Ross Jacobs has been an FFM correspondent on NFL games and NFL Draft matters for the past few years. He is going to be writing up some of his notes on various games he’s watching/studying this year. Typically, he will have written/submitted his work before mine, so this is a look at the same game with different eyes...and you can compare and contrast or find some new takeaways.
2020 Week 2 Analysis: Broncos @ Steelers (By Ross Jacobs)
-Once again the Steelers were the superior team in all facets of their game, and once again they played sloppily and down to their opponent's level, the game almost slipping out of their grasp. They were up 17-3 at the half having completely dominated, and then slowly the Broncos began to claw their way back into it. The Steelers scored again to make it 24-14 and a lucky safety made it 26-14, but then a fumble by Benny Snell gave the Broncos the ball with good field position and they capitalized to cut the lead to 5. Denver got the ball back for a final drive and made it to around the Pittsburgh 25 yard line when the Steelers finally put a stop to the comeback by sacking Jeff Driskel on 4th down. This Steelers team feels like a very talented squad capable of beating anyone, but they also are not very disciplined and I think it's going to cost them in the end.
-The Broncos have the opposite problem. They are a well-coached but flawed football team. Injuries at key positions are really holding them back, but this team is still a tough out.
-I talked about this some last week, but I want to touch on it again. I never thought Drew Lock would even be a competent QB, but the more I see from him the more I appreciate what he brings to the table. The guy still makes too many bad decisions, although not as many as say Jameis Winston, but he is capable of some jaw-dropping throws too. I don't think he's the new Brett Favre, but he might be closer than we want to admit. I'm no Favre fan. He threw too many interceptions for my taste, but there's no denying he was an ultimately successful NFL QB. Can Lock make it to that level? I'm not so sure he can't. Driskel is a solid replacement until Lock can come back. He should keep Denver competitive.
-Losing star WR Courtland Sutton for the season is a huge blow as well. Rookie Jeudy is no replacement. He may have shifty feet to get open, but the guy is terrified of any kind of contact. Every time he goes over the middle he drops the ball because he's cowering away from getting hit. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler was far more impressive to me. He made one really nice grab over the middle that Jeudy would for sure have dropped.
-One guy that can help make up for it is Noah Fant. He is quite possibly the smoothest, most athletic TE in the league today. He just makes it look so easy. He's getting ok numbers, but this guy's potential is off the charts. How his college teammate TJ Hockenson was taken over him is still a mystery to me. There's no comparison.
-Denver's offensive line really looks better than last year's group. I'm not sure what the difference is, but they really opened good holes for Melvin Gordon and kept the QB's fairly clean considering the heavy pressure coming from the Pittsburgh front seven.
-One thing really holding back this Steelers offense is they keep getting behind on the early downs. There are too many times they throw an incomplete pass on 1st down, and then try to run James Conner's unathletic self into a brick wall on 2nd down. I'm not sure how many 3rd and 10+ downs they had this game, but I know it was far too many. They could take some pressure off Ben by making sure to get positive yards in these situations, and for the love of God stop giving Conner the ball. He's terrible. I know he had a good average yards per carry here, but it was literally all off of draw plays and one long run at the end of the game where he gained 60 yards because a Bronco defender just decided not to even try to tackle him. And Conner still got caught from behind. Easily. The Steelers are sabotaging themselves by playing Conner over Jaylen Samuels.
-How good did Diontae Johnson look? He had one play in particular where he caught a short pass at the line of scrimmage, juked the shoes off of the closest defender, glided up the field, juked another guy, and picked up the 1st down. There aren't many receivers in the league that could make that play, and Johnson made it look easy. If you grabbed him in the middle rounds of your draft, congratulations. That pick is going to pay off handsomely.
-The Broncos are playing well, but their myriad injuries combined with a pretty brutal schedule coming up is easily going to have them with a losing record at the half season mark. It's going to be a long year for Broncos fans.
-The Steelers are one of the tougher teams in the league, and definitely have the capability to make a deep playoff run, but I'm not sure how far this team can go without a few tweaks. They need to let go of this Conner fetish and clean up all the penalties, otherwise they'll have a hard time taking down the Ravens.
-If you haven't already acquired Diontae Johnson there's still time. He hasn't had that one huge game that will let the masses know it's ok to like him. Don't overpay, but if you can acquire him for a fair price do yourself the favor and grab him. He's that good.
-Fant is another good buy low target if you can get him. With Sutton out he's definitely the #1 target. Don't fear Lock being out a few weeks. Fant can work just fine with Driskel.
-Gordon is worth something as much as it hurts me to admit it. Until Phillip Lindsay returns he's the unquestioned starter, and Fangio really wants to run the ball even when his team is down. He's not getting a lot of catches in the passing game, but being the main carry back these days is usually good enough to be a solid starter.