Our Interview with the Enemy series continues this week with Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain. Jeff joins us to answer a few quick questions before the Pittsburgh Steelers face the New Orleans Saints at Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field) on Sunday afternoon.
TH: The Steelers have been struggling on offense and QB Kenny Pickett has been vocal about his concerns seemingly about offensive coordinator Matt Canada. So, what is your take on the situation between the two, and do you think that this is something that can get worked out?
JH: Kenny Pickett has been plenty critical of the Steelers offense but has yet to directly point the finger at the play caller. He has called out the players’ practice habits, their study habits and overall understanding of the offense, and while this could be a direct link back to Canada, he hasn’t pulled that trigger yet. Other than that, the Steelers coming off the bye week should see better results, and it is hard to see anything getting worse than it already is. Pickett and Canada had the time during the bye week to get a plan in place both are comfortable with, and that should pay dividends. Fans forget the entire preseason/training camp was built around Mitch Trubisky. While Pickett and Trubisky have similar skill sets, it doesn’t necessarily mean everything is the best it can be at this time. I expect an improvement in Week 10, but that isn’t saying much as the team ranks near the bottom of the league in every offensive category.
TH: Outside linebacker T.J. Watt has been out since Week 1 with a pectoral injury, but there is talk he could be back this week. If so, how much of an impact could he make on this game?
JH: Watt, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, is a game wrecker. When he is in the lineup the defense, and team, trajectory changes immediately. With Watt in the lineup, he forces the opposition to send extra blocking to his side, opening up one-on-one matchups for players like Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith. It is difficult to suggest one player can make such an impact, but Steelers fans know how different this team, not just the defense, is with Watt compared to the alternative
TH: Is there a Steelers player who was not on many people’s radars, that has really stood out to you so far this season and why?
JH: Keep an eye out for UDFA running back Jaylen Warren. He has been dynamic with the ball in his hands this season, and Mike Tomlin most recently was alluding to him seeing an increased role in the offense moving forward. Warren is far from the same back Najee Harris is. Harris is a big, bruising back, while Warren is a back with better speed and less hesitation hitting the hole. They are a good 1-2 punch, and it looks as if he will see more touches within the offense coming off the bye week.
TH: What is the biggest obstacle that the Steelers will face in order defeat the Saints on Sunday?
JH: The Saints’ defense is still one of the better units in the game, and when that is paired with the Steelers’ offense being putrid, it will be tough sledding. Thankfully, the game is in Pittsburgh and not in the dome, but I think points will be at a minimum this week between both teams. On top of just the general points needing to be scored, the question I have for Pittsburgh is can they both run the football and stop the run-on defense. If they can accomplish both of these tasks, easier said than done, I foresee the team having a good chance to win this game Sunday.
TH: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Saints are currently 2.5-point favorites. Do you think they cover the spread and what is your final score prediction?
JH: This Steelers team is extremely difficult to predict. You never know what you’re going to get, and a lot is still unknown with Watt and Damontae Kazee potentially being added to the 53-man active roster off Injured Reserve (IR). However, I assume both will be back this week, and I also think the Steelers will look better coming off the bye week. Throw in the fact the Saints are traveling on a short week, and I like the Steelers with the points. Want to be really aggressive? Take the Steelers on the money line.
Thank you again to Jeff for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out his work @btsteelcurtain
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