With much fanfare and discussion, the Buffalo Bills 2021 schedule is now live. The first arrivals on the chopping block will be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who shall face the onslaught of the Buffalo Bills week one. What of these 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers? Much time has passed between the 2020 and 2021 seasons and it seems the Pittsburgh Steelers have made plenty of changes to their teams’ roster, structure, and intent. It’s important to note, analyze and define these changes and what they will mean in the present. The Buffalo Bills will face a new Pittsburgh Steelers team this time around, preparation starts now.
SPY 1: Najee Harris – A Harrier Jet in the Backfield
Unsurprising to an emphatic degree, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected RB Najee Harris (formerly of Alabama) in round one to head up their backfield.
The implication is that Harris is now a “bell-cow”, all-purpose RB that can be a primary weapon for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this role, he is undoubtedly a danger to the Buffalo Bills. Despite some questions about Najee Harris’ receiving abilities, he is not only capable in this role but borders on elite. When combined with his power, explosiveness, and dynamic movement abilities, Harris becomes a bully and a punisher. If left unchecked, Harris will become a concern for a Buffalo Bills defense that struggled to combat effective rushers in 2020.
Despite Harris’s potential, expectations, and analytically suggestive data points, he will be running out of a backfield featuring an aging and deteriorating (albeit historically elite) QB in Ben Roethlisberger. Additionally, Harris will be running behind a mediocre (at best) offensive line that was atrocious in run blocking last season. This OL problem was addressed in the 2021 draft. Interestingly, in a similar double-dip fashion as the Buffalo Bills. It remains to be seen what the impact of these additions will be. However, depth is still a major issue and will likely present a problem to the Pittsburgh Steelers later in the season. Not so much in week one, barring massive off-season or preseason injuries.
The best combative strategy to diminish Harris’ effectiveness will be closing his run lanes and preventing him from building a head of steam. Breaking down the Pittsburgh OL and forcing penetration will limit him considerably. Continued creative usage of Buffalo Bills Safeties, Nickel Backs, and LBs can also diminish Harris’ passing game ability. It has become explicitly clear that Roethlisberger has grown fond of the check down, short-range connection, and screen.
SPY 2: Pittsburgh Steelers OL Additions
With the loss of Pittsburgh Steelers legend Maurkice Pouncey (retirement), the team drafted his hopeful replacement, C Kendrick Green, in the third round. He will likely be thrust into a starting role in 2021. If this happens, the Buffalo Bills’ extensively revamped defensive line can exploit his lack of NFL experience.
OT Dan Moore was selected one round later (fourth round) and should address the Pittsburgh Steelers’ OL depth. Moore is a schematic and tactical fit in the Steelers offensive line. However, it’s currently unknown if his skill is commensurate with a viable starting tackle in the NFL. Currently, all signs point to Moore and Green needing some refinement and polish. (There is more intelligence to come between now and week one.)
SPY 3: Pittsburgh Steelers’ Long-Term Development
*These players are deemed non-threats in 2021*
- TE Pat Freiermuth: Rookie TEs, even of his caliber, are notoriously and historically ineffective in year one. Furthermore, Roethlisberger’s erratic and mediocre passing should not, and likely cannot, satisfy two Tight Ends; let alone current starter Eric Ebron.
- LB Buddy Johnson: He does show significant promise. Johnson may affect the rotation in year one. Do note that his mobility and sideline-to-sideline effectiveness are a substantial threat. His progress will be closely monitored in the preseason.
- DE Isaiahh Loudermilk: This player needs a ton of development and coaching to become a successful player. He will not be a threat in 2021.
- OLB Quincy Roche: Like Loudermilk, Roche is a developmental player but does have more immediate utility as a pass rusher. In this, he could affect the rotation and provide depth. It is also likely that this is a player who could see usage on special teams.
- S Tre Norwood: Norwood is a borderline threat; he is extremely promising and has a particularly good shot at seeing significant playing time over the course of this coming season. Perhaps not so much in week one. Norwood is extremely intelligent, athletic, and an accomplished ball-hawk.
- P Pressley Harvin III: He’s a punter… Anyway, in all seriousness, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed an upgrade at the position and have achieved that with this addition. Harvin was the ACC leader in average punt yardage.
DARKHORSE BONUS POINT:
THREAT RATING: Each Buffalo Bills opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale. On this scale, the higher the number = The greater the threat that team poses.
Pittsburgh Steelers Threat Rating = 5
Note: An updated version of this intelligence report will be released immediately prior to the week one matchup.
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.
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