1/4/20-Steelers Prepare For Playoff Matchup Vs. Browns

January 4, 2021 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The Pittsburgh Steelers just wrapped up a 12-4 season winning the AFC North and earning the number three seed in the AFC playoffs. As such, the team will host the Cleveland Browns this coming Sunday night in a rematch of the season finale won by the Browns 24-22. 

The Browns are a much improved team and are capable of beating the Steelers if they bring their ‘A’ game but the Steelers and their millions of fans must be feeling pretty good about the recent loss to the Browns considering the Browns were playing for their playoff lives and the Steelers essentially rolled out their JV squad for the game. 

After beating Cleveland 38-7 in their first matchup and barely losing 24-22 in their second tilt, Pittsburgh gets to host the third and most important game between these old rivals for the right to move into round two of the NFL playoffs.

 It won’t be an easy game, the Browns have a very solid offense, one that produced 2,374 rushing yards, led by Nick Chubb’s 1,067 yards and Kareem Hunt’s 841.  It will be the primary focus of the defense to stop both Chubb and Hunt at the line, meaning Tyson Alualu, Vince Williams and Avery Williamson specifically, need to plug holes and pressure the Browns offensive line early and often.  If the Steelers are able to stuff the run, or at least neutralize it, they can take away the Browns play action, and force the ball into Baker Mayfield’s hands.

Mayfield is a solid quarterback and had a strong 2020 campaign. He threw for over 3,500 yards and 26 touchdown passes to only eight interceptions but he can be forced into bad throws and make mistakes.  The Steelers, who led the league with 56 sacks, tallied eight of those sacks against Mayfield in the two games they faced him, accounting for 31% of the time Mayfield was sacked all season.  Rushing TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith from the edge while bringing pressure ( the team led the league with a 33.8% pressure rate) with Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt will be the key to success against Mayfield.  He’s a nimble athlete and he can scramble a bit but if the Steelers can keep him in the pocket, they’ll be able to put him on the ground and keep him from hitting Jarvis Landry down the side for any big plays.  I look for the defense to add another four sacks this coming weekend and really keep the Browns offense on edge all game long. 

Offensively, I’m looking for Ben Roethlisberger to take over. He’s played in several big games in his career and the pressure shouldn’t get to him.  I fully believe the team needs to run more no huddle offense this Sunday and keep the Browns defense on their toes. Roethlisberger completed 65% of his passes this season with most being thrown for short yardage plays but he proved against the Colts in the second half of that game a few weeks ago that he is indeed still capable of throwing deep. Randy Fichtner needs to let Ben play is brand of football otherwise this team will exit early. 

Pittsburgh needs to take advantage of rookie Chase Claypool who is a great jump ball and deep ball threat, along with Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, obviously, but I firmly believe they must try to establish the run to set up play action.  The team is far more effective passing the ball when they show some threat running it.  James Conner needs to get the ball 20-25 times and average 4.0 yards per carry or more to really help elevate the Steelers offense.  On top of that, mixing in Anthony McFarland with his quick burst of speed would be a nice addition to the offense but perhaps most importantly, I would really like to see the offense sprinkle in some Josh Dobbs plays.  Against the Browns this past week, he was able to effectively move the ball on a few plays and I believe he brings another element to the offense with his legs that neither Roethlisberger nor Mason Rudolph can. 

Lastly, they must keep Myles Garrett away from Roethlisberger.  Garrett is a fantastic pass rusher and is no easy task to stop. Pittsburgh may want to consider bringing in extra help to chip him or add another man to block him, he’s that good.

If the Steelers can stuff the run, contain Mayfield, set up play action and run the no huddle offense, they will make quick work of Cleveland on Sunday night and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. I think that is exactly what will happen with a Steelers victory of 30-17.


12/10/20-STEEL NATION RADIO – WFT Wrap Up and Bills Preview

December 10, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The Steelers are coming off of their first loss of the season and now face another tough matchup when they travel to Buffalo to face the AFC East leading Bills.  What will the team need to do to get a ‘W’?  Find out in the latest podcast.


11/19/20-Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars

November 19, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia


The undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Jacksonville this coming Sunday to take on the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars who currently sit at 1-8. Normally, I’ll write about what it is the black and gold need to do to win the game and finish it off with a score prediction.  Bottom line, I don’t see this as being much of a game and I fully anticipate the Steelers to roll this NFL JV franchise 37-3. 

I’m looking for Mason Rudolph to play the entire 4th quarter and many other starts like TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, JuJu Smith Schuster and more to be able to rest early, along with Big Ben Roethlisberger to prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving night contest against the Baltimore Ravens. 

