A rejuvenated Pittsburgh Power (2-5) squad returns to the Consol Energy Center eager to keep the momentum going from a 53-48 win on the road over their division rivals in Philadelphia. Standing in their way this week will be the franchise that once called Pittsburgh home, the Tampa Bay Storm (5-3).
Pittsburgh’s new quarterback Steven Sheffield made the most out of his first opportunity by throwing for 272 yards and six touchdowns last week. He did only complete 54.3% of his passes and had an interception but overall he looked a lot stronger than Jordan Jefferson did and the Power easily surpassed their average of 33 points per game.
Another newcomer figures to play a prominent role for the Power moving forward. Wide receiver James Robinson hauled in six passes for 84 yards and four touchdowns last week against Philadelphia and the chemistry between him and Sheffield was apparent early in that game. Standout wide receiver Mike Washington also looks to continue his solid season after adding four total touchdowns to his 2013 totals last week.
Offensively for the Storm, Adrian McPherson is having a monster campaign and has thrust himself into the discussion for league MVP. McPherson set the league record for rushing touchdowns in a season already and we’re not even at the halfway point. Don’t let his rushing stats fool you though; he is also able to complete passes when needed making him a dangerous dual threat combination.
The Storm offense should gain a boost if Joe Hills is ready to play this week after being activated from the “Other League Exempt” list. Hills was trying to make the roster of the Carolina Panthers but has returned to his team. He has scored at least two touchdowns in every game he has appeared in this year and tallied 19 touchdowns total. Tampa Bay also has Greg Ellingson who leads the team with 52 receptions and has 768 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Besides being a threat at wide receiver, kick returner Michael Lindsay will also look to score touchdowns in the return game. He already has one return touchdown this year and scored one in last year’s meeting against the Power.
Defensively the Power continued their strong play last week with two defensive stops on the Soul’s final two drives. Sergio Gilliam continues to make plays for the Power though he has dropped a few interceptions. If his hands improve he could steadily climb the interception leaderboard in the AFL. The Power made a roster move this week with an ankle injury to Christian Wise placing him on the IR. In his place the team has activated Brandon Freeman who will likely make his first start of the season.
Tampa Bay’s secondary features a strong trio of rookies in Chris Smith (Six interceptions), Jean Fanor (three interceptions), and De’Audra Dix (three interceptions). Power Head coach Derek Stingley told me on this week’s TribLive Radio Power Hour that Tampa Bay likes to play soft zone. Sheffield will have to react well to this and take what the defense is giving him. Forcing throws will play right into the Storm’s hands.
The key to this game will be how well the Power contain McPherson and prevent him from chewing up big chunks of rushing yards. The Power secondary should be able to cover the Storm receivers but the key players will be JAC Linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson and MAC Linebacker Gary Butler who will be tasked with keeping McPherson from taking off.
The other important factor will be how well the momentum of last week’s win in Philly will carry over for this Power team. They played with a renewed confidence and finally seemed to grasp much of offensive coach Jon Lyles’ offense. The Power will need those offensive fireworks to keep pace with the third highest scoring team in the league.
Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Power Facebook Page