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Steelers Friday Mailbag: Is Pittsburgh for real?

Your questions get answered ahead of Week 8.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly Steelers Friday Mailbag, where we answer your questions every week.

Q: You have the Jaguars at No. 3 in your power rankings this week. So you don’t think the Steelers have a chance to win this weekend’s game?- Polamolicules Dude

First off, thank you for reading my power rankings (and you can read them to on Touchdown Wire for USA Today every Tuesday). I think the Jaguars win. I don’t think it’s a blowout, but I also don’t think the result will ever be in doubt. Final score prediction from me is 24-16 Jacksonville.

Q: I was going to ask if DJ would get a TD finally, but I just saw he was back out with a hamstring. Yikes!- steelwoman

I’d assume Diontae Johnson is playing. He wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday and sat out Thursday- my guess is it’s just precautionary to keep him healthy. When the final injury report for the week comes out, we’ll see if my theory is right. I wouldn’t worry.

Q: Is there any verifiable update on Cam Heyward’s recovery?- SteelerSince73!

He’s back at practice and his 21-day activation window is open. So everything seems on track.

Q: We all know you’re not a Canada fan by any means (and you may do better as OC if given the chance), but is it possible that the team has a 10-15 play offense play script, like many teams do, that do not play out because of so many 3-and-outs? By the time they get to the end of the 10-15 play script, it’s halftime with minimal scoring in the 1st half Then in the 2nd half, they make game time adjustments as they go and do much better on offense? Or should they just fire Canada?- Polamolicules Dude

That’s certainly a possibility. I’ve learned not to assume anything about this offense or its play calling, though. And regardless, the team never starts off fast, so he should learn that his opening script doesn’t work and try something else.

Q: Given what we saw of Joey Porter’s tackling technique last Sunday, does it seem like the coaches had the right idea all along by playing him mostly/only in the dime package for the first five games of the season?- Toronto Steeler Fan

No. His predominant job is to prevent receivers from getting the ball, which he has done exponentially better than Patrick Peterson or Levi Wallace. Luckily, as you said, it’s a technique issue, not an effort issue- it can be fixed. I’d rather deal with him missing tackles that someone else can swarm in and finish then deal with Wallace and Peterson getting beaten constantly when we all know Porter will limit plays in the passing game.

Q: With Wallace’s lack of performance and apparent injury is JPJ about to fully take the reigns as a starting outside corner? If so, what does this mean for Pat and Pierre? Will we see a lot more 3 safety looks? Could this change actually allow Minkah to move back into his real position?- SteelCurtain570

It certainly seems it’s gearing toward Joey Porter being the full-time starter. I’d like to see the Steelers go with more three-safety looks with Neal, Kazee, and Fitzpatrick. I thought we’d get more of that when all three were kept on the 53-man roster, but alas...

But Porter being the starter would bump Patrick Peterson or Wallace inside and they perform well, then Minkah should be able to play centerfield.

Q: Jacksonville ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed a game. Is this the game that the offense finds it’s “mojo”? Why and Why not? Jacksonville leads the league in turnovers forced(16) but also has put the ball on the ground a good bit at 7. Who wins the turnover battle Sunday?- Pittsblitz56

I’m not going to hold my breath. Which, yeah, I know I’m the glass half-empty guy here, but the Jaguars defense has been good this season. The passing yards stat is a little misleading because for starters, they’ve played in a lot of close games, meaning there will be a lot more passing later on. Now, they aren’t perfect. Josh Allen had 359 yards against them, and Mahomes had north of 300 yards, but those guys will always get theirs. They dominated Desmond Ridder, they made life hell for Derek Carr, and their defense overall ranks 7th in the league in EPA. The Jags defense has actually been better than their offense. So no, I think their defense has a good day.

Q: If the Steelers beat the Jaguars this weekend, will 5-2 be enough for Steeler fans to believe they are for real this year?- Discipline of Steel

It depends on how they win. If it’s another game where it’s low-scoring and the offense looks bad for 50 minutes, but they get a bunch of crazy plays that go in their favor and squeak out a win. then no. That’s not sustainable. If the offense looks like it did in the second half against the Rams, and they play a completely complimentary game where it’s clear progress is being made, then yes. However, they would need to win at least one of the next two games against Tennessee and Green Bay, as well. If they are at 6-3 after nine games, then they’ll likely be a playoff team. How far can they go? Well, that’s a completely different conversation.

Q: Do you believe they are for real? If yes, could you please explain why you feel this way?- Pittsblitz56

It depends on what you mean by real. Do I think they could sneak into the playoffs? Yes. Do I think they can win a playoff game? No. They would get stomped into the ground by the Chiefs, the Bills, and the Dolphins. They would lose to the Jaguars, they would lose to the Bengals. The only matchup I would like for them is if Baltimore won the AFC North and they faced them in the Wildcard round. The offense just isn’t good enough to remotely keep up with the power houses. They are a second-tier team in the conference.