Random Steelers Observations: Week 3 edition
Greetings and salutations, SCN family. It’s time for some more of my random thoughts and observations about our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, after their second victory in a row. Now the Steelers head to Texas to take on the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon. I fully expect Steelers Nation to turn yet another stadium into a home game for the good guys wearing black and gold.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of my thoughts and observations after the Steelers exciting road victory over the Raiders in Sin City. Apparently some things that happen in Vegas don’t necessarily stay in Vegas. I feel like I am breaking some type of unwritten rule or something.
- Quick question: Am I the only person who had never heard of the NFL’s Way to Play Award until the Steelers ILB Cole Holcomb was given the distinction for his beautifully vicious but perfectly legal hit on Davante Adams Sunday night. It really was a picture perfect example of how to separate a superstar receiver from the ball. At least one defender had a pass defense against Adams in the game.
- Speaking of picture perfect plays, fellow inside backer Mark Robinson had one of his own. Robinson instinctively read the run, and filled the lane. Then he showed the exceptional lateral quickness necessary to shadow the runner, prior to stuffing the play with a form tackle. The play gave us another glimpse at the young man’s special potential, and he is in a optimal position to improve learning from the more experienced players ahead of him on the depth chart.
- More defensive love to share. Keannu Benton tallied the first QB sack of his NFL career, after a beautiful club and swim move. Benton reminds me more of Cameron Heyward by the week. He is not a quick twitch athlete, but he is a great athlete all around. Benton moves like a much smaller man, and he flows through traffic effortlessly. His strength is unmistakable, and his hand usage belies his rookie status. I truly believe that he is the next Steelers standout defensive lineman.
- The Steelers have only scratched the surface on Calvin Austin’s immense potential. He is a splash play waiting to happen. He needs the ball, early and often, in open spaces. Austin would be a lethal weapon in the hands of an offensive coordinator capable of creatively getting him the football. The Steelers need to move him around the formations pre-snap, searching for favorable matchups. This will accomplish two objectives; forcing defenses to show their hand, and reducing the number of stacked boxes, because Austin’s speed must be accounted for every play.
- Speaking of capable offensive coordinators, will someone please introduce Matt Canada to Darnell Washington. Washington’s lack of usage in the passing game is maddening. Canada utilized former Steelers TE Zach Gentry, who ran like a baby giraffe, more than he is calling plays for the athletic Washington. Washington obviously isn’t a wide receiver, because he would have already pitched a fit and threw some Gatorade coolers by now.
- Speaking of receivers, George Pickens looks more like a WR1 by the week. He obviously worked hard this past offseason to improve his route running, and expand his route tree. It’s always encouraging to witness any young player realize the value of hard work. That is another step towards maturity for the supremely talented young man, which may very well be his last hurdle to reach superstar status.
- I saw a tweet earlier today that stated Patrick Peterson moved into the Top 10 cornerbacks this season, but I didn’t pay attention to who was doing the rankings. Truthfully, I was expecting more from Peterson by this point of the regular season. To be fair, I am more disappointed by his usage. He has no control over that aspect of his performance. That falls on Teryl Austin. I was expecting more creative coverages, mixing in more press man with their tried and true zone concepts. Therefore I was expecting more Peterson and Porter, and less Wallace. It hasn’t happened yet, but it needs to for the Steelers defense to reach it’s full capabilities.
- Mason Cole had possibly his worst game as a Steeler Sunday night. Sometimes when you try to do too much, you end up doing very little. I believe all the stacked boxes are getting in the offensive line’s psyche more than a little bit. Cole was excellent on combination blocking last season, but he seems unsure this year. On one occasion, he was late to react to power over his nose, and ended up planted firmly on his backside, looking straight up at the ceiling. Cole isn’t a power player, but he is solid in all other aspects. I believe that Cole and company just need a little sustained success to find their rhythm and chemistry.
- Kenny Pickett is still finding his footing as the unquestioned starting QB for the Steelers. This is totally predictable 16 starts into his NFL career. His internal clock has sped up due to all the internal pressure he has faced this season. Not just internal pressures, as Pickett has been the most pressured QB in the league this season. That results in shaky confidence, and zero comfort within the pocket, negatively impacting his progressions. Trust me when I say this, no quarterback can enjoy sustained success with consistent pressure up the middle. It’s a recipe for disaster, starting with injuries.
- The Steelers defensive line has to be licking their chops, salivating over playing a Texans offensive line that has been decimated by injuries. Even better, former Steeler Kendrick Green is a starting guard for the Texans. The Steelers know Green’s strengths and notable weaknesses better than anybody. I expect Larry Ogunjobi and Keannu Benton to turn Green’s day into a living nightmare on Sunday. I harbor no ill will towards the young man, and hopefully he finds success in Houston, but definitely not this week. This week he is the enemy.
- Lastly, the Steelers have a great record against rookie starting QBs, going all the way back to the Dick LeBeau glory days. That impressive trend needs to continue on Sunday. Pressure C.J. Stroud early and often, never allowing him to find his rhythm or feel comfortable in the pocket. That may require Teryl Austin to step out of his comfort zone, and play more aggressive coverages. Don’t let the youngster build his confidence and timing with easy pitch and catch opportunities, or be prepared for another unnecessarily stressful game.