The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tough team to figure out so far this season, and after a 1-3 start they have found a way to get back to .500 with back-to-back wins. Following their Week 7 bye week, it is safe to say the focus now turns not just to the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, but a potential playoff push.
Many will suggest looking ahead is futile, but at the same time the improvement of individual players, even on a week-to-week basis, will be what determines the Steelers’ season outlook. With that said, I put together a list of five offensive players and five defensive players who need to step up their game for the Steelers to be considered a contender, not a pretender.
If you missed the 5 offensive players, check the link below:
Now onto the defense...
I hate putting Bush on this list based on the fact he very well could still be healing from not just his ACL tear last season, but also his injured groin which forced him to miss a game this season. Nonetheless, if a player is healthy enough to play, the fans’ expectations will remain the same — play at a high level. Some say it takes a full year until you actually feel “back” after an injury like a torn ACL, and Bush is hopefully finding his way back to where he was before his injury in 2020. The Steelers need him to play like the Top 10 pick he was when the team traded up with the Denver Broncos to select him.
Sutton’s play hasn’t been horrible, but it feels as if he is a player who could really benefit from a big game. A game which will boost his confidence. It doesn’t have to be a two interception game, but maybe just a game where he has several pass break ups and looks the part as a starting outside cornerback. I realize in the NFL Sutton is asked to be much more than an outside cornerback, but the Steelers’ defense was at its best when someone who was more than capable was across from Joe Haden. If Sutton can elevate his game, watch out.
At what point will Schobert be deemed comfortable in the Steelers’ defense? At what point will the “He is getting acclimated” run out? This is the point where Schobert is this season. After six games, and heading into Week 8, the crutch of “not knowing” certainly will be running out, if it hasn’t already. Schobert is a player who can be a tremendous force if he and Devin Bush can play in harmony alongside one another. Fans have yet to see this, and the hope is it happens in Cleveland in Week 8 vs. the Browns. If not then, when?
No one is denying Minkah Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, but many want to know when those plays will start being made? When will we see more 2019 and 2020 Minkah? Where is the Minkah magic? Fitzpatrick has been playing great in run support, but hasn’t generated the turnovers many have grown to expect from the former Alabama standout. Mike Tomlin said those type of splash plays are coming, and it could be just what the doctor ordered for a defense which has been struggling to generate turnovers, especially interceptions.
Just like Sutton made the list, Haden could prove to be more valuable this season too. If Haden were a genuine lockdown cornerback, even at his age, the Steelers’ defense, mainly the pass rush, would be able to generate even more pressure than they always do. On top of his coverage skills, Haden’s tackling certainly can take a step up to help the defense. On top of that, Haden’s ability to make quarterbacks pay if/when they test him will also pay huge dividends for the defense and team as they hope to make a playoff push.
To hear this list in more detail, check out the Monday edition of my “Let’s Ride” podcast in the player below: