10/13/20-Steelers Sit 4-0 Through First Quarter of Season, Face 4-1 Browns

October 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Team

By: Mike Pelaia

The Pittsburgh Steelers have traditionally liked to break the season down into quarters during the Mike Tomlin era.  Through the first quarters of 2020 they have had some challenges along the way yet their record sits at a perfect 4-0. 

It’s hard not to look at the fact that the first quarter schedule was significantly easier than the second quarter of the season schedule is about to be.  The Steelers opponents through the first portion of the season (most teams have already played five games) have combined for a grand total of three wins.  Their next four opponents have already combined for 13 wins and this will be a real test of who the Pittsburgh Steelers really are in 2020.

Ben Roethlisberger has been stellar through four weeks, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns to only one interception and as the team prepares to host the 4-1 Cleveland Browns, that play is going to need to continue.  The energy and leadership Roethlisberger brings to this team has been palpable thus far and I look for him to show the young players what division play is all about this coming week. Guys like Chase Claypool, who has been sensation through the first four games and is coming off a four touchdown performance against the Eagles will be a key cog in the offensive game plan against the Browns, along with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron.  Cleveland ranks 30th in the league, allowing 296 yards per game through the air.  I anticipate quite a few plays downfield for Big Ben and the offense to take advantage of the Browns main weakness. 

Pittsburgh will try to establish the run to set up the pass and will lean on James Conner to do so, as they have for the bulk of the season but the Browns are fourth in the league, giving up only 87 yards per game.  I think the Steelers are better served using Benny Snell, who averages 4.1 yards per game and mixing it up with Anthony McFarland, the rookie speedster to provide some bigger play opportunities this week. 

The Steelers have done a solid job of protecting their franchise quarterback through four games, allowing only six sacks but they’ll need to step up their play this week as they face the nearly unstoppable Myles Garret, who already boasts six sacks of his own.  Garret can disrupt a game on his own and he will need to be double teamed to keep him away from the immobile Roethlisberger.  If Garret continues to be a force this week, he could make it a long day for the Steelers offense and he’s a big reason why the Browns sit at 4-1.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers boast the number three ranked defense allowing 301 yards per game and have been tremendous against the run, sitting second in the league allowing a miniscule 64 yards per game.  However, they have bene susceptible to the big pass play and are in the middle of the pack, ranked 15th in the league, allowing 237 yards a game through the air. 

While the Browns have two top of the line running backs in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb who both average over five yards a carry for over 700 yards and must be stopped by the Steelers front seven, I believe it’s far more important for the Pittsburgh secondary to step up this week and find a way to contain both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr who each have 21 receptions through five games and can get open on any play for Baker Mayfield.   If the Steelers manage to bottle up either of those two, they’ll have their hands full with Austin Hooper, the Browns top tight end and third down go to guy. 

I have been unimpressed with the Steelers third down defense this season and they must find a way to improve upon that this week vs. Cleveland.  It starts with the front seven and the pass rush. I’m looking for Bud Dupree and TJ Watt to be in Mayfields face all afternoon, the Cleveland running game to be stopped and the Steelers secondary to contain the talented duo on the outside.  If they do that, they’ll win the game.

It won’t be a breeze, but the Steelers will find a way to continue their perfect record with a 33-27 victory on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

9/24/20-Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

September 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Game Day, Team

Comments Off on 9/24/20-Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

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.

9/15/20-Steelers Stifle Giants, On To Denver

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Team

By: Mike Pelaia


The much anticipated return of Ben Roethlisberger against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football ended in a Pittsburgh Steelers victory to open the 2020 season and the chase for Lombardi number seven has officially begun.

Despite not seeing game action in a full calendar year, Roethlisberger looked good, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. The most important part about Roethlisberger’s return was the fluidity of the offense as he sliced and diced the Giants defense in a two minute drill that was nearly flawless.

Big Ben is capable of spreading the ball to all of his receivers and I believe that is something this offense will need to continue to do as the season progresses. Eight different guys caught the all on Monday Night and it was evident that JuJu Smith-Schuster was rejuvenated as Roethlisberger was able to get him the ball six times, including two touchdowns. 

The return of Roethlisberger wasn’t the only exciting thing fans of the Steelers got to watch against New York; the defense was once again stifling and rabid. They held Saquon Barkley, one of the premier backs in football to a pitiful six yards on fifteen caries.  They forced two interceptions and had eleven tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  Bud Dupree was stellar and proved he deserved the franchise tag this year and plans to be paid this coming offseason. 

