The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting T.J. Watt back on Sunday, barring any unexpected development. That’s the big headline for this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints. It makes so much sense because the timing of it is so perfect, too.
Think about it.
The Steelers hit rock bottom two weeks ago when losing to the Philadelphia Eagles. At 2-6, the season feels pretty much over. And yet fans are expecting a new team this weekend. After all, the coaches have promised some changes on offense. Meanwhile, George Pickens is bound to play more. They traded for a starting cornerback. They’ve got some help coming at safety, too.
And T.J. bleeping Watt is BACK.
And to top it all off, they’re playing at home versus a very beatable opponent as underdogs. The one and only Steeler Way.
However, all of the T.J. Watt hype (and I by no means intend to take away from it because I love great football players), has cast a shadow over one mismatch that could win the Steelers the game on Sunday.
Larry Ogunjobi and Cam Heyward versus the New Orleans Saints offensive line.
The defensive tackle duo has played lights out for Pittsburgh as Ogunjobi continues his path to becoming everything we thought he’d be. Meanwhile, Heyward doesn’t look like a guy planning to retire soon as he’s been the highest-graded defender on the Steelers this season.
Both players are second and third in QB pressures respectively while leading the defensive line in stops. Pro Football Focus has the Steelers as the eighth-best graded run defense in the NFL and those two might be the biggest reason why.
On Sunday, they’ll play an offensive line that has had plenty of trouble inside all season long. While the Saints have solid tackles in James Hurst and Ryan Ramczyk, their offensive line hasn’t been as efficient.
Add to it that their starting center Erik McCoy was “DNP” on Wednesday’s injury report and the match-up looks quite juicy for Pittsburgh.
PFF has the Saints’ OL 25th in the league and points out the same weakness:
“Erik McCoy went down hurt against the Ravens, forcing another reshuffle to the line. All four players to see snaps on the interior earned sub-40.0 pass-blocking grades on Monday night,” writes Sam Monson in his OL rankings
Andy Dalton has completed less than 50% of his throws when under pressure so you know this one could get ugly if the Steelers manage to exploit such a mismatch.
And of course, they should be able to generate more one-on-one match-ups in the trenches with the return of T.J. Watt.
Hmm. I guess the star edge rusher ultimately isn’t a distractor but a catalyzer.
Featured image via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports