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Week 2 Preview: Vikings at Steelers

In week two, the Minnesota Vikings travel to Heinz Field to square off with the Pittsburgh Steelers after both teams picked up victories in their week one match ups.

Previewing The Vikings

Week One Result: Vikings 29, Saints 19

The Vikings picked up a win on Monday Night Football over the Saints with a good showing from a few offensive players.

While the Saints have an awful defense, so the performance on the Vikings’ offensive side of the ball may be deceiving. Time will tell when they run into a much more solidified Steelers unit on Sunday.

Sam Bradford had one of his best performances Monday night. He completed 84.4% of his passes last night while tossing for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Bradford, the NFL’s leader in completion percentage in 2016, did what he does last night and completes passes.

People forget Bradford was the number one pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma when the, formerly known, St. Louis Rams, made him their guy. He wasn’t good there just as Jared Goff, has yet to really show off in Los Angeles. But Bradford had everything needed to be a reliable quarterback. He won’t be a franchise saver for anyone. But, when the Vikings came calling after Teddy Bridgewater snapped his knee last season, Bradford has been nothing but consistent for the Vikings.

Bradford however, is injured and Case Keenum will start in his place. This is a big loss for the Vikings offense.

Two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs had breakout games and accounted for the majority of what Bradford’s stat line looked like.

Thielen had 157 yards on nine receptions and really saw the ball thrown his way often last night. Diggs only had 93 yards but was Bradford’s touchdown target as he caught two of Bradford’s three. The Steelers cornerbacks may have their hands full keeping these guys in check Sunday.

It is inevitable that Bradford will likely complete 70% of his passes or more. Include rookie running back Dalvin Cook into the mix and this Vikings offense could pose a big threat for the Steelers defense.

As far as the Vikings defense goes, they won’t make a ton of splash plays, but they are a solid unit. They aren’t a bad defense by any means, but they don’t have many big-time playmakers. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are the big splash players for Minnesota. Their secondary also includes names such as Trae Waynes, Marcus Sherels, and Terrence Newman.

The offense will win the game for the Vikings if they are to be victorious.

Keys for the Steelers

The offense has to play better. Whether it’s the gameplan or the execution, it has to get better from last week’s putrid performance in Cleveland. They need to clean up the penalties, which should help the offense play with shorter yardage situations. The Steelers look to be solid in the red zone, but they will need to sustain long drives and control the clock.

The defense was pretty solid last week. If the Steelers can play the classic “bend, but don’t break” defense, they should be fine as long as the offense scores like they should. The Vikings don’t have a lot of explosive weapons on offense, so the defense needs to make sure they don’t give up the big plays. 

Inactives

Steelers Inactives

No. 5 QB Joshua Dobbs

No. 11 WR Justin Hunter

No. 27 S J.J. Wilcox

No. 65 OT Jerald Hawkins

No. 71 OT Matt Feiler

No. 89 TE Vance McDonald

No. 91 DE Stephon Tuitt

Vikings Inactives

No. 8 QB Sam Bradford

No. 12 WR Rodney Adams

No. 24 CB Tramaine Brock

No. 63 G Danny Isidora

No. 76 T Aviante Collins

No. 90 DE Tashawn Bower

No. 94 DT Jaleel Johnson

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Watt Else Did You Expect?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have almost become “First-Round LB University” over the past ten seasons. Countless picks have been spent on linebackers. Even in 2017 when the Steelers had more glaring needs, they decided to take outside linebacker TJ Watt as the eventual heir apparent to James Harrison.

Through one game, the decision is already paying off.

Watt had two sacks of Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer and picked him off once on a play where he had to elevate to get up. Add five tackles to that stat line and you will have Watt’s first career stat line in a regular season game. He is the third player in NFL history to record two sacks and have an interception in their first career game. Not too shabby for the rookie.

While his brother, JJ Watt, has been dominating the NFL in the Houston Texans front seven for a few years, Watt will have the opportunity to rival his brother. It’ll be tough to live up to JJ’s standards as he is potentially the best defensive player in the entire league. That doesn’t mean he can’t reach it, though.