That’s all I care to say about that game.

I, however, do have a few thoughts about this team that I’d like to get out there and will do here.

  • The notion that Roethlisberger isn’t an MVP candidate is absurd. Anyone who saw the 2019 Steelers after he was hurt and sees them this year with him healthy, should realize how valuable the guy is. I’m not saying he is THE MVP, but he damn sure should be part of the conversation.


  • James Conner isn’t very good. I don’t care what some of his numbers say, a lot of the yards he has have come on an occasional big run, which has been nice but the eye test tells me he just isn’t an RB1.  He’s a fine backup, a good guy in a running back by committee approach but I hate having him as the top guy.  He can leave after this season and I won’t blink an eye.


  • TJ Watt is THE defensive player of the year. He should have been the guy last year but he is just too important to this defense to box him out of the award this time.  If he isn’t in that conversation at the end of the year, then what are we talking about at all?


  • JuJu Smith Schuster has proven he’s a number one wide receiver. Last year was clearly a byproduct of not having a quarterback to throw to him. Look what he’s doing with Roethlisberger. Claypool may have more memorable big plays but JuJu is making the important plays and huge chain moving catches. They will need to find a way to keep him this off season if they can. 


  • The Steelers will not go 16-0 and that’s ok. Don’t worry about an undefeated season.  The black and gold just need to stay in front of the Chiefs, who only have one loss at the moment can definitely drop another one or two. 


  • If the playoffs expand to eight teams on each side and the Steelers have the top seed, they will be burned by not having any advantage of a bye. Don’t overlook how big that is.


  • Mike Tomlin has to be coach of the year to this point. Never have I ever said anything close this but how can that even be argued?

11/12/20-Steel Nation Radio- Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

November 12, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The 8-0 Steelers take on the newly energized Cincinnati Bengals led by rookie of the year front runner Joe Burrow.  Burrow is going to be a good, if not great, NFL quarterback and has had a great start so far this season but how will he hold up against a bruising black and gold defense on Sunday evening? Find out right here:

10/30/20-Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

October 30, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia


The Pittsburgh Steelers roll into Baltimore at 6-0 to face the 5-1 Ravens on Sunday afternoon.  The battle for AFC North supremacy will be a good one.  As always, I expect this game to come down to the end and be decided by a touchdown or less. 

The Steelers main concern will be stopping NFL reigning MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Jackson has only thrown two interceptions this season compared to his 10 touchdown passes and leads the Ravens in rushing yards with 346, with another two scores. 

Unlike previous games where the Steelers largely stuffed the oppositions running back, Jackson provides a different element the team hasn’t seen yet this season.  He’s a scrambler that can make plays happen at any time. If the Steelers collapse the pocket, Jackson will take off and someone is going to have to stop him. 

I’m looking for Vince Williams and Robert Spillane to step up and keep him contained but that’s no easy task.  If he gets past them, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds better be there to prevent the long yardage gains. 

The entire key to the game will be limiting Jackson’s mobility.  While he completes 63% of his passes and has a 99.2 passer rating, I don’t fear his arms as much as I do his legs.  Jackson can be forced into mistakes and that’s where edge rushers TJ Watt and Bud Dupree will be a factor.  If they can collapse the pocket and force Jackson to throw vs. run, the Steelers will have far more success on defense. 

Jackson certainly hasn’t seen a defense as quick as the Steelers this season yet and he’ll be challenged by the black and gold as much as he’ll challenge them. 

Defensively, the Ravens are good but the guy who has the biggest impact in my mind is Calais Campbell. He leads the team in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (6) and has had some big games against the Steelers in the past.

The goal for the Steelers offense should be to control the clock and keep Ben Roethlisberger off the ground.  James Conner may need to run the ball 20-25 times and average at least four yards per carry. I’ve given Conner a lot of grief over the past year but I have to admit, he’s had a very productive season thus far and he really could be the difference in the game this week.

What it will most likely come down to will be special teams and penalties.  The team who commits the most stupid penalties or doesn’t kick well will be the one who has their backs against the wall at the end of the game.  Jordan Berry and Chris Boswell need to be effective in their punts and kickoffs to ensure the defense is set up on the Ravens side of the field and Boswell needs to remain perfect in his field goal and extra point accuracy.

At the end of the day, we are looking at two Super Bowl contenders who are trying to win one of the best divisions in the NFL to ensure a home game in the playoffs. This is the first of two epic battles to come and I fully expect the teams to split the season series.  With that said, I think the Ravens will get this first one and discontinue the Steelers perfect season by the score of 23-20.