As the team prepares for their home opener against the 0-1 Denver Broncos, they’re immediately going to have to figure out who will be playing on the offensive line in in place of Zach Banner who appears significantly injured as well Stefen Wisniewski who went down with an injury and was already playing in place of the injured David Decastro.  In all likelihood Chuks Okarofor can step in and play for Banner but I look for some free agent o-lineman to be in Pittsburgh this week as well; the line already looks depleted one game into the season.

Against the Broncos, Benny Snell needs to be the main back.  James Conner was injured once again and even if he were healthy, I’d be pushing for Snell to be the guy.  He runs the ball more effectively than Conner, finds the holes quicker and has a burst of speed that Conner seems to lack.  Snell should see the ball 25 times against the Broncos this coming week and I’d expect him to average at least four yards per carry. 

Roethlisberger will need to continue getting all his receivers involved in the game and I’d really like to see more production out of Eric Ebron moving forward. I think Ebron will be a key to the success of the Steelers when they play Denver this coming week.  Pittsburgh needs to spread the Broncos defense wide by pushing out four receivers; Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Chase Claypool, freeing up the middle for Eric Ebron and possibly Jaylen Samuels or Anthony McFarland out of the backfield on third down plays. In doing so, this offense will score points in droves.

Defensively, the Steelers face another dynamic running back, Melvin Gordon, who they will need to stop first. The Broncos want to feed Gordon the ball, protecting their young quarterback Drew Lock and if the Steelers can stuff Gordon as they did Barkely, Lock is going to have to be the guy to beat them.  The Steelers did show they are capable of giving up passing yards and have some weaknesses on third down defense at times so they will need to blitz Lock with fury and expect to see TJ Watt and Bud Dupree in the Broncos backfield all afternoon. 

The Broncos are a younger team at their skill positions and can easily be rattled, however with a lack of a home crowd in the stadium, the Steelers will have to rattle them and intimidate them on their own, flustering the 0-1 Denver team into mistakes and ideally putting the game away early. 

If the Steelers can overcome the injuries on the offensive line, keep Big Ben upright and healthy, run the ball with an average of four yards a carry and stuff Melvin Gordon, they should win this game in a cakewalk. 

I’m looking for an easy victory, 31-13 Steelers and a 2-0 start.  

9/11/20-Pittsburgh Steelers at NY Giants

September 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Game Day, Team

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. 


May 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Podcasts, Steel Nation Radio, Team


By: Mike Pelaia

It’s been quite some time since I recorded a show but the mood struck me to talk Steelers football during this crazy quarantine.  I talk Ben Roethlisberger, the backup situation, running backs, the defense and if I think this team can go to the playoffs or Super Bowl. 

Check it out right here:

4/10/20-Steelers Draft 2020-What Will Happen?

April 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Team

Comments Off on 4/10/20-Steelers Draft 2020-What Will Happen?

By: Mike Pelaia

With the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the world and sports coming to screeching halt over the last few weeks, it’s easy to forget the NFL is about to host their annual rookie draft from April 23-25. 

The draft is typically an event that brings a lot of excitement with thousands of fans flocking to the host city annually to get a taste of NFL football in April.  Fans have an unquenchable thirst for football year round and this is typically the first big fan event the NFL has to signify the beginning of the new season.

Yet this year, there will be no fans attending the event. In fact, there is no venue for the event, nor should there be. In lieu of the normal chaotic, fast paced atmosphere at a highly populated venue, this years’ draft will be held virtually. A sports first. 

All NFL team personnel will be working from their homes and will need to communicate and work with each other the same as any of the rest of us do; via video calls, texts, emails and screenshares.  They’ll need to find a way to do what they normally do on an annual basis sitting together, sitting apart.  Players that are drafted will be allowed to host draft parties, yet with different rules. They may not have more than 10 people in their homes and they must be six feet apart at all times.

Despite the necessary changes to this years’ event, with all of the technology available to us, the draft will go on as planned, the teams will make their selections, the players will be available and the fans will still be able to watch on TV from the comfort of their own homes.

What this all means for the Steelers is quite simply this. They now need to put all of the scouting, film watching, meetings and analyzations they’ve done since the season ended four months ago to good use to prepare for the 2020-2021 NFL season due to kick off September 10th (presuming the end or massive slow down to this pandemic).

