Shaking up bold Steelers predictions with Chargers traveling to Heinz Field

After the last two weeks of Joe Kuzma’s “predilections”, as he called them in a private chat with me earlier this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the word he chose… it means “an attitude of mind that predisposes one to favor something” per Merriam-Webster. Joe’s prediction machine had been rolling right along and I don’t think he intended the show any type of bias beyond convincing readers he was on a streak of anticipating what the Steelers would do. The word I believe Joe meant to use, when asking me to switch things up with him on the editorial calendar, was “prognostications”, but I could be wrong (and have been, often). And that is all I will really harp about in regard to whether he’s right or wrong despite him giving me permission to point out his brilliance or errors and “roast him”.

Before I get into my own conjecture in regards to the Steelers and Chargers showdown at Heinz Field on Sunday night, I’d like to look at what Joe predicted for last week. In case you don’t remember, the Steelers were on the road in Denver and lost a disappointing game to the Broncos (Week 12). Yeah, I was kidding about the “in case you don’t remember” part. How can we forget?!

  • (Steelers) Defense gets 5 sacks
    Despite Case Keenum doing a more-than-serviceable job for the Broncos offense, the Steelers defense underperformed in the sack department. Let’s give partial credit to Joe because Pittsburgh’s defense (Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Vince Williams) did get 2.0 combined sacks, but they were forced to focus on Phillip Lindsay grinding out rushing yards rather than dumping Keenum.
  • Steelers score 30 – and win
    After seeing Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 97-yard touchdown bomb, this looked totally possible. And then the errors started adding up (2 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles, too many penalties) and the Steelers not only lost – but they scored 17 total points. SMH, that’s a whiff.
  • Antonio Brown continues scoring streak
    We all love A.B. The fact that his scoring streak was ended hurts. Brown did set a new receiving record in the NFL, becoming the first player to reach 800 receptions in just 126 games. Sorry, this too was a miss… but let’s try to stay positive.
  • James Conner returns to century mark
    I’m assuming Joe meant Conner was going to once again rush for a minimum of 100 yards. The Steelers actually abandoned the run, at their own peril. Conner finished the game with 53 yards on 13 carries.
  • Defense forces two turnovers
    If Joe had meant the Broncos defense, he’d have been on the right track. Denver forced two interceptions and recovered 2-of-4 fumbles lost by Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh got a big goose egg. Boom! Disappointing result from the Steelers.
  • Special teams splash!
    I honestly don’t think Joe anticipated what DID happen, but he was correct that the third-phase of football for the Steelers would have a big impact. Chris Boswell lined up for a field goal and instead threw a pass to offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva for a touchdown; he then kicked a successful PAT. Nice!
  • Ben attempts 30 or fewer passes — and the tight ends attack the middle of the field 
    Roethlisberger finished the day with 41 completions on 56 attempts for 462 yards. It was the opposite of what Joe thought would happen — and actually the opposite of what ‘should’ have happened if the Steelers wanted to be multi-dimensional on offense. Vance McDonald and Jesse James did get involved, as did Xavier Grimble. Unfortunately, Grimble’s potential touchdown became a fumble out of the back of the end zone and a touchback for Denver.

Sorry, Joe. You didn’t have a good Week 12.

I am not even going to try to convince anyone that I have my finger on the Steelers’ pulse, but there are a few things I think will occur on Sunday night as the Steelers and Chargers go head-to-head at Heinz Field in front of a primetime national crowd. It’s my turn to turn up the boldness…

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Roethlisberger wins “Class of 2004” Battle over Rivers

Phillip Rivers and I may share the same surname, but he doesn’t have me convinced that he’s the better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger in this showdown. Yes, Rivers set an NFL record when he completed 25-straight passes against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend. He also broke Kurt Warner‘s single-game record by completing 96.6 percent of his passes on the day. Roethlisberger set his own records. So, how do I see Big Ben winning the battle between these two quarterbacks that entered the NFL in the same draft class?

I predict that Roethlisberger will not only complete passes to at least five different teammates on offense, but he’ll throw for at least 250 yards and a touchdown, extending his franchise record for consecutive games with both of those statistics.

Throw in a caveat: Big Ben will lead his team to victory and send Rivers and the Chargers on their flight back to California with a loss.

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James Conner bounces back

Conner didn’t get a lot of opportunities to rush the ball last weekend and when he lost the ball as he was hit by a Denver defender, the Steelers went into shoot-out mode. At home, against the Chargers, Conner gets redemption.

Not only do I predict that Conner will go over 100 yards from scrimmage (mixed between run and pass) on the day, but I anticipate he’ll pass Frenchy Fuqua and Merril Hoge this weekend for receptions by a Steelers running back in a season and hit the 55-catch mark for 2018.

Defense limits Chargers rushing yards to 100 or less

Some people are looking at what Lindsay and the Broncos were able to do against the Steelers defense and think there is no way Pittsburgh can keep Melvin Gordon and the Chargers under the 100-yard rushing mark. Well, Gordon probably shouldn’t have been inserted into the lineup last weekend, and after they asked him to run an ill-advised reverse and got blown up (MCL/knee), it’s likely Austin Ekeler gets the nod to handle the rushing duties. I see the Steelers’ defensive front seven being tougher against the run this weekend. I expect Javon Hargrave to have another excellent performance. Cam Heyward will lead the charge.

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T.J. Watt outplays Joey Bosa

This is possibly one of the boldest predictions I’ve made all season. Bosa returned to the Chargers lineup and had a two-sack performance against the Cardinals (a 59.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in Week 12). Watt, after injuring his hand/wrist, had very little impact in the Denver game… which means he’s due. Pitting these two head-to-head, I predict Watt has more of an impact on the game overall than Bosa… specifically, Watt will have at least one more sack than Bosa logs on Sunday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown super combo

Smith-Schuster and Brown are among the best wide receiver duos in the NFL this season. I anticipate that the two will go off against the Chargers. Prediction: The pair combines for over 150 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.

Ultimate prediction

Possibly the most important prediction that can be made about this game is the final score. My gut says this game might turn into a bit of a shoot-out, which I really don’t want to see because I favor a more-balanced effort on offense from Pittsburgh. At the end, I see the Steelers winning the game by a score of at least three, but no more than 7. Yep, a close one folks.

We’ll see if my crystal ball was any clearer than Joe’s was in Week 12. If not, I might get fired and have to start writing nothing but injury releases, so keep your fingers, toes crossed while you wave your Terrible Towels this weekend Steelers fans!

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