10/23/20-Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

October 23, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia


When the 2020 schedule first came out and I saw the Titans were on it, I did not think much more than “that’s a W” for the Steelers.  Six weeks and five games into the season, it’s clearly no guarantee.

The Titans, last years surprise team, are at it again with their 5-0 start.  The Steelers, this years come back team, are also sitting at 5-0 and are ready to really see what they are made of. 

As the black and gold travels do Tennessee to take on the team who fell one game short of the Super Bowl last season, they’ll have to do so without starting inside linebacker and defensive signal caller Devin Bush.  This will be the first game without him and it remains to be seen how badly he will be missed.  Derrick Henry will be sure to test Bush’s replacement, Robert Spillane.  Henry is a monster, who through only five games has the most rushing yards in the league at 588.  He’s a powerful, quick back who can dominate a defense and carry an offense and I fully anticipate he’ll see his number called frequently on Sunday afternoon. 

The Steelers run defense has been stout, but it hasn’t been tested so until Spillane proves he can play with the big boys, Henry will get the call.  However, if the defense proves they can stuff Henry has they have done against other top backs this season, Ryan Tannehill will be the man the Titans will rely upon and he’s no slouch either. Tannehill boasts 13 touchdown passes to only two interceptions on the season while completing nearly 70% of his passes.  He’s not one to make mistakes and the Steelers will need to apply serious pressure on him all day long in order to force him to dup the ball quickly.

Since the Titans can score points on anyone, I’m looking for the Steelers offense to be the unit that needs to step up and ultimately decide the outcome of this game. Look for James Conner to continue to run hard (I’ve bashed him but he’s doing well lately) and the Big Ben to Chase Claypool connection to continue to shine.  I’m personally looking for a lot more out of JuJu Smith-Schuster this Sunday as he’s been a bit disappointing as of late. 

If he can’t or doesn’t deliver, I have full confidence in James Washington and Diontae Johnson to spread the defense as well.  Either way, I look for a high powered offense going up and down the field out of necessity.

At the end of the day, I don’t think the Steelers are ready to take on the Titans and win and they will ultimately fall short as they won’t be able to stop Derrick Henry. 

Titans 33   Steelers 27

9/24/20-Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

September 24, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers host the 0-2 Houston Texans this Sunday at Heinz Field in front of a crowd of, well, nobody. 

Despite their 0-2 record, the Texans are a dangerous team and one that will come in hungry, trying at all costs to avoid an 0-3 record which will significantly diminish the odds of them appearing in the post season this year. 

The Steelers have looked good on offense at times but also sloppy at others.  The Texans defense is allowing 33.5 points per game through the first two weeks and have looked particularly weak in their pass coverage. I fully expect the Steelers to spread the field and Big Ben Roethlisberger to distribute the ball to multiple receivers with Diontae Johnson being the big play guy again this week. 

Since Benny Snell can’t hang onto the ball, Mike Tomlin has him in the dog house which clears the way for James Conner to be the back with the most carries and it will be interesting to see what he does with that opportunity.  I’ve been off the Conner bandwagon for two seasons now and despite his gaudy numbers from last week, I remain off of it.  More than half of his yards were on one carry, if you took it away, he averaged 3.1 YPC against the Broncos, which isn’t good. 

I believe Anthony McFarland will finally be active this week and may see some action on long passing downs. 

The offensive line and perhaps Derek Watt, will need to ensure they keep JJ Watt away from Roethlisberger.  What  a reunion that could be, seeing Derek Watt pancake JJ Watt. 

On defense, the black and gold will have their hands full containing Deshaun Watson. Normally the Steelers like to blitz the opposition but I believe they would be better served sitting back. If Watson scrambles, he can go for dozens of yards at once and kill a team.  I think the key to success is keeping him the pocket and relying on the secondary to do their jobs.

Even though the records indicate this should be an easy win for the Steelers, it won’t be and Watson is a big reason why but at the end of the day, I trust the Steelers to get the job done and pull this one out with a 33-27 victory.

9/11/20-Pittsburgh Steelers at NY Giants

September 10, 2020 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The much anticipated 2020 NFL season is about to kickoff and the Pittsburgh Steelers journey back to the playoffs begins on Monday Night Football in New York against the Giants.  New York comes in with very low expectations as many experts predict them to be last in the NFC East.

Contrarily, many people see big things coming for the black and gold but a lot of that hinges upon the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he makes his much anticipated return to the field after his season ended prematurely in week three last season.

I think the Steelers will try to ease Big Ben into the game as they hope to ramp up their running game but against a stellar defensive line, I don’t look for much success out of starting running back James Conner.  I’d like to see rookie Anthony McFarland become a change of pace guy to help Roethlisberger and the offense pick up the short screens and quick burst runs.

