On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are on the road to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. To help preview a few topics from the Steelers’ perspective, we reached out to Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Ben Roethlisberger has a lot of turnovers in Week 1 against the Browns in the rain. How has he performed in general since then? Is he back to being Big Ben, or has there been a dropoff?”
Jeff: “Roethlisberger did get off to a pretty rough start to the season, in regards to turnovers, but has since corrected this trend and is playing great football. There is a big difference between the Roethlisberger of Week 1, and the Roethlisberger who entered the bye week. The offense has changed since years past. No longer is the deep ball mandatory, but the intermediate passes and yards after catch are how the Steelers move the ball...and Roethlisberger is thriving.”
Chris: “Tell us about the Steelers’ cornerback position heading toward the mid-way point of the season.”
Jeff: “You know about Joe Haden, and he has been a Godsend for this Pittsburgh secondary. However, the player opposite Haden, either Artie Burns or Coty Sensabaugh, has struggled. In fact, when Artie Burns entered the game in Week 1, Todd Haley targeted him immediately, and it paid dividends. He is lacking confidence, and has had issues in the Steelers’ zone coverage schemes. If you want to beat the Steelers’ defense, target the cornerback opposite Haden with regularity.”
Chris: “James Connor has performed quite well for the Steelers. If Le’Veon Bell returns soon, how do fans expect him to be utilized?”
Jeff: “Le’Veon Bell won’t be in the lineup this week, but even when he does return the team has been pretty adamant Bell won’t become the sole running back in the backfield. While Bell would likely become the starter, most would assume a 70-30 Bell to Conner ratio in the backfield to best utilize the talents of both backs.”
Chris: “Besides cornerback, what is the Steelers’ biggest weakness right now?”
Jeff: “On the defensive side of the ball, the middle of the field is still a vulnerability. Since Ryan Shazier’s injury, the Steelers’ inside linebackers are decent against the run, but when spread out can be crushed on the inside. Jon Bostic, who was signed to fill in for Shazier, has filled in admirably, but still isn’t close to a strength of the defense.”
Chris: “T.J. Watt has been having monster games against Cleveland. Has he been causing havoc against other teams too, or just Cleveland?”
Jeff: “Watt has been a player on the rise, and has had consistent production, but has tormented the Browns during his time in the NFL. Watt is on pace to lead the Steelers in sacks, and reach the double-digit sack total. His six sacks through 6 games leads the team, and with a big game on Sunday he could further his stance as the Steelers’ most dynamic defender.”
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.