Of course we did a preview question and answer post with Behind the Steel Curtain. With the Arizona Cardinals taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the lead writer for the site, Jeff Hartman, and I exchanged questions. Here are my answers. Below are his answers.
First and foremost, why did Mike Tomlin let Bruce Arians go, and who would fans rather have today, Arians or Todd Haley?
Well, to be honest, I am not convinced Arians' "retirement" was Mike Tomlin's decision. Rumors have it it was Art Rooney II (team President and owner) who wanted to get rid of Arians. Some felt he was too "chummy" with Ben Roethlisberger, and they wanted to bring in a coordinator who would hopefully help keep Big Ben healthy.
As you may or may not know, the fans rebelled against Haley when he was hired, and the #FireHaley tweets during Steelers games became as regular as the hashtag #Steelers being used during a game. However, after Haley's first season fans began to see what he brings to the table. His quick-passing offense has kept Roethlisberger healthy (outside of the fluke knee injury against the Rams this season) and has proven to work. Fans have started to warm up to Haley, but he is markedly better than Arians' "chuck it deep" offense which saw Roethlisberger hurt on a yearly basis.
How is the defense looking under Keith Butler? Obviously there were many big losses, but how close is the defense to being a "Steelers defense?" Who are the players to watch?
The Steelers' defense is young and inexperienced in a lot of areas, but Butler has them playing a great brand of football. They are fast and are taking advantage of opportunities which present themselves. They will surrender yards, but are in the Top 10 in terms of points allowed, which according to Butler is the name of the game.
This defense might be a year away from being one of those traditional "Steelers Defenses", but they are far from the push over they were the past two seasons. Some players to watch would be rookie OLB Bud Dupree who has already registered 3 sacks in 5 games, as well as Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt along the defensive line. That duo has been nearly unstoppable the past two weeks for the black and gold. If the Cardinals are looking to exploit a facet of the Steelers' defense, it would be in the secondary. Veteran safety Will Allen is out of this game with an ankle injury and Robert Golden will be making his first NFL start at safety. Not a great feeling facing Carson Palmer and company.
Obviously this team is better with Ben Roethlisberger, but was Michael Vick the best choice to be his backup?
Compared to the other options, yes he was their best choice. If Bruce Gradkowski hadn't gotten hurt in the preseason, they wouldn't have gone out and signed anyone. Gradkoswki was the man who knew the system and was comfortable in such a role as a backup, and the third string QB Landry Jones is simply not the guy they want on the field when games matter. Going with the experience of Vick was something the team was confident with heading into 2015, but was hoping they wouldn't have to see. That obviously wasn't the case when Roethlisberger went down, but if he can win 2 out of 4 games with Roethlisberger out, most fans would be okay with such a proposition.
What can be done about Le'Veon Bell? What are the matchups you feel the Steelers win and the ones they don't like so much?
Le'Veon Bell is one of those running backs you just hope to contain, because it is near impossible to stop him. He has rushed for over 100 yards in his past two games, but is equally as lethal in the passing game as a receiver. Look for the Steelers to try and possess the football to keep the Cardinals' offense off the field, and have long time-consuming drives which result in touchdowns.
As for matchups, the Steelers will look at the Bell and DeAngelo Williams vs. the Cardinals' rushing defense as their most favorable matchup, while they will likely avoid the Vick throwing against the Cardinals secondary matchup. However, with Martavis Bryant back for the first time in 2015, don't be shocked to see the Steelers take some shots downfield with the second year wide out.
OK -- Prediction and fill in the blank. The Steelers win if __________. The Steelers lose if __________. What is your game prediction?
This is a tough game to pick with Vick under center. If Roethlisberger were playing I would take the Steelers at home, but with Vick at QB I don't know if the Steelers can keep pace with the Cardinals. Some are predicting a blowout, but I don't see it. I think this game will be a lot closer than most believe. I am saying the Cardinals win this one 28-20, but it will be a stepping stone for the Steelers.
The Steelers win if they are able to run the football, score touchdowns and not FGs in the red-zone and don't turn the football over.
The Steelers lose if they can't establish the run, don't put pressure on Carson Palmer and have to rely on Vick to get them back in the game by throwing the football.
Make sure to head over to Behind the Steel Curtain for great Steelers coverage.