Make it a great day!