The general consensus was that the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) were entering a mini gauntlet in terms of their schedule — with games looming at the Cleveland Browns (6-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) these next two weeks.
However, in the course of just a few days we’ve learned that the Browns lost starting QB Deshaun Watson to the season due to various injuries, and the Bengals lost their star signal caller Joe Burrow to a ligament tear in his right wrist which will require surgery.
To say the Steelers path has changed dramatically would be an understatement. Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks they could face the rest of the season. This of course, is subject to change.
Week 11 at Cleveland: Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Thompson-Robinson is penciled in to start the Week 11 game at the dog pound. The rookie fifth-round draft pick has started one game this season, against the Ravens on October 1st. He went 19-36, throwing for 121 yards and three interceptions. Not exactly a perfect debut.
The Steelers will hope to rattle the inexperienced signal caller in his second career start — something Mike Tomlin-coached teams have generally fared very well at doing.
Week 12 at Cincinnati: Jake Browning
Browning has now been in the NFL for five seasons but is on an active roster for the first time in his career this year. He was thrust into mop-up duty against the Ravens after the aforementioned Burrow injury and played well — throwing for 68 yards, rushing for another 40 — and throwing for the first touchdown of his career.
He has much more league experience than Thompson-Robinson, but the drop-off between Burrow-Browning is obviously quite significant.
I think the Bengals could still be favored at home against the Steelers in this game, meaning the tour of Ohio still won’t exactly be a walk in the park.
Week 13 vs. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
Murray, a two-time pro bowler and the 2019 NFL rookie of the year, will likely present the largest challenge to the Steelers’ defense over the next month. After missing nearly a year due to recovery from a torn ACL, Murray returned to action last week and helped take down the Atlanta Falcons. He finished 19 of 32 through the air with 249 yards, no touchdowns and one interception — and scampered for 33 yards and a touchdown.
While Murray is good, the Cardinals are bad. They currently have a 2-8 record, and on paper, should enter Acrisure Stadium as underdogs.
Week 14 vs. New England Patriots: Bailey Zappe
The Patriots are entering their bye week with questions galore surrounding the quarterback position. New England currently sits at 2-8, the worst record in the AFC. Starting QB Mac Jones has been dreadful, throwing ten touchdowns and ten interceptions in as many games.
Zappe has played in seven career games and has five touchdowns and four interceptions. It’s hard to say he’s an upgrade over Jones, but at this point, it can’t get much worse in New England.
Week 15 at Indianapolis Colts: Gardner Minshew
Minshew mania is alive and well after the Colts have won consecutive games to even their record at 5-5, putting them squarely on the doorstep of a playoff spot in the AFC.
The Colts signed Minshew this offseason to backup rookie Anthony Richardson, however Richardson suffered an AC joint sprain in week four against the Tennessee Titans that required surgery and ended his year early.
Minshew struggled against the Patriots, completing 18 of 28 passes for 194 yards against a New England defense that gave up 285.5 passing yards per game over its last four. But he’s performed admirably overall, tossing eight touchdowns to six interceptions, and ranks 12th in the NFL in QBR with a rating of 62.0.
He’s a polarizing player — so who knows what version of Minshew the Steelers could get?
In the final three weeks Pittsburgh will potentially see a reappearance from Browning (Bengals in Week 16) — and then two Pro Bowl signal-callers in Geno Smith (Seattle in Week 17) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore in Week 18). It’s just a bit too early to call those.
What do you think the Steelers' record will be in their next five games? Let us know in the comments section!