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Steelers Opponents

Bengals A.J. Green to Miss 6-8 Weeks with Ankle Injury



Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will miss six to eight weeks with torn ligament in his left ankle, as was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Sunday.

That would put the Cincinnati star receiver on track for a return just in time for the Bengals to visit the Steelers on Monday night in Week 4 on September 30.

Green is expected to miss his team’s opener at Seattle of September 8, and could miss games against San Francisco on September 15 and at Buffalo on September 22, depending on how his rehab process goes.

Green also missed seven games in the 2018 season, including the second meeting between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which caused him to miss his first Pro Bowl since joining the league.

In his eight-year career, he’s played more games against Pittsburgh (14) than any other team. In those games, he has 88 catches for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns. The Steelers are 11-3 in those games.

Cincinnati will replace Green with recently extended fourth-year receiver Tyler Boyd out of Pitt and Clairton as the team’s top passing option. John Ross, who was the Bengals’ first-round pick in 2017, will be in line to be elevated to a starting role.

Steelers Opponents

Scouting Report: Broncos’ Weapons Stress Defenses



The Broncos come into Pittsburgh off a tough loss to the Tennessee Titans. While they did lose, it was a great effort by the Broncos against a team that was in the AFC Championship last season. This game on Sunday is by no means a walk in the park for the Steelers, as they will learn through watching film of that week one matchup. What can the Steelers expect to see on both sides of the ball? What playmakers will they have to watch out for? Can they exploit any matchups?

Broncos Schemes

The offensive scheme run by Pat Shurmur is one that maximizes Drew Lock’s ability to win as a quarterback. They take advantage of his mobility, but also use his arm strength. Much like the Giants, this is a team that wants to push the ball vertically given the right opportunity. However, Shurmur also sprinkles in motion and lots of rollouts to take advantage of Lock’s legs. The misdirection that Shurmur uses on his offense opens up guys at all levels of the field, but especially at the immediate flats.

This is one of the examples of that rollout. They make the formation tight but have set this up all day long. As the run game shows, the Broncos love to use 12 and 13 personnel to get their way in the running game. It is a dual-zone and gap scheme that they use. They counter the overaggressiveness of the defense with play-action rollouts such as this. The Steelers will have to be careful when they get too aggressive playing against Melvin Gordon and the running game.

One other characteristic of the Broncos scheme is they spread defenses out. This partially helps the running game by lightening the box, but even more so, they love to cause traffic to either attack underneath or get guys open down the boundary. With Courtland Sutton in here, plays like this would likely be more successful. If the Broncos have him on Sunday, their scheme is far more potent. They can push the ball down the field more with Sutton on board.

As far as the running game goes, again, this is a diverse running game that does not have one big constant. Aside from the abundant use of motion, they did use a lot of pulling guards and motion to get lead blocks out in front of Gordon. That is likely to be a constant this week given their heavy success last week on these runs.

As far as the Broncos defense, this is primarily a quarters scheme. That often means attacking the Broncos underneath will be a way to really shred them. However, they also were beaten badly on deep over routes off of play-action against the Titans. The Steelers do not like to use play-action often, but this is a week it could show up in at least a limited capacity. Even if the rushing attack is not as potent as a Derrick Henry-led attack, the Steelers can still have success in this area.

This is pretty simple. The Broncos have Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell as their linebackers, and at best, they are average in coverage. They are very exploitable, which should see the Steelers attack the middle of the field often with guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster this week.

The other thing to watch out for is star safety, Justin Simmons. Simmons loves to come down from the two-high shells that the Broncos can implement and rob the middle of the field. Similar to how the Steelers use Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Broncos like to run man coverage to free up their playmaking safety.

Key Players to Watch

TE Noah Fant

Fant was a big part of the Broncos first half gameplan on Monday night. An athletic tight end that bust seams with ease, Fant is the definition of a mismatch weapon for any offense, but especially one that likes to space out defenses. If Fant gets a mismatch against someone like Vince Williams, the Steelers could be very prone to some chunk plays on Sunday and they will have to scheme against that.

S Justin Simmons

Simmons continues to be one of the best safeties in the NFL right up there with guys like Fitzpatrick. He is a versatile chess piece that condenses a million roles into one on this Denver defense. Maybe the most important thing to take a look at when considering what Simmons can bring to the table is his range and ball skills, both of which are excellent. Ben Roethlisberger will have to be careful as he tries to test the defense anywhere near Simmons this week.

WR Courtland Sutton

Sutton is essentially the question mark of this game at this point. If he ends up playing on Sunday, the Broncos can implement more vertical schemes rather than just play the rollout game like they did last week. There is no guarantee that they will be able to do either sufficiently, but with Sutton, the Steelers cornerbacks will be far more stressed by the big, smooth receiver who can bring down anything thrown his way.

Key Matchups to Watch

Kevin Dotson vs Jurrell Casey

This is perhaps the most important matchup of them all. With David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski, both out with injuries, Steelers rookie Kevin Dotson is being thrown into the fire against one of the better defensive lineman in the NFL right now. It is about to be the toughest matchup for Dotson on his young career, but he has been facing guys like Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt all week to train him for this. In those limited snaps against the Giants, Dotson looked good, but he’ll have to rise to the occasion here to protect Roethlisberger.

Steelers Receivers vs Broncos Cornerbacks

On the other side of the ball, this is the one to watch. With A.J. Bouye hitting injured reserve for the Broncos, they have lost their top cornerback for at least three weeks. Even with rookie Michael Ojemudia playing well, they will still have mismatches all across this matchup. Essang Bassey, an undrafted free agent, will have to rise to the occasion for the Broncos. Bryce Callahan is a decent slot cornerback, too. However, the Steelers have an opportunity to use their receiver talent and have a successful day through the air.

T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree vs Garrett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson

Just like last week, the Steelers star tandem of edge rushers has a favorable matchup heading into Week 2. Just last week, they notched 15 pressures in total. Bolles was not bad last week, but he did get beat, and facing Dupree is no easy task for anyone, especially him. Wilkinson got dusted more than a few times by Harold Landry and Jadeveon Clowney. Now, Watt is in the perfect position to have yet another big game this week. If Drew Lock panics under pressure, this Broncos offense could be stymied by the Steelers pass rush.


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Steelers Opponents

Courtland Sutton Limited, Phillip Lindsay Didn’t Practice for Broncos Thursday



Wide receiver Courtland Sutton (shoulder) practiced in a limited capacity Thursday, while running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) sat for the Denver Broncos ahead of this weekend’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sutton missed last week’s season opener against the Titans, but has now practiced for the second consecutive day. He is listed as questionable by Broncos head coaches Vic Fangio.

Lindsay missed for the second day in a row, while Barron worked individually on an adjacent field, the team announced.

Tackle Garett Boles (elbow) and wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (hip) were also limited Thursday.

Safeties Kareem Jackson (not injury related) and Trey Marshall (wrist) were full participants. Jackson did not practice Wednesday, while Marshall was limited.

Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (knee), wide receiver KJ Hamler (hamstring) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (hip) were also full-go on Thursday.

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Scouting Report: Giants Playmakers Will Test Steelers Defense



The Steelers are heading to New Jersey on Monday to face the New York Giants for their first game of the 2020 season. The Giants have an entirely new coaching staff, and are a young team, but boast some talented players that can give the Steelers trouble. How does their team look and matchup against the Steelers’ very talented team?

The Giants Schemes

This is a bit of a question mark as it stands since there is no definite film out there for how Joe Judge will mix his own schematic ideas with that of coordinators Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham, but there are some basic ideas that can be developed from the schemes.

For Garrett, it is a variation of the Air Coryell offense. In other words, that means this first and foremost a vertical offense that wants to push the ball down the field. The thing that makes Garrett’s offense scheme so dangerous is how he uses his tight ends. The tight ends in the Garrett scheme are seam busters, but they have ad-libbing schematic freedom. He does this with his signature play aptly named Y-Option.

Jason Witten was great running this while in Dallas. The tight end reads the coverage and decides on one of four routes — a flag route, dig route, double move up and go, and a curl route. It gives the schematic and route flexibility with great spacing across the board. Garrett likes to run a lot of levels concepts to really give his quarterbacks natural progressions at all levels of the field.

However, still at the heart of his offense, it is one that wants to push the ball. Sometimes, that will require Garrett to run some rhythm-based routes. The slant route is an effective staple of the Garrett scheme. As of recent, RPOs have been used heavily in the scheme. Garrett likes to really stress linebackers and put them in binds against a talented running back in the run game or pushing the ball vertically. Linebackers’ true skills are always tested against a Garrett-based scheme.

