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Steelers’ Pass Rush, Quiet Against Tom Brady, Will Face Different Challenge in Russell Wilson

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PITTSBURGH — Sometimes, close just doesn’t cut it.

The Steelers knew going into their first regular-season game of 2018 against the New England Patriots that pressuring quarterback Tom Brady was going to be the key to once again limiting the Pats’ offense like the Steelers did in 2018.

That didn’t happen.

The Steelers sacked Brady just once — Bud Dupree got to him in the third quarter to force New England into a field goal that made it 30-3 — but maybe more importantly, they weren’t able to disrupt Brady’s rhythm or prevent him from getting the ball out on time.

Brady finished 24 of 36 for 341 yards, had a 124.9 passer rating and seemed almost completely unbothered by the Pittsburgh rushers.

It wasn’t because the Steelers’ defensive linemen and outside linebackers never beat their men. Here, nose tackle Javon Hargrave and defensive end Stephon Tuitt absolutely melted the right three-fifths of New England’s offensive line. Brady just stepped to his left and made the pass.

“I guess we didn’t win enough,” Hargrave said. “He was making plays down the field, he was making plays everywhere. … We had some good rushes, all of us. We won a lot of matchups. But in this game, it doesn’t really show for nothing when a team can do that to you.”

“Tom utilizes his talents and experience to make good and quick decisions, he feels the rush extremely well so often times even when you’re beating people the ball is out,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “The speed in which the ball comes out is a challenge relative to him.”

This week, the Steelers will face a different challenge in athletic Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is capable of being the same kind of quick-throw passer Brady is, but he can also beat teams with his legs to the outside. It makes pass-rushing him a totally different job, because everything must be done with an eye toward containment.

“It’s challenging but it’s challenging in a different way,” Tomlin said. “He also brings a unique challenge of mobility and his ability to extend the play and also just get on the perimeter of your defense and get chunks of yards. So the containment of him is significant, but also we better not be so contain-conscious that we provide interior escape lanes. He’s got well-rounded game, well-rounded talents.”

Unlike Brady, Wilson will also run some designed runs, which can keep the defensive line from rushing headlong upfield to get after the quarterback.

“They go to it often, they went to it kind of at the end of the game last week to secure victory versus Cincinnati, but it’s always been the case,” Tomlin said. “They thoughtfully utilize his mobility. He also uses it in the improv sort of way to extend plays and to create big plays. He’s capable of running and breaking you down in the passing game and gaining yards, but he’s also capable of just extending, moving within the pocket and staying behind the line and having an opportunity to see the full field and get balls down the field”

What that adds up to is a Steelers pass rush that didn’t quite get the job done in Week 1, but with a completely different challenge to face in Week 2, there isn’t a lot to be taken away from the Steelers’ misfortunes against Brady that will apply against Wilson.

Steelers

Tomlin Bringing Referees into Steelers Practice to Help Penalty Issues

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin thinks his team took too many penalties in their Week 2 win over the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field on Saturday, and he’s going to do something about it.

Tomlin said on Tuesday that he’s bringing referees into practice this week in order to help his team remain in compliance with the NFL rulebook on gamedays.

“It hurt our efforts on both sides of the ball,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “It hurt our efforts in terms of possessing the ball on offense. We had two critical holding calls in the first half that put us behind the chains and essentially stopped drives. Ball possession and drives, there’s too much scarcity in that discussion to get major penalties and throw yourself behind the chains. We’re just not good enough to overcome those things at this juncture, and quite frankly, I would imagine not many of us in this game are that good at this juncture.

“On the defensive side of the ball, we didn’t play clean enough on the back end on possession downs. They were able to extend drives through DPI and things of that nature. When you get people to that point to where you have them in a third down situation and you have the ball snapped and you’re executing the rush, there’s just too much ground covered to start over and give them a new set of downs. We have to get better in those areas.”

Special teams were also part of the problem, Tomlin said, as the Steelers had a Diontae Johnson punt return touchdown called back due to a block in the back. In total, the Steelers were penalized 10 times for 89 yards.

“We are not only analyzing and openly talking about the penalties, but we are working hard to rectify it,” he said. “We intend to bring some officials to our practice work this week in an effort to make a point of emphasis in that area. That’s important for us. Again, I just thought that was a catalyst for a lot of negativity in the game for us.”

Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said after the game that the team felt that “some of the calls weren’t going their way,” but Tomlin said they don’t consider whether or not they think a call should have been made when assessing and evaluating team performance.

“We coach. We don’t officiate the game,” he said “We are not assessing judgment based on what’s called. We are simply acknowledging what is called and we are making whatever necessary change in our behavior to make sure that it is not called moving forward. It’s as simple as that for us.”

Tomlin said the team is still working through the procedures to have the officials they want to use tested and able to be on the practice field at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex when the team returns to work on Wednesday.

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Steelers

Video: Kevin Dotson on First NFL Start, Confidence Level

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Steelers rookie guard Kevin Dotson speaks with the media via Zoom after making his first career start in the Steelers second game of the 2020 season against the Denver Broncos.

While DeCastro’s return likely will mean an end to Dotson starting, it’s a testament to his skill and confidence level that he was able to play well in early in a season that lends itself to being more difficult for inexperienced players to fill in.

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Odds

Steelers Super Bowl Odds Improve After 2-0 Start

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Ben Roethlisberger throws during a regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 in Pittsburgh. -- Jared Wickerham/WickPhotography.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl odds have shortened after their 2-0 start to the season.

Opening the 2020 season at 22/1, the Steelers are now 20/1 to win Super Bowl LV, courtesy of BetOnline.ag.

The Steelers were not the only team to see their prospects rise, with the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers also seeing their odds shorten.

After key injuries and inconsistency to start the year, the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers both have longer odds than where they began.

The Kansas City Chiefs — whose odds remained the same — and the Ravens are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl LV at 5/1.

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