Blogging The Boys: Tell us about Ben Roethlisberger’s play this season after the surgery from last year. Does he look any different, did the injury have any long-term effects, or is it business as usual for him?
Behind The Steel Curtain: To be completely honest, Ben Roethlisberger has been rusty at times throughout the season, but if there is one silver lining for Steelers fans it is how he has improved every game this season. At first his intermediate and deep passes were off, but he has gotten those dialed in the past few weeks.
What has changed the most with Roethlisberger isn’t about his arm, but his approach. He no longer feels he has to win every game with his arm, but takes what the defense gives him. Throw in the fact he doesn’t have a WR he has to appease (Antonio Brown) and he can truly take a pick your poison type approach with the weapons he has at his disposal.
This offense is built around being versatile and dynamic, and his play above the shoulders has been the true difference factor so far this season.
BTB: When a team is 7-0 they are likely filled with strengths across their lineup, but what are the one or two areas of weakness/concern that you have about the roster?
BTSC: The weaknesses of this Steelers team are few, but when they are bad they are glaring. If there is an offensive line which can pass protect, the Steelers blitz happy approach can leave them vulnerable on the back end. Although their 213 pass yards allowed a game is 7th in the NFL, their weakness now is exploiting the middle of the field. This is the area Devin Bush, lost to a torn ACL, would dominate. Now it has become a vulnerability for an elite group.
On offense it would be the inability to stick with the run. The Steelers average 118 yards a game, which is 16th in the league, on the ground, but lack the ability to simply impose their will on their opposition. Make the Steelers one dimensional, and that is your best shot at stopping the Pittsburgh offense.
BTB: What’s the current injury situation heading into the game?
BTSC: The Steelers are a pretty healthy group for having the NFL impose a Week 4 bye week on them. DT Tyson Alualu is likely to miss the game with a sprained MCL, but the only other real injury of note is to slot cornerback Mike Hilton. Hilton injured his shoulder against the Browns in Week 6, and hasn’t played since. He was questionable heading into Week 8, and started this week off as a limited participant in practice. Getting him back will be a huge boost for the defense, but there is nothing which says that is a certainty at this point.
BTB: In games where the Steelers have been threatened, what did the opposing team do to make it a close game?
BTSC: The games which have been close you’ve seen teams attack the Steelers’ secondary. Having a quarterback who is smart, experienced and can predict where the pressure is coming from has left the secondary vulnerable. I’m not sure the Cowboys have that quarterback available to them this Sunday, but the teams who have kept things close with the Steelers are the ones who are able to read the field, see the pressure, get rid of the ball quickly and accurately to their receivers. The Cowboys have the receivers, but can the QB deliver the ball? That is the big question heading into this game.
BTB: What’s your prediction for the game?
BTSC: The Steelers are giving 14 points, the last line I saw, in this contest, and I can’t help but think this is a week where the Steelers get right. I foresee a big day for James Conner against the NFL’s worst rushing defense, and a Steelers team who capitalizes on some very inexperienced quarterbacks. I like the Steelers to win, and cover.
Steelers - 34
Cowboys - 13
Thanks for the knowledge, Behind The Steel Curtain.