— The Pittsburgh Steelers had an off-day on Tuesday going through normal film studies and meetings. The team will practice this week Wednesday-Friday before having the weekend off and traveling to Dallas.
— There’s not a whole lot I would expect the Steelers key on in film studies from their thrilling 37-36 victory against Green Bay Packers last season (with it being a new season, different personnel, ect) but there’s one thing from last year’s Packers team that they continue to struggle at and that’s being receptive to big plays in the middle of the field.
Roethlisberger who threw for a career high 503 yards, torched the Packers with passes in the middle of the field in their meeting on December 20, 2009 and the Packers still have problems covering tight ends despite having three pro bowlers in their secondary.
Heath Miller had 7 receptions for 118 yards in last year’s meeting and Hines Ward had a huge day, racking up 126 receiving yards on 7 receptions. Ward has taken a big step back from last season as he struggles getting off the line of scrimmage but he could still be a factor due to the Packers being vulnerable in that area.
One key player could be Emmanuel Sanders whose becoming extremely good with his route running on finding the soft spots in the zone.
Roethlisberger felt he could exploit the Packers in the middle of the field and I’d look for the Steelers to attack that area early on Feb 6.
Some Numbers from last year’s meeting
*Roethlisberger went to his running backs out of the backfield quite often as Rashard Mendenhall had 6 receptions for 73 yards and Mewelde Moore added 3 receptions for 25 yards.
*The Packers sacked Ben Roethlisberger 5 times with Clay Matthews being a factor on the outside, recording 2 sacks.
*The Steelers only had one sack, with Casey Hampton and LaMarr Woodley recording a half sack.
— The Steelers are going into this week with uncertainty regarding Aaron Smith who is pushing to get ready for the Super Bowl. As of late last week, Smith was clearly not close to participating in a full practice. For the most part over the past couple weeks, all he’s done is pretty much stand around during practices.
Although Smith says he doesn’t need much practice time, it’s going to be critical for him to practice this week and take a step forward in that area. If he doesn’t, it will likely be a sign that he won’t be cleared to play by the Super Bowl.