There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving. Especially this week with the Steelers losing their first game of the 2020 season and both inside linebackers unavailable against 9-3 Buffalo. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.
Are we on point? Only time will tell.
Avery Williamson is the ultimate X-Factor for the Steelers defense against Buffalo
With Devin Bush Jr. tearing his ACL in October, Robert Spillane’s recent knee injury against the WFT and the addition of Vince Williams to the Covid-19 reserve list this week, the Steelers are pretty much out of natural inside linebackers. Sure defensive backs Antoine Brooks and Marcus Allen have been working out quite a bit at the position and will see action. Both are still very green and aren’t sure bets for success. Ulysses Gilbert III may be returning from injury, but his experience is minimal. Avery Williamson has been a starter in this league for a long time, but he’s still new in the Steelers’ system. If he has adapted enough and his football instincts take over, he could save the day. But Williamson might very well be the most important player on the field on Sunday for the Steelers defense.
The Steelers offense will get a boost with the return of James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey
The Steelers passing game is in good hands with Ben Roethlisberger throwing the orb. But it’s just not the same story when it comes to the sandwich grabbers on the other end of that proposition. The return of James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey from the Covid-19 Reserve list could return the offense from the two-week depression of success that the unit has found itself mired in. J.C. Hassenhauer has been serviceable in Pouncey’s stead, but far from what you get with the perennial Pro Bowler. Pouncey offers leadership and toughness. He also protects better and should open more holes for Conner and his run mates. Conner is much better in pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield and is the best option to help the Steelers run better. The black-and-gold could have possibly realized much more success had these two been able to play the past two contests.
The Steelers will shuffle the offensive line to get Kevin Dotson in the starting lineup
Everybody is calling for Kevin Dotson to start on the Steelers’ offensive for the remainder of the 2020 season. Why? The rookie from Louisiana-Lafayette excels as run blocker and filled in very well when David DeCastro and the recently released Stefan Wisniewski were out early on. With the Steelers run game floundering as of late, Dotson seems like a logical play. But to take advantage of Dotson and his talents, the Steelers would have to shuffle many cogs on the offensive line. You aren’t going to sit David DeCastro. The veteran is still playing at a high level. The other option would be moving Matt Feiler from left guard to right tackle, Chuks Okorafor to the tackle eligible spot held by Jerald Hawkins and putting Dotson in the less familiar position of left tackle. That’s a lot of tinkering this late in the year. It could do more harm than good in the short term. With four games left in the regular season, that could be a dangerous gamble. Kevin Dotson will be a full-time starter for the Steelers. The only way it happens in 2020, though, would be due to injury.
Despite the Steelers’ case of the “dropsies”, Eric Ebron and Diontae Johnson won’t see their targets reduced
When asked during his press conference on Tuesday about the influx of dropped passes, Mike Tomlin was very matter of fact regarding the rash of hot potatoes careening to the ground. “They can catch the ball or they can get replaced by those who will catch it,” the Steelers’ Head Coach said. “It’s as simple as that.” The key offenders this season have been Diontae Johnson (7 drops in 2020) and Eric Ebron (5 drops). While they’ve contributed greatly to the Steelers success this season, their struggles the past too weeks were crippling to the team. Ray Ray McCloud, James Washington, Vance McDonald and James Conner have been more sure-handed this season and could see more action in the last quarter of the season and beyond should drops persist. Ebron and DJ18 are valuable, but they will see there opportunities increase if they don’t get sticky fingers in a hurry.
T.J. Watt will fall short of the Steelers’ single season sack record in 2020
The all-time single-season sack mark belongs to James Harrison. Deebo dropped quarterbacks 16 times in 2008 and it helped him become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year that season. No. 92 only played in 15 games that season and had standout pass rusher LaMarr Woodley occupying the attention of blockers on the other side. Watt did have the luxury of Alvin “Bud” Dupree as the other bookend in the Steelers defense, but his ACL injury in Week 12 against Baltimore took him out of commission. Watt answered the loss of Dupree with 2 sacks on Monday and needs to average a sack per game to seize the record. Alex Highsmith is definitely not Bud Dupree, but he does wear No. 56 like the aforementioned Woodley. The rookie is more than capable of being a threat to get to the opposing quarterback. T.J. Is having an amazing year and I think he goes down in team lore this season with at least a share of the crown and he could raise the DPOY trophy like Harrison did too. Let’s just hope the comparisons continue with a Lombardi Trophy like Deebo enjoyed in his record-setting campaign.
Are these statements valid? We will soon see. What matters most are your opinions on the matter. Please state them in the comments below or on our social media.
Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics, and their status, heading into this week’s game: