Scouting the Los Angeles Rams 2019 Opponents: Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Los Angeles Rams come off of their bye week in Week 10 to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams are most known for their meeting in the 1979 Super Bowl. The Rams don’t have an easy opening to the schedule but will look to open the second half of the season with a win on the road against a quality AFC opponent.

Schedule

Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2  – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 –  vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 5 – at Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (TNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 6 – vs. San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 7 – at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 8 – vs. Cincinnati (in London), 1:00 p.m.
Week 9 – BYE WEEK
Week 10 – at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview

Recapping 2018

The Steelers 2018 campaign was very confusing, dysfunctional, and ultimately a total disaster. They had one of the best teams on paper coming into the season, and even with star running back Le’Veon Bell threatening to hold out the entire year, James Connor filled in admirably.

The start of the season showcased Conner as he ran for over 100 yards on the ground in his first career start. However, a  tie on the road to the Hugh Jackson led Cleveland Browns began the year.

Following that tie, the Steelers would fall in their home opener, 42-37, to the Kansas City Chiefs before earning their first win of the season against the Buccanneers.

After falling into a 1-2-1  hole in the first quarter of the season, the Steelers won six games in a row, beginning with the Atlanta Falcons. However, a 52-21 win against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football during the win streak was the high-point for the Steelers. The team edged out a four-point, 20-16, win against the Blake Bortles-led Jaguars before falling apart.

The rest of the way was about to pose a problem.

In week 12, the Steelers blew a potential win on the road in Denver when Ben Roethlisberger threw a game-losing interception. At home the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers, they blew a 30-15 fourth-quarter lead to lose, 33-30.  To cap-off the three-game losing streak, the Steelers lost to the Oakland Raiders when Chris Boswell slipped on the game-tying field goal attempt.

The once 7-2-1 Steelers were about to hit desperation mode with games against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints on the horizon. They would end up pulling off a 17-10 win over the Patriots to hopefully build some confidence but would, unfortunately, fall the next week due to controversial officiation against the interference call versus the New Orleans Saints.

Needing a win to make the postseason and a Ravens loss, the once prominent Steelers were in a rough situation entering Week 17.  Star wide receiver Antonio Brown held out of playing the final game in which the Steelers edged the Cincinnati Bengals, 16-13.

The Steelers did their part and would become Browns fans. Quarterback Baker Mayfield tried everything in his power,  but the Browns fell 26-24 in dramatic fashion, effectively killing the Steelers playoff hopes.

Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses

Added: WR Donte Moncrief, DL Casey Sayles, LB Mark Barron, CB Steven Nelson, CB Kameron Kelly

Losses: WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, TE, Jesse James, TE Bucky Hodges, OT Marcus Gilbert, LB Keion Adams, LB Jon Bostic, LB LJ Fort, S Morgan Burnett

The Steelers lost two of their best offensive weapons over the offseason. The team was forced into a corner to deal star wide receiver Antonio Brown away to the Oakland Raiders. While he didn’t play last season, running back, Le’Veon Bell officially left for the New York Jets.

Pittsburgh also dealt their former starting offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals. Linebackers Jon Bostic, Keion Adams and LJ Fort were moved on from in favor of adding a more talented Mark Barron to the linebacker room to go along with Vince Williams. They also added a potential talented receiver in Donte Moncrief.

A Look at the Draft

The Steelers hit a home run in this draft which was headlined by their trade up with the Denver Broncos to select linebacker Devin Bush from Michigan. Pittsburgh also added a pair playmakers in the third-round in cornerback Justin Layne of Michigan State and Toledo receiver Diontae Johnson.

On day three, the Steelers added running back Benny Snell Jr. out of Kentucky in the fourth round, Michigan tight end Zach Gentry in the fifth and three talented sixth-rounders in Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, Alabama defensive end Isaiah Buggs and Northern Illinois pass rusher Sutton Smith. They closed out what was an impressive draft by adding offensive tackle Derwin Gray out of Cincinnati.

Biggest on Field Question

Can the Steelers escape the drama?

While the Steelers lost Brown and Bell, it also means that they lost the on-field drama that has caused distractions in the locker room. Talented players like Brown and Bell are certainly worth that trouble, but both left after the season.

From the Bell holdout throughout the season that had him saying he would report to him not reporting or communicating with teammates at all, to Brown giving up on the team in the final week of the season, the Steelers had a drama-filled 2018.

That’s all gone this season, and now it’s a question of whether or not the Steelers can now focus just on football and if future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can lead one more Super Bowl charge.

Depth Chart Analysis

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger will be the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers until he says otherwise. Behind him could be better. Mason Rudolph is the backup with Joshua Dobbs as the third-string quarterback.

Running Back: James Connor impressed when the team rolled without Bell last season. The Steelers added Benny Snell in the draft to give the position some depth. Jaylen Samuels is also an option.

Wide Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the top, young wide receivers in the NFL. While Moncrief will give the Steelers a veteran presence on the outside, Diontae Johnson brings another young player into the fold. James Washington heads into his second year.

Tight End: While not dominant, Vance McDonald is as reliable as they come at tight end in the NFL. The team is without Jesse James but will look to Xavier Grimble and rookie Zach Gentry to be the No. 2 guy.

Right Tackle: Matt Feiler heads into his third season. Feiler is the weak spot on the Steelers offensive line but had himself a decent sophomore year. Chukwuma Okorafor is the team’s primary backup at tackle and was a third-round draft pick last season.

Left Tackle: Alejandro Villanueva has turned into one of the best left tackles in football. Okorafor is the backup here as well.

Left Guard: On the inside is where the Steelers dominate, and it starts with Ramon Foster. He’s an anchor against the pass and a force in the run game. BJ Finney is about as reliable as it gets as a backup.

Right Guard: David DeCastro is the best offensive lineman on the roster. He’s the primary reason the Steelers have one of the best guard tandems in the NFL.

Center: It only gets better at center with Maurkice Pouncey. He’s a two-time All-Pro and is the staple to this Pittsburgh offensive line.

Defensive End: Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are two of the best in the game at the 3-technique. The team also drafted Isaiah Buggs who will add good depth for now. Tyson Alualu is also a solid rotational piece.

Nose Tackle: Javon Hargrave is turning into an excellent piece on the Steelers defensive line. He had an outstanding 2018 and will look to build on that in 2019. Daniel McCullers is behind Hargrave and offers limited athleticism.

Linebacker: The Steelers are known historically for their linebackers, and that isn’t about to change after drafting Devin Bush. TJ Watt is also one of the best young linebackers in the game. The team also added Barron to the mix here who comes from Los Angeles. Ulysees Gilbert could be a surprise on the roster.

Defensive Backs: The Steelers pass defense has been forgettable over the past few seasons. Joe Haden is the clear leader here but has struggled with injuries. Steven Nelson comes from the Kansas City Chiefs to hopefully add another veteran presence. Justin Layne is a player the team can develop. At safety, the Steelers have question marks. Sean Davis has just one interception in his last  17 games, and Terrell Edmunds was a questionable draft pick that has disappointed thus far but is looking to breakout in 2019.

Outlook For 2019

The Steelers window for a Super Bowl is fast closing. Roethlisberger is 37-years old and has a potential out of his contract after 2020. This is a team that started 7-2-1 last season and looked to be a contender before sputtering to the finish line. With no Le’Veon Bell and no Antonio Brown, this is a new age of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they look to get back to the postseason.

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