For the Steelers first regular season game against the Cleveland Browns, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered. This will be a completely different team in week 17 compared to right now. Fortunately for the Steelers, a week one battle with the Browns could give the team some time to do some learning themselves. What should we be looking for in week one?
Pittsburgh Steelers Week One: Five Questions
Who will start in the slot?
This could be an experiment, but the Mike Hilton hype is real. Sooner rather than later he will be starting in the slot in 2017. The question now becomes, is it in week one?
How good is this defensive line?
The defensive line has been the team’s biggest strength in the preseason. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are known quantities, but the emergence of Javon Hargrave may make this one of the strongest units in the NFL.
Luckily for them, their week one opponent has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The Browns have put a lot of money and resources into building this lineup. It should be one heck of a challenge in week one.
One thing the Steelers have struggled with is putting extra defensive backs on the field while still defending the run. This will rely on that top tier defensive line. Can they show that they are strong enough to hold up the front without sending extra players? Can they stuff the run and save the nickel back from making big tackles on Isaiah Crowell?
Will the team give versatile defensive looks?
The Steelers have been mixing and matching their defensive looks all preseason. They are trying to run a more versatile defensive front, with the ability to play 4-3 and 3-4 with the same front. They are also looking into playing in the dime more.
As mentioned, the end of this game will be a chance to experiment. Do the Steelers show these new looks and give it a go in live action? The only reason they wouldn’t be lack of confidence in it.
Does T.J. Watt out snap James Harrison?
Joey Porter called it from the first preseason game. T.J. Watt was going to start and Harrison was going to pitch in relief. Now, it is official. Watt has shown that he is ready for a full games slate of work. He also has shown the ability to get on the field. He has everything it takes to keep Harrison on the sideline.
So how much does James Harrison play? Does he get any snaps in relief of Bud Dupree as well? How do they rotate him in? We will find out soon.
JuJu Smith-Schuster kick return debut?
An underlying question brought up from the Sammie Coates trade was who was going to return kicks? After cutting Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint, the Steelers let go of the only players on their roster with kick return experience.
On the initial depth chart, JuJu Smith-Schuster was listed as the starting return man. Smith-Schuster has returned 16 kicks in his college career, five since 2015, and one since 2016.
He also has no practice reps returning kicks in the NFL, nor does he have any preseason experience. It will be interesting to see who is out there, and whether or not it makes a difference in this game and moving forward.