Watt is a bit under sized for an ideal linebacker but that didn’t stop him at Wisconsin and he won’t let it affect him in the big leagues. Watt is a dynamic linebacker who certainly may not have the pass rushing abilities as fellow outside linebacker Harrison, but he may be more athletic in the sense that he can make a splash play on the ball. Harrison specializes in pass rushing.

While it can’t be expected that Watt will have 32 sacks and 16 interceptions this season, it is okay to maybe boost your expectations for him a little higher than you previously had. It looks like he will get the majority of the time in the regular season. The postseason may be given to Harrison. Maybe not all the time, but he will pick up more time as he’ll be fresh and more experienced.

He is still JJ’s brother, so Watt else did you expect?

Game By Game Predictions Of Steelers Season

After falling short in the AFC Championship game last season to New England, the Steelers will soon embark upon another opportunity to win their seventh Super Bowl before any other team gets six.

Many believe that Pittsburgh’s only obstacle will be New England, yet again. They will play in week 15 this season in a game that could determine home field advantage for the playoffs, if it isn’t already.

The Steelers schedule includes six games against the AFC North, as usual. They will also play the NFC North and some other notable matchups. So, I’ll break it down game by game.

Week One (Sept. 10): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 PM

The Steelers have tortured Cleveland ever since Ben Roethlisberger came into the league. Cleveland, of course, hasn’t been all that great of a franchise lately, anyway.

After having THREE first round picks including the number one selection in which they took Myles Garrett, the Browns retooled their defense. Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku were the other two first round selections.

Couple that their selection of DeShone Kiser, the Browns have some more potential than in recent seasons but this matchup and season likely won’t favor them.

Predictions: Steelers 27, Browns 6

Week Two (Sept. 17): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 PM

The Vikings got off to a 5-0 start last season despite the loss of star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It looked as though Sam Bradford may have rediscovered himself with his new team and was prepared to lead the Vikings on a deep playoff run.

Well, that didn’t happen.

The Vikings fell short but with additions like Latavius Murray and Riley Reiff while drafting former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Jaleel Johnson, their season, and this game should be rather exciting.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Vikings 21

Week Three (Sept. 24): at Chicago Bears, 1:00 PM

Chicago selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round in the offseason’s draft even after signing Mike Glennon to a rather not-so-backup-quarterback-contract. The Steelers got torched on the road by a rookie QB on the road in week three last season (Carson Wentz), but that shouldn’t happen this time around. The Bears are still a pretty awful team. Yes, I have Trubisky starting by week three.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Bears 10

Week Four (Oct. 1): at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 PM

Fresh off a 3-0 start to the season, the Steelers head to Baltimore and take on their nemesis. Baltimore’s hunger to avenge Pittsburgh for the Antonio Brown Christmas magic that sealed the division victory and their home-field advantage in the game provide the boost they need to win an early season important game. Though, a very close game throughout, the defensive battle goes to Baltimore.

Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

Week Five (Oct. 8): vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 PM

The Steelers get the Jaguars in week five after a depressing loss the week before. They’ll take on a prettt mediocre offense that struggles to get anything going. The Steelers end up having a defensive clinic with three sacks and two interceptions in a rout of the Jaguars.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 3

Week Six (Oct. 15) at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 PM

The Steelers handled the Chiefs easily in the regular season last year and barely beat them with field goals in the playoffs. They’ve got a really good quarterback in Alex Smith and their newest draft pick in Patrick Mahomes. Their still one of the league’s premier teams. Thus, presenting one of the biggest challenges on the schedule this year. I think the Steelers get the job done.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Chiefs 17

Week Seven (Oct. 22) vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 PM

Now, maybe more exciting than Ravens games, the Bengals come to Heinz Field to impose their will on the Steelers. Head coach Marvin Lewis will do as he usually does and come oh-so-close to a victory but fall short. While the running back trio of Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and Joe Mixon will be tough to prepare for, Andy Dalton will struggle and the Bengals fall victim to the Steelers again.

