The Steelers came into the year as the AFC North favorites, but stumbled out of the blocks, losing by 30 points in New England. In Week 2, the Steelers return home to host the Seahawks in a battle of teams that have high expectations for 2019. To find out more about this week’s opponent, Seahawks.com reached out to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic with four questions about the Steelers:
Q: It’s the home opener, Pittsburgh is coming off a bad loss, a trip across the country is coming up in Week 3, does it feel like there’s any extra urgency on this game, or are the Steelers taking the it’s-just-the-next-game-on-the-schedule approach to the week?
Kaboly: Oh yeah, there’s extra urgency with the Steelers in this one after a 30-point debacle in Foxborough last week. History says teams that start the season 0-2 have a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs. You add that to Mike Tomlin is 10-2 all-time in home openers, the Steelers have a .726 winning percentage at home since 2001 and a league best 29-6-1 against the NFC over that span. They’ve been a really good team at home and especially against the Seahawks as of late but yeah, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Week 2 game for the Steelers. That’s for sure.
Q: Obviously nobody (nobody sane anyway) thinks the Steelers are as bad as last week’s score would indicate, but was the most concerning element of that loss in New England, and what needs to change to right the ship?
Kaboly: It’s pretty much twofold. The defense believed they addressed their most pressing needs by signing Mark Barron and drafting Devin Bush but that pretty much was a Week 1 flop/mess. Now, you probably should temper that statement because of the opponent they played, but it was definitely concerning how the two had struggles covering running backs who were split out wide. On the flip side of the ball, the wide receivers are definitely concerning because they just couldn’t get open. With Antonio Brown gone and JuJu Smith-Schuster stepping into the No.1 role, it was a rocky beginning. There’s no reason why opponents moving forward wouldn’t double Smith-Schuster and then take their chances with Donte Moncrief, James Washington and Ryan Switzer. It is something that could have been a one-week adjustment, but it can be looked at as a concern at this point.
Q: Seattle’s offense was inconsistent in the opener, but one thing Russell Wilson and company did do well was hit some deep passes in big moments. Coming off a game in which the Patriots completed seven passes of 20 or more yards, how big of an issue is Pittsburgh’s pass defense?
Kaboly: It didn’t help that the Steelers were without safety Sean Davis and replaced him with Kam Kelly, who was playing for the AAF’s San Diego Fleet a couple of months ago. Communication was definitely an issue as there were a handful of blown coverages. It wasn’t like their secondary wasn’t getting beat as much as they were just out of position. Davis could be back this week which would alleviate some, if not all of that.
Q: You quote Donte Moncrief saying that the passing game struggles were “on me and the other receivers” and not on Ben Roethlisberger, how much of a concern is that position group in the post Antonio Brown era?
Kaboly: As I noted earlier, right now it has to be a concern because of the performance they put together against the Patriots. However, Moncrief’s four drops and wrong route in the end zone could’ve made a huge difference. Tight end Vance McDonald wasn’t much of a help. I will tell you this: they have confidence in these guys and nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future other than maybe a little more of James Washington.
The Seahawks and the Steelers will meet this Sunday in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field for the second game of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from the past games between the two teams.