It’s officially game week, and your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are traveling north to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first preseason game. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the Steelers to get ready for Friday’s matchup.
Who will guard JuJu Smith-Schuster?
Now given that it is a preseason game, I expect the starters to play approximately one to three series. I will be curious to see who lines up against JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers number one wide receiver heading into 2019. With the official depth chart release, we know that Carlton Davis III and Vernon Hargreaves III are starting at the corner position. Whoever faces JuJu one on one could provide some insight into who this coaching staff expects to lean on come the regular season. I expect Hargreaves to get the first crack, and it will be interesting to see how he performs against an up and coming elite wide receiver.
Stopping James Conner
If you followed the NFL last year, you already know about James Conner. The third-year running back out of Pittsburgh took over the starting role after Le’veon Bell held out all of the 2018 season. Conner finished with 1470 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns, earning himself his first pro-bowl appearance.
It will be interesting to see how Todd Bowles 3-4 defense plays against the run, and running backs leaking out into the flats on pass plays. I will be hyper-focused on Devin White to see how well he fills running lanes and matches up against Conner in the passing game. With Vita Vea injuring his knee during Tuesday’s practice, Beau Allen should see extended playing time at nose tackle. I fully expect this defensive line to be stout against the run with Will Gholston and Ndamukong Suh excelling in this department.
Can Demar Dotson stop T.J. Watt?
At the time of writing, it is still unclear if T.J. Watt will suit up against the Buccaneers. He was activated off the physically unable to perform list on August fourth, so his status is still in question. The brother of J.J Watt, T.J. had a breakout year in 2018 with 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. Usually lining up on the right side of the offensive line, I will be interested to see if any blocking schemes are used to slow Watt down. Expect to see a tight end helping in blocking, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Can the running game show progress?
Last season was a disappointment in terms of a running attack. Ronald Jones II is putting his rookie season behind him, and Peyton Barber had a pedestrian 871 yards and five touchdowns. Last season, Pittsburgh was fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, with 96.1 per game. We know what Barber can do, he is a hard runner who will fight for each yard but doesn’t have the ability to break the long run.
Keep a lookout when Ronald Jones gets his turn. Does he dance at the line or get hit in the backfield like last year, or does he hit the hole hard and with determination? The offensive line will need to play much better compared to 2018, and the Steelers will be a great first test.
The Buccaneers kick off their first preseason game this Friday at 7:30 eastern. Make sure you follow @FPC_Buccaneers for all of your Buccaneers news throughout the preseason.