Bucky Brooks' Scouting Report: Week 3 vs. Steelers

Who’s the Guy?

The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year demands constant attention from the offensive line and running backs. As a dynamic pass rusher with explosive first-step quickness and a non-stop motor, T.J. Watt is an unstoppable force off the edge. The seventh-year pro has 81.5 career sacks in 89 games and can single-handedly wreck the game plan with his pass-rushing prowess. As the No. 1 defender on an elite defense, the Raiders must always monitor No. 90’s whereabouts.

Know His Name

Alex Highsmith has become an elite tag-team partner as a complementary pass rusher. After registering 14.5 sacks in 2022, the fourth-year pro has picked up where he left off with a sack, a forced fumble and a pick-six through two games. Highsmith excels at turning his speed into power as an up-the-field pass rusher with heavy hands and a high-revving motor.

Don’t Sleep On…

The Steelers’ passing game remains a work in progress with a second-year quarterback at the helm, but George Pickens has emerged as the team’s most explosive weapon on the perimeter. The extra-long pass catcher is a big play threat, with his superior size, length and leaping ability posing problems for defensive backs in one-on-one matchups. With the Steelers intent on creating more big plays in the passing game, Pickens could be the “X” factor in the Sunday night game.

Under Pressure

Kenny Pickett has yet to take the step in Year 2 that the Steelers were counting on as the field general of an offense with enough firepower to light up the scoreboard on any given night. Although the Steelers have been able to rely on their defense to scratch out “Ws” in the past, the team will need their QB1 to make plays to realize any playoff dreams.

Matchup to Watch

Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb vs. Josh Jacobs

After watching the Buffalo Bills shut down the reigning NFL rushing champion, the Steelers will attempt to do the same in Week 3. The Steelers’ no-nonsense linebacker corps features a pair of tackling machines with superb instincts, awareness and nasty dispositions. Against Jacobs, the duo will attempt to limit his creases with an aggressive gap-control approach that forces the runner to bounce to the outside, where the collective speed of the unit results in minimal gains on the perimeter.

Offensive Strategy

Matt Canada has drawn the ire of Steelers’ fans as the director of a plodding offense that fails to produce big plays. Despite his best efforts to motion, shift and utilize misdirection to fool defenders, the Steelers have consistently been unable to move the chains or score points in 2023. With another opportunity to establish their identity as a balanced offense with explosive potential through the air, the ball will go to Najee Harris, George Pickens, Allen Robinson and Diontae Johnson to allow the Steelers’ top playmakers to produce some splash plays against the Raiders.

Defensive Strategy

The Steelers’ old-fashioned brand of football will test the courage of passers, ball carriers and pass catchers. Mike Tomlin’s squad is a collection of thumpers with outstanding instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills. The unit plays at a breakneck pace due to the scheme’s simplicity that emphasizes a “see ball, get ball” approach at every level. With disruptive pass rushers on the edges (Watt and Highsmith), tackling machines between the tackles (Holcomb and Alexander), and a ball hawk in the deep middle (Minkah Fitzpatrick), the Steelers’ talent and toughness will test the Raiders from the opening snap to the final whistle.

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