What to watch in Packers vs Steelers: Will Big Ben continue to struggle?

After a statement win against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football last week, the Green Bay Packers will look to build on that success as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town, and get to 3-1 for the season. Sunday will mark Aaron Rodgers’ first appearance against the Steelers at Lambeau Field, a team he has never beaten in the regulae season. That could well change this week, as the Packers enter this game as the favourites, but this game will not be without its challenges against a Steelers team who will give everything they have to avoid three consecutive losses.

Here are three things to watch as the Packers take on the Steelers:

Offensive line facing another tough test

The Packers’ makeshift offensive line held up very well against one the of league’s top fronts in the San Francisco 49ers, but can they repeat the trick against a defensive line that might be even better?

The Steelers will have had tape on Yosh Nijman dissect and pick out his weaknesses, and they will have seen the Packers’ plan from the 49ers game, as they frequently chipped Nick Bosa with tight ends and aimed to get the ball out quickly.

With no element of surprise, and TJ Watt potentially returning, the Packers are set for another tough task up front.

How will the offense operate without MVS?

With Marquez Valdes-Scantling looking at a stint on short-term injured reserve, he will be out for at least three weeks and therefore will obviously miss the Steelers game. That’s a bigger deal than some will realise.

Of course, Aaron Rodgers has no shortage of targets to distribute the ball to, with Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan, Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Amari Rodgers… and did I mention Davante Adams? However, none of those targets bring the lightning speed element that MVS does, and the Packers offense could become more predictable without their best option for taking the top off the opposing defense.

With that in mind, the attack needs to once again run through Aaron Jones. Matt LaFleur did a superb job of staying disciplined against the 49ers and running the ball early and often, even when it only picked up modest gains, and the interior of the offensive line found success on combination blocks which opened holes for Jones to dart through.

Jones will need to be the straw that stirs the drink again this week, both on the ground and through the air.

Will the Steelers offense continue to implode?

For anyone still wondering why Brian Gutekunst drafted Jordan Love when Aaron Rodgers was still playing at a high level, this current Steelers team is a perfect example of why. They did not prepare for life after Big Ben, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Roethlisberger is a statue in the pocket and his arm looks shot. His poor play sunk the Steelers’ season on an otherwise uber-talented roster last season, and the team should really have cut bait with him when they had the chance. Instead, they signed up for one more year with Ben, mostly because they don’t have anyone behind him that they believe in.

Now, his limitations are on full display again, and to make things worse, the Steelers were essentially forced to spend their first-round draft pick on a running back in a desperate attempt to paper over the cracks of their fading star quarterback and stay relevant in the 2021 season.

Although Najee Harris was drafted towards the back end of the first round, his selection evoked memories of the New York Giants taking Saquon Barkley 2nd overall to help an ageing Eli Manning and the Jacksonville Jaguars drafting Leonard Fournette with the 4th overall pick to reduce Blake Bortles’ role in their offense.

The Steelers’ offense had become one dimensional towards the end of last year with no running game and no deep passing element to their offense. They hoped drafting Najee Harris would solve one of those issues, but behind an offensive line which has struggled, he has been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 70 percent of his runs, most in the NFL according to PFF.

He has however been a frequent target in the passing game, which is unsurprising given the current state of their QB’s arm. De’Vondre Campbell, who has impressed to a pleasantly surprising level since his arrival in Green Bay, will once again have an important role in preventing short catches rupturing into big gains.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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Comments (10)

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dblbogey's picture

October 02, 2021 at 03:58 pm

If the OL holds up again, Packers should win.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 03, 2021 at 03:11 am

If TJ Watt reinjure himself, Packers should win.

If DL will repeat their game from last Sunday, Packers should win.

If Packers will score more points than Steelers, Packers should win.

If...

To many "ifs"...

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croatpackfan's picture

October 03, 2021 at 03:15 am

I always likes the optimists...

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splitpea1's picture

October 02, 2021 at 04:22 pm

Rodgers did beat them in the Super Bowl. With that out of the way:

It's tough to see how we lose unless we turn the ball over or slip up on special teams somewhere. No MVS? It's going to hurt, but that means the offense is just going to have to be a little more patient. Use everybody. Take points via FGs when that's the easiest option--don't be greedy. And if drives stall beforehand, play the field position game and make the Steelers offense beat you s
Some of this is probably wishful thinking on my part, but we should still be able to win a low-scoring affair if that's what it comes down to.

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SanLobo's picture

October 02, 2021 at 08:31 pm

Green Bay wins. 31 - 16

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ricky's picture

October 02, 2021 at 09:17 pm

Will there be a letdown after the SF game? Will the Packers come out a little flat, and will the Steelers be fired up? One team had a signature win. The other has its back to the wall and is fighting for its life. Expect this one to be tougher than expected. Though I'd also welcome a blowout win, with Love playing the entire fourth quarter.

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Since'61's picture

October 02, 2021 at 10:11 pm

The author left out Malik Taylor as a target for Rodgers and ESB will likely see reps this week as well.

Regardless the key will be to run the ball effectively and then go to the quick passes off of play action.

If our defense shows up again and plays with the same sense of urgency that we saw against SF we should win this game pulling away.

The only way the Packers should lose this game is if they beat themselves with penalties and/or turnovers. GPG!
Thanks, Since ‘61

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Savage57's picture

October 03, 2021 at 07:45 am

It's alumni week. Make your forebears proud Packers!

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ImaPayne's picture

October 03, 2021 at 09:19 am

Lets hope Ben doesnt resurrect his carreer today. Watt will be a handful sure to want to sack rodgers as in "so you passed on me huh". A Wisconsin kid huh? Field day today huh?

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PatrickGB's picture

October 03, 2021 at 01:50 pm

Like many posters I worry about the effect that Watt may have on the game and the loss of MVS. If we block Watt but with Lazard with Tonyan playing well we should be ok. I will pay close attention to how the Steelers start. If they do well then the game will be too close for comfort.

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