Following a 26-16 Week 1 win over the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers head back to Heinz Field for their home opener against the 0-1 Denver Broncos, who lost on a field goal in the dying seconds against the Tennessee Titans. This is the second straight week that the Steelers will face a second-year quarterback, and if they can accomplish these three key factors Sunday afternoon, they will come out of this Week 2 clash against the Broncos sitting nicely at 2-0.
1. Bud Dupree needs to attack Garrett Bolles
Dupree was the most noticeable force on the Steelers defense in their Monday night victory. He applied constant pressure to quarterback Daniel Jones, netting five quarterback pressures, four hurries, and one knockdown as he bullied a young offensive line all night.
Garrett Bolles has been very disappointing for the Broncos since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. While he looked better than expected against Tennessee, can he consistently keep pressure off of Drew Lock?
If Dupree is able to apply the same type of pressure in Week 2, we could see a very similar result — a young quarterback making erratic throws while under pressure, leading to turnovers. If Dupree can be that force, Denver could be in trouble.
2. Contain Denver’s Explosive Weapons
The Broncos made it clear that their goal was to score a lot of points when they drafted Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, in the 2020 NFL Draft. Putting the two explosive receivers with Lock and tight end Noah Fant quickly gave Denver the potential to be one of the better offenses in the NFL. Not to mention that Courtland Sutton has emerged as a legitimate No. 1 receiver, recording over 1,100 receiving yards in 2019.
While Pittsburgh was able to hold Saquon Barkley to just six yards on the ground, Denver has more talent on the outside than New York. Although the status of Sutton and Hamler for Sunday is still unknown, Pittsburgh will still have their plates full with Jeudy, Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Tim Patrick.
While Denver has a great group of young talent, the Steelers possess one of the best secondaries in football. Minkah Fitzpatrick was an All-Pro last season with five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns; Joe Haden was also a Pro Bowler and netted five picks as well. Haden’s cornerback partner Steven Nelson is quietly one of the best lockdown cornerbacks in football, allowing a completion percentage of 51.5% when the ball was thrown his way in 2019.
Pittsburgh will likely get some pressure on Drew Lock, but there will be instances where he has time to throw, leading to potential splash plays for Denver’s offense. While the Broncos receivers are good, the Steelers secondary is better, and they should be able to take care of business.
3. Start The Game Fast
The Steelers started sluggishly against the Giants. Two of their first three possessions resulted in three and outs, Diontae Johnson muffed a punt that gave the Giants the ball inside the five-yard line, and they were persistent on running similar run plays involving jet motion and a run toward the right guard that consistently didn’t work.
Matt Canada was brought in to modernize the offense, increasing pre-snap motion, and they ranked 4th in plays that included motion in Week 1. It worked well when it came to the passing game, as Chase Claypool’s deep reception and JuJu Smith-Schuster’s first touchdown reception both came on plays in which Eric Ebron was in motion. Look for Pittsburgh to use it more in their aerial attack.
If the Steelers can start with an opening drive touchdown, or at the very least a long drive to tire out the Broncos’ defense and lead to points, that would go a long way towards setting them up to put the Broncos under pressure later in the game. A fast start and a lead courtesy of the offense, combined with solid defensive plays against the Broncos young core could put this game away early.