We have all experienced intuition in one form or another in our life. Call it an instinct or feeling you get in a situation that you just can't shake. I'm not talking psychic mediums here, so no need to hide your credit card. I am talking about something you believe regardless of others opinions. I have intuition, specifically when it comes to the Steelers.
Intuition is defined as this: a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. There are many types of intuition ranging from parental to self preservation. Superior management types definitely include intuition in their decision making. Not the final factor mind you, but the great ones learn to trust their gut on occasion.
I am going to share some of my personal intuition about the Steelers in a two-part series. First up, the offense.
- Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Canada will develop a mutually beneficial working relationship; to the point that Roethlisberger will one day thank his new offensive coordinator during his HOF acceptance speech for helping make his final couple of seasons both productive and enjoyable. Noticed I said couple of seasons.
- Najee Harris is going to be such a well-rounded workhorse of a RB that he is going to quickly help many fans finally forget the former killer B that broke so many hearts in Steelers Nation.
- Anthony McFarland's brain and feet are going to finally get on the same page when he gets the ball in his hands and he will no longer resemble a overzealous parent back at the skating rink with their child for the first time in many years. As he learns to trust his line and what he sees, his speed will finally come into play.
- Derek Watt will finally make a impact on offense, however sporadic it may be. He will be used in multiple personnel packages, and moved around the formations, to prevent predictability. He will make at least one huge game-changing play during the season because nobody will see it coming, including we the fans.
- Eric Ebron will be so influenced by Pat Freiermuth's presence that he will take his game to another level, displaying improvement in both his catch percentage and blocking efficiency.
- Speaking of Pat Freiermuth, the talented young TE will make a far greater impact as a rookie than anyone could have predicted. He will be especially effective in the middle of the field and in the red zone, while doing some of his best work as an H-back. Steelers’ fans at Heinz Field will improve their ‘MMMUUUTTTHHH!!!’ cheers as the season progresses.
- Diontae Johnson will enjoy a breakout season. His hard work before and after practice will pay off, and his catch percentage will improve dramatically. He will develop a special rapport with his franchise QB and become a even bigger threat all over the field, drastically improving as a deep threat.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster will make more explosive plays down the field, similar to his first couple years in the league. The reason for this increase will be twofold. Canada will move him around the formation regularly to create mismatches, and Diontae Johnson's emergence will have an Antonio Brown-like effect on his production.
Therein lies a problem. Not all intuition is positive, and mine isn't for Chase Claypool or James Washington when it comes to seeing an increase in production. While I foresee big years for Harris, Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson, and Smith-Schuster; I think it will be more of the same from Claypool and Washington.
- Many fans are predicting a huge season for Chase Claypool, but I’m just not seeing it. That must be their intuition kicking in. I haven't seen or heard anything coming out of camp suggesting he has been dominant or on the verge of a huge season. Not one report about drastically improved route running or contested catch ability. Those are the attention to detail areas that the young man needs to take his game to the next level.
- Washington looked like what he is during the preseason, a tough and dependable receiver. At this point I have no reason to believe he will ever be able to gain the consistent separation necessary to be more than a WR3 or WR4. Watch the film and decide for yourself. Without that separation, the QB doesn't scan the field and deem him open. Everything looks like a contested catch possibility. That just doesn't translate into consistent targets.
Although the offensive line has been completely revamped and is still undoubtedly a work in progress, with the eventual starting group having most likely not even played together yet this preseason, my intuition tells me that the talent, coaching, and work ethic required to make steady improvement over the course of the season is there.
- Kevin Dotson has already established himself as the best player along the line, and he could establish himself as one of the best linemen in the league by the end of his sophomore season. He is a absolute mauler in the running game, and his pass blocking continues to improve. He makes who ever lines up next to him even better players. That's an intangible reserved for the elite.
- Trai Turner will blossom in the Steelers culture of stability, and once again look like the Pro Bowl player from years gone by. He is mentoring his rookie center because he realizes that their chemistry will greatly impact his own performance. His powerful interior blocking will be like a breath of fresh air for the Steelers.
- Speaking of rookie center, Kendrick Green has been as advertised: extremely raw and athletic for the position. His motor and feisty demeanor perfectly fits the Steelers standard for the position. His development is one of the keys to a successful Steelers season. No pressure there, Rook.
- While both Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner are being asked to take their games to a level of performance they have never reach before in their careers, the best tackle in the Steelers facilities has been rookie Dan Moore Jr. He has earned the LT position based on preseason performance alone, as his abilities have far exceeded his draft position. You have to love his competitiveness and motor, which he has in abundance. If only his attention to details and urgency could somehow rub off on Okorafor.
The next article in this two part series will focus on the defense. Have a fun Labor Day weekend and as always, Go Steelers!