Prediction: Steelers 14, Bengals 10

Week Eight (Oct. 29) at Detroit Lions, 8:30 PM

Sunday Night Football on NBC! Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford engage in a duel for the win. This is a game, if they are a plus team by week eight, that I can see the Lions winning. The Steelers are going to show up ready to play but Stafford, on a mission to prove the doubters wrong on national television in regards to his new contract, outlasts his QB counterpart and the Lions prevail in a thriller.

Prediction: Lions 38, Steelers 30

Week Nine: Bye Week

C’mon, only the Jets and Browns manage to lose to the bye week. Steelers sit at 6-2 and first place at the bye.

Week Ten (Nov. 12) at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 PM

This is a hard game to call right now. The health of Andrew Luck seems to be of question heading into the year. Whether or not he plays by this time won’t matter. The Steelers should prevail anyway. But, of the Colts want any chance at winning games this year, they’ll need him. If Luck isn’t starting, expect newly-acquired back up Jacoby Brissett to crumble against this defense. Steelers win big.

Prediction: Steelers 32, Colts 3

Week Eleven (Nov. 16) vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:25 PM

Thursday Night Football and the beginning of a four week stretch of primetime games, the Steelers face one of my more intriguing dark horses of this year, and my pick to win the AFC South, Tennessee. The Titans young QB, Marcus Mariota, is a stud in the making and has some weapons at his disposal again this season. They will make it an exciting game but one the Steelers will win. My bold prediction is that Le’Veon Bell will rush for 150 yards and have two touchdowns. Big fantasy day on Thursday to start your fantasy week out with a big lead.

Prediction: Steelers 20, Titans 18

Week Twelve (Nov. 26) vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:30 PM

Talk about a good primetime football game. Aaron Rodgers vs. Big Ben at Heinz Field. The Packers, one of my favorites heading into the year, pose a threat to the Steeler in this game. Rodgers might be considered the best QB of his generation, at least in my eyes, if he had even one more Super Bowl. He has a better skill set than Tom Brady and don’t argue with me otherwise. My man crush on Rodgers makes me hesitant to bet against him. The Packers get a win on the road.

Prediction: Packers 27, Steelers 17

Week Thirteen (Dec. 4) at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 PM

Primetime. Steelers vs. Bengals in Cincy. I’m not even going to bother with this one.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 3

Week Fourteen (Dec. 10) vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:30 PM

Their final primetime game of the season, Pittsburgh at home against Baltimore. Ravens won the first meeting at their house. The Steelers win the latter meeting at theirs.

Prediction: Steelers 30, Ravens 17

Week Fifteen (Dec. 17) vs. New England Patriots, 4:25 PM

I shortened the last two weeks because I already previewed those teams and everyone circled this game on their calendar. “It’s going to determine home-field in the playoffs!” I’ve got news for you. No, it won’t. The Patriots are going 15-1. The consolation? The Steelers are the one. Last year, back up QB Landry Jones had to play and, honestly, looked pretty okay doing it in Foxborough and gave the Steelers a chance to win where no one ever does. The Steelers will, hopefully, have Roethlisberger and a healthy core while adding Martavis Bryant back into the mix. They’re going to be the “1” in the Patriots’ loss column and play inspired in front of their home crowd.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Patriots 20

Week Sixteen (Dec. 25) at Houston Texans, 4:30 PM

Christmas time and the Steelers will play in it again. Last year, the Christmas miracle heaved them to a division title. This season, such won’t be necessary. But, TJ Watt and JJ Watt both record 1.5 sacks trying to outdo each other. TJ’s team wins in a game where points will be hard to come by.

Prediction: Steelers 13, Texans 7

Week Seventeen (Dec. 31) vs. Cleveland Browns

Back-ups will play just as last year’s week 17. Steelers back-ups still beat Browns’ starters.

Prediction: Steelers 17, Browns 3

AFC Wild Card Round

The Steelers finish the regular season at 13-3 and get the second bye behind the Patriots. The three-seeded Raiders beat the six-seeded Bengals in round one. Fifth-seed Chiefs defeat the four-seed Titans. AFC Divisional round features the Patriots vs. Chiefs and Raiders vs. Steelers.

