It is finally time to start breaking down a REAL Pittsburgh Steelers game. No more of who the Steelers should draft. No more of what to look for in a preseason game. The regular season is finally here. The first game of the season is only 24 hours away. The Cleveland Browns will be the first opponent to the Steelers as the season opens at Heinz Field this Sunday. The opening game will be very telling for what this year’s Steelers team will be. After an opening game loss last season to the Tennessee Titans, which led to the 0-4 start, it is very important for the Steelers to start off 2014 with a home victory. Here are a few players to keep an eye on when the Steelers take the field Sunday.
After catching six passes in his rookie season, Markus Wheaton has finds himself as the Steelers number two receiver entering his second year in the league. At no point last year was Wheaton expected to perform at the level that will be expected this year. His first NFL start won’t be a very easy task either. The Browns cornerbacks are very solid. While Antonio Brown will be covered by Joe Haden, Wheaton may face coverage from Buster Skrine and first round selection Justin Gilbert. The Browns will likely attempt to take away Antonio Brown and force Ben Roethisberger to use his other weapons. If Wheaton can step up and produce in week one it will be a great sign for the offense this season.
Mike Tomlin has yet to say if there will be any internal punishment for either Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. However, It seems likely that both guys will be on the field Sunday. Therefore, Dri Archer won’t be the main guy in the backfield, which is probably a good thing for his health. He is certainly a player to watch for though when the offense is on the field. We got to see some of Archer’s explosiveness during the preseason. On Sunday, we will finally get to see how Todd Haley plans to utilize the rookie speedster this year. Archer will be returning punts and kickoffs but it still remains to be seen how often he will touch the ball. He is also listed on the roster as a wide receiver. Personally I just hope Haley gives Archer a shot to prove his worth. If his speed doesn’t translate to the NFL, so be it. I just want to see what Archer can do.
Last year was not Ike Taylor’s best season. Playing against the Browns in particular did not go well, at least attempting to cover Josh Gordon. Thankfully this year the 34-year old Taylor won’t have to deal with Gordon. If the Steelers are going to be successful on defense this year they are going to need their secondary to perform well. The opening game will be very telling for Taylor. If Ike plays well it’s possible he will have a solid year or at least better than 2013. If he struggles the Steelers will need to figure out how to better utilize the veteran. I say that because Taylor isn’t going up against Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas. The Browns top two receivers are currently Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin. They have Brian Hoyer throwing to them. If Ike is unable to shut those guys down, it could be a very long year for the aging corner.
The Steelers still believe they will see Johnny Football in week one along with Brian Hoyer. Personally, I’m not too sure if Browns coach Mike Pettine even knows who will be in a quarterback. With that being said, the potential of Manziel coming off the bench will be something to keep an eye on. He may be able to give the offense a spark if they are struggling to get anything going with Hoyer early in the game. Dick LeBeau has done very well when facing a rookie quarterbacks over the years, so Manziel’s impact could be minimal but I’m sure Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will continue to tell television viewers that Johnny is in fact at Heinz Field wearing a Browns jersey.
There you have it Steelers Nation? Who else should we keep an eye on in week one?