Questions you need answered prior to Steelers vs Patriots kickoff
There are looming questions no one seems to be talking about as Sunday night approaches. The Steelers take the field at 8:20 in Foxborough, but before you game, people have questions.
Well, there are always answers. As the NFL's first Sunday Night Football game begins, this is what Steelers' fans should expect from the team's biggest remaining questions.
What do we really expect at wide receiver?
James Washington is the first player to come to mind when talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers receiving core. After a breakout preseason performance, many are wondering what to expect from the second-year wideout.
There isn't much difference in James Washington's play from last year to this. He looks just as fast down the sideline, has the same hand strength and brings all the same flashy play he was able to bring last season.
The difference isn't in skill, it's in mindset. What looks different with James Washington is his confidence. Compared to last year, Washington is clearly more comfortable in the offense, and it's translating to the field.
Washington will play a role in this offense in 2019. Starting Week 1, he'll be part of the game plan, with less worry of making mistakes throughout the game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Donte Moncrief are the first two receivers on the field. From there it's Washington. After that, expect a combination of Diontae Johnson and Ryan Switzer.
How much of a role does Jaylen Samuels play?
It's no secret Jaylen Samuels has earned his place in the backfield for Pittsburgh. After a strong offseason, the second-year back is going to be involved both running and catching the football, this season.
The question is how much. Pittsburgh is known to stick to one running back throughout a season, and frankly, it's hurt them time and time again.
Mike Tomlin and Randy Fitchner don't seem to want to take that same approach in 2019. Instead of making James Conner a literal every-down back, they're looking to allow Samuels to play his role within the offense.
What is that role? Simply a pass-catching threat. When Samuels is on the field, defenses need to think pass. It doesn't mean it will always be pass, but chances are there's a strong pull towards pass plays when Samuels is in.
Realistically, Samuels will see somewhere around 30 snaps and touch the ball a five to eight times.
Why isn't Devin Bush starting?
This is split between half the fans - all of whom want Bush in the starting role. The 10th overall pick wasn't traded for to be a bystander, but the middle linebacker position isn't just his this season.
Bush may not start in Week 1, but he'll play in the rotation as much as any of the three. Vince Williams remains a vocal leader to this defense, and having him on the field for the first snap adds to the early momentum. Mark Barron brings veteran experience and is the last person to play Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Bush will get his snaps this weekend, be sure of it. He'll play just as much as the other two inside backers, if not more. The starting role is simply the first snap, it doesn't mean Bush will ride the sideline all night.
Can we trust Chris Boswell?
The game is on the line, a field goal seals it and the man Pittsburgh is sending on the field is Chris Boswell - how much is your heart racing on Sunday night?
It's understandable to be skeptical of Boswell's ability this season. Last year, he was the most unreliable kicker in the NFL. Unlike most teams, Pittsburgh had to think financially when deciding to keep him, but they didn't do so without knowing he wouldn't screw it up.
Boswell looked consistent in the preseason and that's all we can ask of him. No one's too sure how it'll transition to the regular season, but there really isn't any chance left for him to screw up.
If the game comes down to a last-second kick by number nine, expect a win. Because if he doesn't hit it, chances are his NFL career is about over.
What does it mean if the Steelers lose?
Week 1 against the Patriots has a looming history of negative outcomes/ Foxborough has provided one win for the Steelers during the Ben Roethlisberger era and it came when Tom Brady was rehabbing a torn ACL.
History isn't on Pittsburgh's side, but that doesn't mean anything heading into the game. But we aren't here to talk about if they win, we're here to talk about if they lose.
The Steelers take a Week 1 L to the New England Patriots and head back to Pittsburgh to face the Seahawks at home. What does this mean for their season?
Almost nothing. Unless Pittsburgh and New England finish with the same record, Week 1's outcome doesn't represent the Steelers in 2019. Even if it's the Patriots.
Losing would do nothing to the remaining 15 games they'll need to play, and if anything, it'll motivate them more heading back home to take on a strong NFC team.
I wouldn't expect a lose in this one, and if there is one, expect it to be close. But if it does happen, the Steelers' season is far from over, and all their possibilities we're talking about on Saturday remain true on Monday morning - win or lose.