AFC Divisional Round

Man, this will be a fun game for me to watch as I am a fan of Oakland. As I will undoubtedly root for the Steelers, it will be exciting to watch Derek Carr and Roethlisberger battle it out. The Raiders potent offense will show. But, their suspect defense ends up being their demise. Watch out, though. 2018 could seriously be their year. Patriots handle the Chiefs easily.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Raiders 28

AFC Championship Round

Here is your rematch, folks. It is, yet again, in Foxborough. Remember, the Pats don’t lose there. It won’t change here. The Steelers pulled out a huge victory in week 15 but the Patriots and Tom Brady will get the best of the Steelers again. It sucks to say it. Want more consolation, though? The Seahawks will revenge the Patriots in the Super Bowl from the Pete Carroll decision to pass on the two yard line.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Steelers 20

Steelers Trade Coates to Browns

The Steelers have quite the conundrum at receiver, but they just made their choices a bit easier. 

The Steelers traded Sammie Coates to the Cleveland Browns for the Browns 6th round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Coates, a 3rd round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, had quite a bit of an inconsistent career with the Steelers. He was given ample opportunity last season with Martavis Bryant sitting the entire season under suspension. Coates showed some signs of strong play early on, but Coates dealt with multiple fractured fingers throughout the year. 

On the surface, it looks like the Steelers see potential in other receivers on the roster, as they’re trying to cut their roster down to 53 men, which they have until 4:00 pm on Saturday to do so. Coates will get a fresh start in Cleveland, being part of a receiver group not nearly as deep or talented. 

Steelers Extend GM Kevin Colbert

In the wake of two significant moves that have upgraded areas of need, the Steelers have given General Manager Kevin Colbert a contract extension through the 2020 NFL Draft. Colbert is entering his 18th season as the Steelers GM. He indicated he didn’t want to go anywhere, and now he’s locked up to be the team’s main architect for at least two decades. 

Colbert deserves praise, keeping the Steelers competitive year in, year out for his entire tenure. The one losing season he’s had led to the Steelers having a good draft pick the following year, in which they took Ben Roethlisberger. Well worth it. 

In recent years, he’s had to rebuild the defense, and has managed to keep the team competitive in the process. And now, the defense is on the verge of being very good again.

The Steelers are the best positioned for a Super Bowl run than they have been since 2010. He’s built a high-octane offense, rebuilt the defense, and recently, has made moves to sure up the secondary. He’s even made moves that go outside the Steelers’ norm, like paying significant money for Joe Haden

All in all, good move for the Steelers here. Colbert’s been one of the more outstanding GM’s of his time. An extension for him isn’t a surprise, it’s quite the status quo. 

Tight End Improvement; Steelers Acquire Vance McDonald

Vance McDonald was traded to the Steelers from the 49ers on Tuesday. The trade sent McDonald and a 5th round pick to Pittsburgh, while the Steelers sent back a 4th round pick. It’s a win-win for both sides. The Steelers strengthen a weak position and get a 5th round pick, meanwhile only giving up a 4th round pick. All in all, its a low-cost risk for the Steelers. Here are his stats from his time in San Francisco with the 49ers:

His stats don’t show much, but he is a reliable target to add into this team. But remember, that he played with average quarterbacks at best. Players like Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Neither of the two are franchise quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger. His stats should continue to rise as he enters into this explosive offense. As for his blocking, it could use some work. He isn’t the strongest blocker (like Jesse James), but he can grow into it. He is strong at the point of attack and just has to work on his leverage. He is still young and maybe he will be Ben’s new Ferrari.

McDonald is the next man up when it comes to finding a suitable replacement to Heath Miller. Heath has been retired for years now and thus far the Steelers haven’t found an answer. We shall see if McDonald is the answer, but he provides a vertical threat to the already productive offense. He will have to learn a lot of the scheme in little time to be productive.

Only time will tell if McDonald is the answer at tight end. He comes at a cap hit at around $3 million. If he plays well and is effective, then it’s worth it. But asserted before, only time will tell if he is. If he isn’t, then the saga continues for finding a new tight end, which will probably be on top of the Steelers draft list. McDonald does, however, has a chance in front of him, so he better take it.