Green Bay Packers v. Steelers: Behind Enemy Lines

Aug 16, 2018; Green Bay, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger greets Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during warmups prior to the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2018; Green Bay, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger greets Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during warmups prior to the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers are coming off a huge last-second road win over the San Francisco 49ers to improve to 2-1 on the season. This week, they will be back at Lambeau Field to take on a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is 1-2 after losing two straight games.

As part of my weekly preview of the upcoming opponent, I’ve once again gone Behind Enemy Lines, this time with the help of Tommy Jaggi from Still Curtain, where they cover anything and everything about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tommy was kind enough to answer five of my questions about Pittsburgh that will help provide us with some insight into this uncommon opponent. I also reciprocated and answered five of Tommy’s questions about the Packers, which you can find over at

How have the first three games gone for Pittsburgh? What’s been good and what’s been bad?

Tommy: I don’t think anyone could have predicted exactly how the first three games would have gone for this team. Pittsburgh bested the Buffalo Bills on their own turf in Week 1 thanks to a stellar defensive performance. However, they immediately turned around and lost two games in a row at Heinz Field.

The Steelers defense has been suspect the last two weeks since T.J. Watt went down with a groin injury and several other starters were missing. Offensively, this team looks like it has a chance to finish near the bottom of the league in points per game this season as Pittsburgh has only been able to muster up 14.3 offensive points per contest through the first three games this year.

Takeaway: Prior to TJ Watt being injured, he was doing TJ Watt things–dominating. In a little over just one game, Watt had logged eight pressures, three sacks, five stops, and two forced fumbles, according to PFF ($$). He was a full participant at Thursday’s practice.

When it comes to the Pittsburgh offense, the offensive line has really struggled, which has resulted in a run game that averages just 3.2 yards per carry — the lowest average in football — and forced the Steeler offense to rely on the quick passing game. Ben Roethlisberger also does not look like the same Big Ben that we’ve seen in the past.

What is the strength of this team that could give Green Bay trouble?

Tommy: When the defense is healthy, the Steelers can hang with just about anyone. In Week 1, they held a talented Bills team to just 16 points despite playing on the road. T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward are nightmares for offensive linemen to handle, and they can generate quick and consistent pressure when everyone’s healthy. You can expect that to be the case again this week if Watt suits up.

Takeaway: With Watt, Heyward, and potentially Alex Highsmith, who has been a limited participant this week, the young Green Bay Packers offensive line will face another stout pass rush.

Again, we will likely see help from Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan, quick passes from Aaron Rodgers, and as always, it’s going to be important that Green Bay establish and stick to the run, so that they don’t become one-dimensional and predictable.

What would you consider the weakness of the Steelers?

Tommy: The offensive line is a glaring weakness on this team right now. Pittsburgh lost four starters along the OL from the 2020 season to retirement or free agency and no longer have veteran faces like David DeCastro or Maurkice Pouncey around.

In their stead, the Steelers have made very little effort to replace them with a few mid-round rookies and cheap free agents, and they are getting what they paid for. This is a young, inexperienced offensive line that can’t seem to mesh together long enough to protect their aging quarterback on any given dropback.

Takeaway: As I mentioned, the Steeler run game is producing a league-worst 3.2 yards per rush while Roethlisberger gets the ball out of his hands at the fourth-fastest rate because this offensive line just can’t be trusted.

The Green Bay Packers’ defensive front is coming off their best performance of the season, both against the run and in terms of getting after the quarterback. They’ll have the opportunity to build off their showing in San Francisco against this Pittsburgh front.

Who is a player or two that Green Bay Packers fans may not be as familiar with but could make an impact on Sunday?

Tommy: Defensively, edge defender Alex Highsmith has been a treat lining up opposite of T.J. Watt early in his career. The former college walk-on at Charlotte is a quality run defender with impressive dip and burst off the edge as a pass rusher. Veteran signing Melvin Ingram has been just as impressive and offers terrific depth and a quality starter if Highsmith can’t go.

Offensively, Pat Freiermuth has been remarkable early this season – catching 8 of 10 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. The former Penn State tight end and 2021 second-round pick is already outplaying early expectations in his rookie year. He’s the clear TE1 ahead of Eric Ebron at this point.

Takeaway: Having appeared in two games, Highsmith has tallied three pressures as a pass rusher, eight tackles, and his run defense grade from PFF is the second-best in football among edge rushers.

Melvin Ingram, who has seen about 70 more snaps than Highsmith, who has been battling a groin injury, has 12 pressures, a sack, and seven tackles. While Watt will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention, the Green Bay Packers can’t forget about Highsmith or Ingram.

Nine of Freiermuth’s ten targets have come in the last two games, with it clear that his role is expanding. And in addition to what Freiermuth has added to this offense as a pass-catcher, look for him on running plays as well. He was a very well-rounded tight-end prospect coming out of Penn State.

In order for the Steelers to win at Lambeau, what does their path to victory look like?

Tommy: The Steelers are really going to have their work cut out for them this week, and they know what is on the line. Taking care of the ball will be key in this contest. I don’t expect Pittsburgh to rack up points, but losing the turnover battle isn’t an option if they want to come away with a win on the road.

Defensively, I can’t expect the Steelers to completely shut down Aaron Rodgers – that’s too much to ask from any defense. However, if they can contain the reigning MVP and keep him from beating them with a few big plays down the field, this could help the offense out significantly. I think allowing 24 points or fewer would be a huge win for the Steelers defense.

Takeaway: It’s cliche, but games are still won and lost in the trenches. If this Green Bay Packers’ defensive front plays as they did against San Francisco, they’ll cause all sorts of fits for this Pittsburgh offensive line.

For the offense, they’ll need to make sure that Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon continue to get at least 20 — or preferably more — carries, which will help open up the passing game. Also, as I mentioned above, it might not hurt to utilize the quick passing game again and bring in some extra blocking help against this Steelers pass rush.