5 Steelers players to watch as the Patriots look to avoid an 0-2 start

The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh in Week 2. Here are five opposing players to watch.

Detroit Lions kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) walks off the field after missing a field goal-attempt, as Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) celebrates during the overtime period of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) The Associated Press

If Sunday’s season opener was any indication of how things will go this week, the Patriots will need to bring a more balanced offensive approach to the table against Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow tried the whole throw-the-ball-53-times thing against Pittsburgh last week, and it resulted in seven sacks, four interceptions, and a loss in overtime.

The Steelers won last week because of their defense. They didn’t have a single back rush for more than 36 yards. And they overcame Mitch Trubisky’s mediocre stat line of 21-for-38 passing for 194 yards and a touchdown.

Given what both teams showed on offense last week, there’s a chance this game turns into an old-fashioned, low-scoring defensive battle.


Here are five Steelers players to watch, as the Patriots look to avoid dropping to 0-2 for the first time in more than two decades.

LB Devin Bush Jr.

The Steelers are without linebacker TJ Watt, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral muscle.

That could mean a bigger role for 2019 first-round pick Devin Bush.

Bush had five tackles last week, and coach Mike Tomlin said Bush did what he needed to do to contribute to the win.

S Minkah Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, who was Mac Jones’s teammate at Alabama, leads Pittsburgh’s secondary. He had a team high 14 tackles last week, along with an interception. Jones knows firsthand exactly how disruptive Fitzpatrick can be.

“I looked up to him a lot at Alabama and he was a great team captain and leader on our team,” Jones said. “Obviously, he’s done great things with the Steelers. You’ve just got to know where he’s at. He’s a great player.”

WR Diontae Johnson

Trubisky targeted Johnson more than any other receiver last week.

The Pro Bowl receiver is coming off of a below average game, by his standards, with 7 catches for 55 yards and a fumble (and one ridiculous, highlight-reel catch).

He’ll continue to get the targets, and he’ll likely ramp up his production this week against the Patriots’ young secondary.

LB Alex Highsmith

The Patriots’ struggles to protect Jones are well documented. Highsmith is a player who is ready to stress test the New England offensive line even further.


Last week, he exploded for three sacks, putting him halfway towards last year’s total of six. He also forced a fumble.

New England will have to make sure he’s accounted for at all times coming off the edge, or he’ll wreak a similar havoc this week.

RB Najee Harris

Harris, who is also an Alabama product, is expected to play this week despite battling a foot injury that caused him to leave last week’s contest against the Bengals.

He was a limited participant at practice on Wednesday, but says he’s ok.

The 6-foot-1, 232 pound-power back was a key part of Pittsburgh’s offense last year, rushing for 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’s not as much of a big play threat, with his longest career rush being 37 yards. But, he’s tough in between the tackles and a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on