The running scheme has a lot of guard interaction. So Garrett likes what is called “G Action”. Pulling guards that will lead Saquon Barkley are very likely to be seen on Monday. Outside of that, Garrett really loves zone runs. It will test the Steelers linebackers ability to sift through the trash and sift against those outside zone runs that will look to take advantage of Barkley’s elite athleticism.

As for the defense, this is a big question mark. Graham was the defensive coordinator with Brian Flores last season, but how much of that scheme was actually Graham and not Flores is remained to be seen. However, with some Patriots blood in him, it is without a doubt that there will be a lot of flexible fronts. Even and odd fronts as it pertains to the look the Giants are seeing will be key for them to stop the running game and get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.

What that Patriots scheme likes to do is be flexible up front to help the back end with their assortment of responsibilities. The Patriots run some Nick Saban ideas, including lots of Cover 3 shells and quarters. The point being is that Graham, if he is like other Belichick disciples, will have a flexible scheme that executes whatever he wants based on the matchup. Cornerbacks may be playing safeties and so forth. It is a multiples look defense that is meant to play with the quarterback’s eyes, while the front is meant to close in on the running game by slanting more than any other defense In the NFL.

Key Players to Watch

RB Saquon Barkley

Barkley, the former Penn State running back, is going to be enemy number one on Monday. Mike Tomlin noted that as such earlier in the week when talking of the threat that Barkley possesses. One of the best running backs in the NFL, Barkley is built like a brick house. He has incredible contact balance and body control for any football player of his size. Add in the fact that he is an absurd athlete by any given scale and there is a threat here. Barkley is a solid pass protector and a huge threat in the passing game with soft hands and surprisingly good route running.  He will threaten the linebackers to key in on him, and it may cause the Steelers to shift their schematic decisions.

QB Daniel Jones

The young Duke product is coming off a promising rookie season. His mental reads were sporadic, however, and it leads to some questions of if he will be able to decipher this Steelers defense. The Steelers were great at messing with the quarterback’s eyes last season by disguising their coverages. Jones threw the fifth most interceptable passes in the NFL with 29 last season because of mental lapses. He throws some really pretty balls and is coming along with his development, but his decision making, especially under pressure, could lead to some disastrous consequences for the Giants.

CB James Bradberry

Bradberry was the big free agent signing of the offseason for the Giants. It made sense given their holes at cornerback and now that last year’s first round pick in DeAndre Baker has been released, Bradberry will offer some much needed comfort for the Giants secondary. It is yet to be known if Bradberry will shadow JuJu Smith-Schuster or just play one side of the field, but his last year in Carolina showcased a physical player with great feet and discipline. If the Steelers want to beat Bradberry, it will not be easy.

DL Dexter Lawrence

Coming off a rookie season where he flashed his athleticism and traits, Lawrence is going to be a guy to watch as an interior penetrator for the Giants. He has the juice to run through guys, even as a nose tackle, but the with the front Graham may employ, it is possible Lawrence may see some matchups against Stefen Wisniewski with David DeCastro likely out. It depends on the jump Lawrence makes from year one to year two, but he is a fiery player that will be a problem for the Steelers with his tools.

Matchups to Watch

Corey Ballentine vs Steelers receivers

The Giants are inevitably going to have some questions at cornerback. Logan Ryan was signed, but it is unclear how he will be used on this defense. Whether that is as a slot corner, safety, or both. It makes sense that he would be signed by the Giants given his experience with the Patriots system. However, Ballentine will be the starter across from Bradberry. A second-year player out of Washburn, Ballentine is a lengthy cornerback with good ball skills and great physical tools that was thrown into the fire last year. He did surrender four touchdowns and 351 yards on 35 targets. This is a mismatch the Steelers can exploit, no question.

Andrew Thomas and Cameron Fleming vs Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt

This is the biggest question mark for the Giants on Monday. They have a problem at tackle naturally, even if Thomas pans out, but in Thomas’ first game, he will be facing a very talented pass rusher in Dupree. However, Fleming is the real one at risk here. Facing a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Watt is going to be a very dangerous matchup for him. This could get bad quickly. Jones has been prone to fumbles, with 18 fumbles last year. If Watt and Dupree are getting consistent pressure there is a good chance Jones may cough up the ball to catastrophic consequences.

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