It’s a new week in the NFL. As we know, everything can change quickly in this league.
Pittsburgh is coming off a deflating loss against the San Francisco 49ers. For Steelers fans, there weren’t many positives to take away from the loss and the team suffered multiple injuries to their key players. Stout defensive lineman Cameron Heyward will miss multiple weeks with a groin injury and wide receiver Diontae Johnson will be out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, among a number of other less serious injuries.
However, Pittsburgh still has talent on their team. Linebacker T.J. Watt is still there, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is roaming the backend and wide receiver George Pickens continues to build on his rookie season.
Here are 3 players to keep an eye out for in Week 2 on Monday Night Football:
TE Pat Freiermuth
With Johnson being out for a couple weeks, the Steelers receiving options become limited. Enter Freiermuth.
Friermuth, who is entering his 3rd season with Pittsburgh has been productive since arriving with the team back in 2021. Friermuth has been a reliable option in the passing game for quarterback Kenny Pickett.
A tight end who starts in a unique stance quite often, Friermuth has both the athleticism and size that Pittsburgh lacked at the tight end position. He has slowly developed into one of the top 15 tight ends in the league. He’s also known for bringing back outdated dance moves such as the “Dab”.
....is the dab back??— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 10, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/krtZ6fT37p
Friermuth has been a bit of a problem for Cleveland in the past. It might not reflect in the stat sheet always but he is capable of making passes and coming through when he is called upon. In Week 1, he was targeted 4 times but caught one pass for the Steelers lone touchdown.
Browns fans should expect Friermuth to be included in the offense a bit more with Johnson out and more attention on Pickens.
WR George Pickens
Speaking of Pickens, let’s discuss. The Georgia wide receiver has been talked about quite frequently going back to last season. Pickens made his presence well known to the world on Thursday night back in Week 3 of the 2022 season against the Browns when he made an Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed type catch.
Safe to say he’s been continuing to do it.
As far as the on-the-field production goes, Pickens put together a solid rookie campaign as the 2nd round pick out of Georgia established himself as one of the young and upcoming receivers in the NFL. Despite his issues with separation, he is great at contested catches and has a solid catch radius.
Last Sunday, he was essentially a non-factor as San Francisco essentially kept him quiet for most of the game, he only caught 5 balls for 36 yards on 7 targets. The lack of targets led many to believe he isn’t happy with the person passing him the ball, quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Steelers WR George Pickens liked this comment on his Instagram post:— Arye Pulli (@AryePulli) September 11, 2023
“Nobody to get that man the ball tho.” pic.twitter.com/IgQXjM8XUY
Pickens later denied that he was unhappy with Pickett but you have to understand where he is coming from.
George Pickens on the alleged social media “like” of an anti-Kenny Pickett comment pic.twitter.com/PZm12tHrfD— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) September 11, 2023
With Johnson out, expect teams to focus more on Pickens and great defensive coordinators will find ways to get limit the playmakers on offense. Cleveland’s secondary is battle-tested after holding Cincinnati’s wide receiver trio in check, but the attention will be focused on number 14.
LB Alex Highsmith
If there is someone to keep an eye on in terms of Pittsburgh’s defense, it’s edge rusher Alex Highsmith. Highsmith is slowly developing into one of the most underrated edge rushers in the league and is one of the top-tier edge rushers on the Steelers.
Highsmith is solid against the run and he has started to be productive as a rusher. Highsmith has given Cleveland problems and Monday night will be no different. Despite Cameron Hayward not being on the field, Cleveland will have their hands full with T.J. Watt and Highsmith coming off the edge.
Offensive tackle Jed Wills had his fair share of struggles against Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson, so he will have to be prepared for Highsmith. Highsmith can cause problems with his pass rush, despite not being an A+ athlete. He has a plethora of moves and he can win in multiple ways. The attention will be on T.J. Watt but Browns fans should be weary of Highsmith.
Who from the Steelers are you most interested in watching on Monday Night Football?