The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have played in about 10 days, but they are still on something of a roll all the same, having been victorious in each of their past five games. And, truth be told, there really is no good reason whatsoever why that should not continue tonight against a Green Bay Packers team that has Brett Hundley rather than Aaron Rodgers under center.
The Steelers are a team that likes to play in primetime, and at home. We saw what happened the last time those two factors converged, as they blew out the Titans in their last game by a score of 40-17, their first game this season scoring at least 30 points, period.
The Steelers used the no huddle to jumpstart their offense in that game, and I believe that they will attempt to do the same tonight against a Packers defense that figures to be without a couple of starters in their front seven, or at least have under at less than 100 percent.
Still, while Rodgers may not be playing, the secondary can certainly not get complacent. The Ravens have a better and healthier secondary right now, and while Hundley was not making mistakes, he was moving the ball down the field pretty well at times, until he threw costly and poor interceptions in the red zone.
At the same time, this defense is one that has seen improvements in recent weeks both in their red zone work and in their ability to create turnovers, as well as to get after the quarterback, all three things that Hundley has struggled with.
The defense will likely focus early on on shutting down any semblance of a running game for the Packers in order to force the issue with their backup quarterback. Offensively, I believe they will be more aggressive through the air than perhaps some might expect.
Even without JuJu Smith-Schuster in this game, I think Ben Roethlisberger wants to get the passing game going, and I think he wants to start rebuilding his connections with some of his other wide receivers not named Antonio Brown.
Obviously, the rookie’s absence will be the ideal opportunity to do that, since it will result in a lot more playing time for Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers, who have essentially been rotating as the third receiver for the past several weeks.
One battle to watch will be Chris Hubbard at right tackle against Nick Perry, who is beginning to play at a higher level as he gets healthier, overcoming a hand injury. He has seven sacks on the season after a two-sack game. Hubbard hasn’t really played in several weeks now.
Another curiosity will be the kick return game with Smith-Schuster absent. It’s not clear who will take his place, but they already swapped Fitzgerald Toussaint in for Terrell Watson.