September 20, 2021

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Tim Benz: With the pre-season games over, the Steelers still have 3 big issues to tackle

For the most part, the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to have a very positive training camp and solid preparations.

He stepped aside 34-9 Friday night from losing the Carolina Panthers in the pre-season finale.

It seems as if a lot of questions surrounding the depth of the team – and even some beginners – have been addressed.

I’m not ready to say “fixed” yet. Rather eat it.

Potential problems have been identified. Possible solutions have been developed. There is reason to believe they will work.

Rookies Nagy Harris and Pat Freymouth look like the real deal in running back and tight end, respectively.

Reserve quarterbacks Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and Josh Dobbs pushed each other so much that they were way better than bad — until Friday. Meanwhile, their receivers don’t seem to have as many drop-related issues as they did a year ago.

In the outside quarterback, Alex Highsmith may be on his way to making the much-discussed leap from year one to year two. His improvement combined with the signing of Melvin Ingram and impressive pre-season efforts from the likes of Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche and Jamir Jones should mitigate the departures of Bud Dupree and Ola Adeniyi.

Trading with Joe Schubert of Jacksonville might be a long-awaited cure for what bothered them as the inner quarterback. Players such as Carlos Davis, Henry Mundo, Isaiah Bags and Isaiah Laudermilk may extend shifts along the defensive line.

Even gambler Presley Harvin III and Jordan Perry had a tough competition.

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But there are three areas the Steelers haven’t fixed yet. One of them could not control. The other two tasks might be bigger tasks that one boot camp would have time to solve.

offensive line: To be fair, the offensive line isn’t yet the train wreck many of us expected before the boot camp opened. Heading to kickoff Friday night in Charlotte, Pro Football Focus ranked the Steelers’ offensive line as the second best overall unit in the NFL behind New England during pre-season.

Notably left goalkeeper Kevin Dotson, who has been playing catch-up in recent weeks after missing some time due to injury.

Just keep in mind that coach Adrian Klemm’s unit has rarely seen a lot of first-team defensive fronts and has rarely had a first-team group of five on the field at any one time.

The push that hinders running is still inconsistent. Dobbs was fired once. Haskins wasn’t either, but he handled a fair amount of pressure against the Panthers’ first-team defense. Unless Ben Roethlisberger and the Starting Skill men were involved, the red zone was a problem.

Let’s be honest, no matter how good or poor the offensive line is in pre-season, we wouldn’t believe this completely revamped squad would be effective until you play in a real game.

That day comes in Buffalo on September 12th.

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Looking for defensive backs from nickel and dime: The further we moved away from the injury-related release of Antoine Brooks, the clearer the Steelers really wanted him to win the Mike Hilton slot job.

Now it’s pretty clear that Cameron Sutton will have to bounce back inside when the Steelers head into five defenses, and James Peer or Justin Lane should quickly mature on the outside versus Joe Haden.

As much as the sixth man on a dime, there’s a lot to like about seventh rookie Trey Norwood. Smarts. cleverness. Instinct. coexistence. But the lack of raw foot speed and some handling issues revealed themselves, and his first-half interception against the Panthers was costly.

It may be a blessing in disguise that I am inclined to think that Sutton has looked better at times (this season and during his career) in the hole than he did this summer outside.

While Sutton might end up juggling two positions at once, keeping him in the slot and letting Pierre or Layne handle the outside missions might be the best combination of five DBs for defense coordinator Keith Butler and sub-coach Teryl Austin.

schedule: That’s the one thing the Steelers can’t control. It will be daunting. The The most difficult opponent force of the schedule in the NFL.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, though, Cleveland Browns And Baltimore crows they both have Wasted preparation time for some players who had to deal With many injuries At the training camp.

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The Tennessee Titans And buffalo bills They had covid-19 problems. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is coming out of knee surgery. And the Green Bay Packers spent most of the vacation distracted by the Aaron Rodgers saga.

“I’ll take the NFL divas For $1000, Aaron. “

So maybe some Steelers opponents who have faced troublesome camps will take a step or two back, with the Steelers taking a step or two forward.

Or maybe it’s been eight months since I saw meaningful football and I’m trying to convince myself that it will last until at least mid-January.

Yes. That might be the second thing.

But at least the Steelers did enough to make me think the possibility was there when I was ready to think playoffs were unlikely in March.

Tim Benz is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Tim at t[email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets can be reposted. All emails are subject to posting unless otherwise stated.