The Steelers have needs, as every team does, yet they are in a fortunate position that most teams are not.  They are coming off a season in which they went 8-8, touting a top five defense in the league and are bringing back their franchise quarterback, having had to deal with 2nd and 3rd string guys for 15 of the 16 games.

They are an early favorite to make the playoffs and expectations are high for them to advance deep into the post-season. 

Now that free agency is essentially over, it’s time for the Steelers to shift their energy to filling their needs via the draft. 

The team has needs on both sides of the football but I see this draft being more of an offensive focused draft for them.  The defense is getting better and since the team gave the franchise tag to Bud Dupree, the only glaring need on the defense that I see is filling in the Nose Tackle position vacated by the departure of JaVon Hargrave. They probably should add an edge rusher as well, to provide depth to go along with Dupree and TJ Watt and they could consider more depth at safety, especially if they are leaning towards giving up on Terell Edmunds (which I think would be too soon).

Their greatest need, in my opinion is offensive line.  Ramon Foster retired (though he would have been released) and the rest offensive line is aging.  You could see the decline in Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva last season. Both are still very solid players but the unit needs an injection of youth. 

With limited picks, the Steelers will also need to try to pick and choose what areas they feel they need to fill between running back, wide receiver, tight end and a developmental quarterback.

I think the team will ignore running back and give James Conner and Benny Snell the 2020 season to prove they are capable backs.  With the signing of Eric Ebron, they will probably also shy away from tight end in this draft, unless a guy like Thaddeus Moss falls to them in the middle rounds.

The Steelers only have six picks in this years draft and will not draft in rounds one or five, having two picks in round four. 

How they choose to approach the draft is typically the same, by best player available on their big board, filling a need when applicable. Taking that into account, here’s how I believe the 2020 draft will fall for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Round 2, Pick 49:  Marlon Davidson, DL Auburn

Despite offensive line being the biggest need, there won’t be a viable option here.  Davidson is a guy who can help fill the void of Hargraves’ departure. He’s solid against both the run and the pass and can play on the outside or inside if needed.

Round 3, pick 102: Saahdiq Charles, OT LSU

Charles injects youth to an ailing unit that desperately needs it. He’s a good run blocker, he’s quick and mobile.  He had some disciplinary issues at LSU which could be a red flag but if he’s available, he’s worth the risk here.

Round 4, pick 124: Kenny Willekes, EDGE Michigan State

Willekes is the classic Steelers pick here.  A high motor Edge rusher with solid play vs. both run and pass coming out of a power five school.  He’s a guy that can make an impact immediately and will be a steal at this pick if the team can nab him here.

Round 4, pick 135:  John Simpson, OL Clemson

Pittsburgh continues to add depth and youth on the offensive line with John Simpson. Simpson is big and strong and has played high level football at a national powerhouse as a starter for the last two seasons. He can turn into an eventual starter for the Steelers as well

Round 6, pick 198:  Jauan Jennings, WR Tennessee  

The Steelers continue their annual drafting of a wide receiver with Jennings. He’s a tough guy to bring down once he has the football and is a good possession receiver.  He’ll be brought in to add depth to a young corps that can use it. 

Round 7, pick 232: Steven Montez, QB Colorado

Montez is brought in as a developmental quarterback. He’s hardly the future replacement for Big Ben but he’s a guy that can compete for the third spot on the roster and replace Duck Hodges. 

If the draft plays out for the Steeler as I project above, they should be in good shape to fill in gaps for the upcoming season as well as find some future starters for years to come. 

12/30/19-Season Could Have Been Much Worse

December 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Team

Comments Off on 12/30/19-Season Could Have Been Much Worse

By: Mike Pelaia

In years past, it’s often been rare for me to give Mike Tomlin credit.  But, in 2019, that’s exactly what I need to do.  Tomlin somehow managed to have a team that was supposed to feature Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster as the main offensive threats but ended up having Duck Hodges, Benny Snell and Diontae Johnson, all rookies, be their main offensive threats, still make a playoff run. 

And, oh yeah, finish with a .500 record after an 0-3 start.  The fact that he was able to get the defense turned around and exciting again was an impressive feat and one that enabled this team to stay in the hunt all season long.  To get the sacks and turnovers at the pace they did was something this team hadn’t seen in years.  To see TJ Watt develop into a defensive player of the year candidate was probably the best thing that occurred all season. 

