By Jeremy Hritz
Happy Tuesday, Steel Studians! It’s been a minute, but I am back today with a new set of Steelers Study Notes. As preparations begin for the Los Angeles Chargers, here are some important updates, news, and reflections on all things Pittsburgh Steelers. Enjoy!
- COVID is having its first impact of the 2021 season on the Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger missing last week’s game against the Lions, and Minkah Fitzpatrick missing the Sunday Night contest vs. the Chargers. For Los Angeles, it was recently announced that starters Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery have been placed on the COVID list, and it doesn’t appear they will play Sunday Night either. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of things to come, and that COVID has made its final appearance in black and gold for this season.
- There are several injuries for the Steelers that could impact this team this weekend, specifically Joe Haden, TJ Watt, and Chase Claypool. While there is the possibility for all of them to play, there is still uncertainty. The Steelers will need all of the help they can get to beat a solid Chargers team on the West Coast this weekend.
- Mike Tomlin indicated in his press conference that they are building the game plan around Mason Rudolph this weekend in the event that Roethlisberger cannot go. While the Steelers can win with Rudolph, Roethlisberger, limitations and all, gives them their best chance at victory. And yes, in terms of quarterbacks, the Steelers will be in the market for one next season, either through free agency or the draft.
- Kevin Dotson will be out this weekend, opening the door for BJ Finney, JC Hassenauer, or Joe Haeg. Hate to see the continuity disrupted, but experience and reps for the OL depth could prove valuable late in the season if it is called upon.
- I have been critical of James Pierre, so credit where credit is due: Pierre played very well on Sunday. Can he develop into an eventual full-time starter for this team?
- Was the offseason social media nonsense and poor preseason play an omen for Devin Bush’s abysmal play this season? Bush has been a major disappointment following his ACL injury, as he was being counted on for bolstering the interior run defense. What makes this so confounding is that he was very effective his first two season. While I continue to hold out hope that this is an anomaly, with every passing game, he becomes more Jarvis Jones-esque.
- Want a reason to be optimistic, despite all of the injuries and uncertainty surrounding Ben? The Chargers run defense is ranked as the worst in the league. Yes, worse than Detroit, and if the Steelers can get Najee Harris going, they can land the win. Note to Matt Canada: pound the run with Najee. Repeat. Then repeat again.
- Want a reason to be pessimistic for Sunday? Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams. The Steelers could be without Watt, Haden, and Fitzpatrick this weekend, and this has been a team that has struggled on defense in the second half in recent weeks. Going to take a herculean effort and players elevating their game significantly for the Steelers to have a chance. They are not built for a shoot-out.
- In case you are wondering, if the playoffs started today, the Steelers would be travelling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in a Wild Card match-up. With the way this season has gone, I’d take the opportunity in a heartbeat.
That is all for today! Make a it a great day!