Things to look for against Pittsburgh

Horizontal American Style Football in high contrast on black

I’ve done a little bit extra for everyone this week. Posted here is the season log for Pittsburgh so far in 2007, along with some highlighted breakdowns of interest. I’ve also posted the 2005 log for the Steelers that I prepared for the Super Bowl.

If it’s not obvious, this team is all about running, both on offense and defense. They are the 3rd-ranked rushing offense and 8th-ranked rushing defense. When they don’t rush for 100 yards as a team, they lose…period. So…

1. Stop the run!
The Steelers had rushed for 206, 184 and 205 before facing the Cardinals last week and netting 77 yards on the ground. Arizona is the 11th-ranked rushing defense, and the Hawks are the 13th, so it’s not completely unrealistic to hope for the Hawks to slow down that part of their offense.

2. Injuries
Hines Ward is among the best blocking WRs in football, and it’s no coincidence that the Steelers had trouble running once he was out of the lineup. He is going to do everything he can to play in this game. Casey Hampton and Troy Polamalu have not practiced this week, although both are expected to play according to the coaches. Of course, they were saying Polamalu was going to practice today, but he didn’t. Sticking with the run theme, if Hampton is out, we stand a much better chance of getting our running game off the ground (pardon the pun).

3. Exploit the nickel and dime packages
Our offensive strength has been passing the ball. The Steelers are without their nickel corner, and will either have an injured safety playing or a backup. Either way, I’d like to see us attack them with four-wide. Our pass protection has been solid, but will be tested against a great blitzing team. I would love to see Weaver used in the passing game with some screens. It would also be great to feature Obamanu as I’m sure nobody is game-planning for him yet.

4. Bring the Starbucks!
The Hawks are notoriously bad in 10AM games where they travel cross-country (are there other types of 10 AM games?). I’d hate to see the Hawks not show up for this game mentally. Every Seattle fan deserves to see this team play with a purpose against the Steelers. Losing would be bad. Playing sloppy or uninspired would be unacceptable.

5. Bring the 49ers defensive gameplan
While I don’t expect the Steelers to look as inept pass blocking as the 49ers, I think we have to take the same approach. If we can stack the run and win first down, I like our chances. When we get to Rothlisberger, we have to wrap up as he is a big boy and has a tendency to break out and make plays.

6. Beware the Steelers TEs
Our safeties and LBs will need to be aware of Heath Miller, especially in the red zone. He is Rothlisberger’s security blanket.

This is a game that nobody expects us to win, but it’s certainly a game we can win. I sense a fire behind Matt’s words this week. This is a guy who stood in front of massive rally crowds and promised to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. He was pretty honest on the Warren Moon show about how fresh the wounds still were. Combine his motivation with his performance so far this season, and there’s reason to be excited to watch this game. If the defense can keep the Steelers under 125 yards rushing, I really like our chances.

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