The defense had to carry the team this year because the offense was bad.  JuJu, when healthy couldn’t handle the spotlight as the top target. James Conner couldn’t stay on the field and when he was on there, barely got chances to run and didn’t do all that much when he did and of course the loss of Roethlisberger in week two was the most problematic of all. 

Yet, Tomlin did pull the right strings at the right time, benching Mason Rudolph in favor of Hodges to pick up a few wins in the middle of the season paid off mightily. 

The biggest thing he did though, was keep this team motivated to play each and every week. This was the best coaching job he has done in his career.  How this team won more than four games is miraculous to me.  

Tomlin gets all the credit in the world this season because it could have been much, much worse than it was.

12/19/19-Pittsburgh Steelers at NY Jets

December 19, 2019 by  
Filed under Game Day, Team

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.

12/17/19-Steel Nation Radio – Bills Wrap Up and Jets Preview

December 17, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcasts, Steel Nation Radio, Team

Comments Off on 12/17/19-Steel Nation Radio – Bills Wrap Up and Jets Preview

By: Mike Pelaia

After the loss to the Bills on Sunday Night, what is going on in Pittsburgh and what do they need to do to beat the Jets this week.  Plus thoughts on Duck and much more:  

12/16/19-Steelers Have Championship Caliber Defense

December 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Team

By: Mike Pelaia

It’s a late season game at Heinz Field, the defense sits on the field in a close, must win game when Renegade comes on the jumbotron and the crowd goes wild. 

As the song blasts over the loud speakers, showing highlights of the Steelers defense making play after play in the 2019 season with sacks and turnovers created at an incredible pace, it becomes increasingly apparent how great this unit is.  This defense is a championship level defense, one that can carry a team to and possibly through, the playoffs, if the offense can just do enough.

This Steelers defense is incredible this year. They are first in the league with 35 turnovers created, 19 of those being interceptions.  They have already more than doubled last seasons total output of eight interceptions on the year.  The addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, who leads the team with five, has undoubtedly made a huge difference in the secondary.  The signing of Steven Nelson, has made teams have to throw toward Joe Haden this year and he’s been able to lock down four interceptions thus far. 

Perhaps, the biggest factor this year is the continued emergence of TJ Watt who is on a defensive player of the year pace with 13 sacks and countless other game changing plays to go along with the sudden development of Bud Dupree who has chipped in an additional 9.5 sacks, contributing to the team total of 49 on the year.  The way these guys are getting to the quarterback, forcing 16 fumbles along the way, helping the secondary, it’s no wonder this unit is playing at the top of the league.

But it’s not just turnovers.  They aren’t giving up yards or big plays very often. They are fifth in the league in total yards allowed and sixth in points per game, allowing just 18.6 points per game to date.

Not only are guys like Watt, Dupree, Fitzpatrick, Nelson and Haden making plays but Cam Heyward and Javon Hargrave upfront are stuffing the run and getting to the opposition and Vince Williams and Devin Bush fly all over the field, impacting the game. 

This unit, led by Keith Butler, who nobody trusted the past several years, has emerged into the new Steel Curtain.  The team may have lost to the Bills this past week but the defense only gave up 17 points. That number is typically enough to win an NFL game. 

Yet this defense expects a lot from itself, specifically knowing the offense isn’t a powerhouse.  “Surrender 3” Heyward stated, meaning the defense shouldn’t be giving up late touchdowns, and they expect themselves to “get off the field”.  “We felt like we have the defense to not give up touchdowns, at least minimize them to field goals” said Haden.  This defense takes pride in the fact that they don’t give up points, to them, allowing 17 felt like the Bills game was on them. 

The reality is, that game was on the offense and the pressure is on this defense each and every week to give up as few points as possible.  Even more true, if this offense can drop 20 points, as they will need to coming into this week against the Jets, they should be a good bet to win most games.

As the team looks forward to the last two games of the season, the defense will be ready to carry them.  Against the Jets, they’ll get after Sam Darnold and they’ll stuff LeVeon Bell.  They’ll give up less than the 18.6 points they’ve been allowing on the year and they’ll come out with a win. 

I used to worry about this defense, I don’t anymore.  This defense is a top defense in the NFL for a reason.  With playmakers all over the field, they change games.  They win games. They can carry this team far and they will carry this team to the playoffs.  It’s on the offense to do their part because if they can, they’ll be able to ride a championship caliber defense a long way.


« Previous PageNext Page »