The Steelers face their arch rival in week one of the 2019 season. Fans of the team will have to hold their noses (and lunches) as the Patriots will be celebrating the sixth Super Bowl trophy of the Brady/Belichick era before the game. Here are some not so sickening predictions for the game Sunday night:
No distractions: I’d be remiss if i didn’t mention one thing off their top. This a new Steelers team, a different type of team. There will be no holdouts, no drug suspensions, no Facebook live incidents…..How good does that sound Steelers fans?
Ju Ju can expect plenty of company: One thing Bill Belichick will not do is leave Ju Ju Smith Schuster one on one at any point during this game. Throughout his coaching career Belichick has had one simple mantra, take away his opponents best option. Someone not named Ju Ju will have to step up in a big way in the passing game on Sunday night.
Look for lots of runs for New England: All the talk of how this is the fastest, and most athletic defense the Steelers have had in some time will not go unnoticed by New England. The best way to counter this type of defense is to run power right at it. The Patriots did this with great success throughout their post season run last year. Look for more of the same in this upcoming game.
Forget the sacks, stop the run: Piggybacking on the previous point, the Steelers run defense may very well be the key to this game. We know this team can rush the passer, but stopping the run has been problematic for this defense at times. The Steelers talented front of Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave need to focus as much on stopping Sony Michel as they do on getting after Tom Brady.
James Conner the receiver will be key: The Patriots linebackers are less than athletic to be kind. Couple that with the fact that their safeties are likely to be busy doubling on Ju Ju, and you have a recipe for James Conner to have a big day catching balls out of the backfield. Screens, dump-offs, and even the occasional motioning out wide should all be in Randy Fichtner’s plans this week.
Kam Kelly will be picked on: Six months ago, Kam Kelly was playing in the AAF. Sunday night he will be the starting safety against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This could be the weakness the Patriots will be looking for. Look for lots of multiple wide receiver sets to test how well the Steelers secondary reacts with an inexperienced safety in the defensive backfield. Mr. Kelly should be a very busy man Sunday night, for the Steelers sake he better be up for the task.
Rusty Ben: It took a long time for Ben Roethlisberger to get going week one last season, and that was WITH Antonio Brown. This year he has no such luxury at wide receiver. It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenarios during the pre-season. You don’t want to play Roehtlisberger too much during the pre-season and risk an unnecessary injury. On the other hand, the lack or work can make the offense sluggish out of the gate. Hopefully the defense can keep the game close until Ben can find his rhythm. The last thing you want to do is play catch up in Foxboro. That never ends well for any team.
Patriots will run hurry up offense often: What better way to test the Steelers communication on defense and their stamina? Kieth Butler has been abysmal in substituting players on defense during regular play, never mind during hurry up offense. The fact that this game is on the road only makes things worse. This is something that hopefully the Steelers have spent a good deal of time preparing for.
Steelers will take multiple deep shots: This is where Donte Moncrief will earn his money. He is sure to see single coverage through the entire game. The Steelers need him to exploit this in a big way. If the Steelers can hit some deep shots early, that will open up the rest of the offense for a potentially big day.
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 27 – Patriots 17