The 5: Steelers to watch against the Buffalo Bills

Every week, ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ games, Steel City Underground will analyze the depth chart, injury reports, and key matchups against their upcoming opponent in order to point out “The 5” – Steelers players to watch.

The “Pickett era” has begun, and in Week 5, on the road in Buffalo to face the Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers will need to bolster their fortitude in spite of challenges and injuries if they want to get back in the win column.

Let’s take a look at the Steelers players we believe will play a major role in determining the outcome of this NFL regular season game.

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Kenny Pickett

Does anyone truly believe the Steelers coaching staff was unaware of the “Kenny! Kenny!” chants echoing throughout stadiums as Pittsburgh fans, especially at Acrisure Stadium, expressed frustration with how Mitchell Trubisky was running the offense?

Regardless of how Trubisky fans feel, his numbers were lackluster enough for the veteran quarterback to get pulled in favor of the rookie in Week 4. Pickett then created a spark that brought the Steelers to life despite the close loss to the New York Jets.

“He’s a gamer. He’s tough,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said following that game.

Ahead of this week’s road game, other teammates and coaches appear excited about what Pickett offers to the Steelers offense as well.

“Kenny does a great job – especially for (a) young QB – commanding the huddle. He comes up there with a sense of urgency and guys are listening to him and that’s really respectable. You don’t see that a whole lot with younger quarterbacks.” – Center, Mason Cole

Pickett showed an ability to get the ball down field, even though there were a couple balls that were intercepted after Steelers receivers could not secure the pass thrown to them. Practice this week should have cleaned some of that up.

“Kenny is a competitive guy. He is a great leader. He is a student of the game. That is who Kenny is. All of the things he has been advertised is, he is. Kenny is just Kenny. He plays with an edge.” – Offensive coordinator Matt Canada

As the rookie acclimates to where he believes he is meant to be, there are likely to be some less than perfect moments. Pickett showed an ability and willingness to adjust in preseason games and is expected to be capable of doing so in his first NFL career start.

That also means that the Steelers’ offensive line needs to play at their best level to protect their young quarterback.

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Returners on special teams

When head coach Mike Tomlin expressed his comfort level with Gunner Olszewski as a returner of kicks and punts was, “not that high,” this week, it looks like change is coming to that area of special teams.

Receiver Steven Sims, who has dressed for one game so far this season for Pittsburgh, is slated to be the next man up. Sims showed promise during the preseason as a third-year player.

With Diontae Johnson missing some practice this week due to a sore hip following the Jets game and a banged-up defensive backfield, the player(s) asked to handle return duties will be worth watching as the Steelers look to set their offense up with better field position and restrict costly errors.

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The receivers and tight ends

Calvin Austin is eligible to return to practice but remains on injured/reserved this week. Fans will need to be patiently optimistic.

If Johnson isn’t 100 percent, fans will likely see heavy usage across the board of George Pickens, Chase Claypool and tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry. It’s unlikely that Johnson won’t earn the start, though, despite being banged-up a little.

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Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick

Get ready for the in-game broadcast to bring up the fact that there is a lot of family members (brothers) playing in this game. If I were a betting person, I’d guess it gets mentioned at least two times. (And if you are a betting person, UFABET offers online sports betting.)

Edmunds (concussion) will be playing against his brother, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring), unless coaches from both the Steelers and Bills err on the side of caution.

Fitzpatrick (knee) and Edmunds we’re both limited in practice on Thursday, which often means they’re working back into the roster and will be a game-time decision unless they are at full strength on Friday.

Safety Tre Norwood was given reps this week in practice at both the free and strong safety positions, as reported by Josh Rowntree.

The defensive backfield will be an area that Josh Allen can, and will, exploit if Cameron Sutton (groin/hamstring) and Levi Wallace (foot) can’t go on Sunday. Ahkello Witherspoon is a likely scratch unless he comes off the DNP list he’s been on leading up to the game.

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DeMarvin Leal

Leal has emerged as a respectable defensive tackle. He has earned the respect of the coaching staff. Leal has also developed into a more versatile player than Isaiahh Loudermilk according to Mike Tomlin.

Leal’s size and athleticism has allowed him, as a rookie, to not only help Cameron Heyward but also step up and play edge in the absence of T.J. Watt.

He’ll get the start against the Bills and looks to bring his “A” game against a Buffalo offensive line that has more than its own share of injuries.

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