I am anticipating a big game from new tight end Eric Ebron and ultimately I think the offense will take a half to click and gel but will get it going in the second half once Roethlisberger gets some of the game rust knocked off.

It will be interesting to watch new starting right tackle Zach Banner try to prove his worth. I know he’s a fan favorite but I’m not in that group. I don’t think the guy is good enough to be a starter and think he may be a problem for the Steelers as the season progresses.  David DeCastro won’t play this week and neither will Diontae Johnson, which helps the Giants out tremendously.

Defensively, the team will stuff the box so as not to allow Saquon Barkley and inch and force Daniel Jones to beat them. I look for a heavy rush from TJ Watt, who will gain three sacks this game and Bud Dupree who will gain two. Ultimately, the new Steel Curtain will dominate this game and not allow a touchdown.

I think the Steelers come out and win this game, with a close first half and pulling away in the second half with a 24 – 9 victory. 

12/19/19-Pittsburgh Steelers at NY Jets

December 19, 2019 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia 

The Steelers visit the NY Jets this week in a game that they must win to stay in the playoff mix.  It’s going to take 2 wins over the final two weeks or the Titans going 0-2 for the Steelers to hang on to the last playoff spot after the loss to Buffalo this past Sunday night.

The Steelers will need to win this game going back to basics.  First, they’ll need to play their Steel Curtain defense, getting after Sam Darnold and forcing him into errant throws and making poor decisions.  Make him “see ghosts” as he did against the Patriots.

With a rabid pass rush, led by defensive player of the year candidate TJ Watt and pro bowl snub Bud Dupree they should be able to light Darnold up.  After that, it’s ensuring Le’Veon Bell, they’re former teammate, doesn’t go off on them.  Bell hasn’t had a good season thus far but this would be the one game where he breaks out big. He can single handedly ruin the Steelers season and despite what he may say, despite what the Steelers locker room might say, he would love to do so. 

On offense, Randy Fichtner cannot throw Duck Hodges to the wolves, as he did last week.  Hodges will need to make some throws, sure, but he shouldn’t be throwing the football over 20 times in this game.  The ground game must be the focal point, to help control the clock and help set Hodges up for success. 

If James Conner is going to be the guy, then run him 20 times and let him control the pace of the game.  It’s going to be a close game, you can count on that, so the black and gold may as well control the clock and ideally the outcome in the process.

Since it will be close, and the offense can’t be counted on to do too much, special teams will certainly be a factor.  The return game with Diontae Johnson will need to help flip the field and you know Chris Boswell will need to continue his stellar 2019 season by making his kicks. 

In the end, if the Steelers can control the clock and force Darnold to be the guy that has to beat them, the black and gold should come out on top of this one 17-10.

12/14/19-Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers

December 14, 2019 by  
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By: Mike Pelaia

The surprisingly good Buffalo Bills enter town with a 9-4 record on Sunday Night to face the also surprisingly good Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently sit in the 6th seed with an 8-5 record. In order for the Steelers to stay in prime position, they need to win this game, which would enable them to pass the Bills in the seedings and avoid the Chiefs in round one, if things played out as they currently stand now.

The Bills are still in a position to catch and pass the Patriots for the division title and have a lot to play for.  They have a solid defense and an offense that does just enough to win ball games.

The Steelers will need to keep Josh Allen in the pocket.  He’s a versatile quarterback, capable of making plays with his legs and the Steelers seem to have trouble with guys once they get in the open field.  Allen doesn’t make a lot of huge plays in the air, but he is also pretty careful with the football, meaning the Steelers are going to have to blitz him early and often, trying to force him to make bad throws.  The defense will need to force Allen to beat them rather than allowing Devin Singletary to rush all over them.  Singletary is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and can make game changing plays. 

If the black and gold can contain Singletary and put the game on Allen, I think they’ll have a good chance at winning.

Offensively, it’s on Duck Hodges to keep playing like he has. He’ll need to make the throws downfield, distribute the ball between Diontae Johnson and James Washington and make the smart throws, protecting the football.  Hodges has been confident in the pocket, seems to read the field well and moves the ball.

I look for the ground game to assist him. With James Conner back, I’m looking for him to show up and carry the ball to the tune of 20 times for 80 yards and help control the clock.  My preference would be that Benny Snell be the main back but they may choose to go by committee, and that’s fine too, as long as they are moving the football, controlling the clock and helping Hodges.

It’s more than likely going to come down to special teams and a last minute field goal by Chris Boswell, set up by a punt return from Johnson.

In the end, I see the Steelers winning another close game, late 23-20.


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