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Stock Report: Whose stock is rising after the win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 10:00am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a look at what direction Steelers stock is trending after their road win over the Baltimore Ravens.

In the words of the late Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy, "Where would you rather be than right here, right now?"

I was reminded of that famous Levy catchphrase watching Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin standing on the sidelines during pre-game introductions. The telecast caught Tomlin grinning ear to ear, apparently ecstatic with anticipation. Tomlin lives for those moments. The opportunity to compete at the highest level against your biggest rival.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and that is particularly true in the NFL's biggest and best rivalry. You can tell by the countenance on the faces of the competitors, whether they be players or coaches. The focus, intensity, and will to win couldn't be higher for either side. Those attributes create unmatched physicality, and mutual respect.

I appreciate every aspect of the Steelers/Ravens rivalry, and I am thankful for a head coach who doesn't run from the heightened pressure it brings, but actually revels in it. At this point in his legendary tenure, Tomlin desires those moments that make him feel most alive.

That was beyond obvious during those pre-game introductions. No place Mike Tomlin would rather be.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Offensive identity

One man's trash is another man's treasure. To an old-school football purist like myself, the Steelers offensive performance against the Ravens on Sunday night in prime time was a thing of beauty. An answered prayer.

Heading into a rebuilding season, I wanted to see the Steelers solidify the overall execution of the offensive line enough to reach middle-of-the-pack status. In other words, be an average offensive line.

Sunday night's performance suggests they have easily surpassed that rather humble goal. Even contending teams don't waltz into the Charm City and dominate in the trenches against the Ravens like the Steelers offensive line did Sunday night.

The Ravens defense hadn't given up a touchdown in over 15 quarters at home prior to the Steelers game-winning fourth quarter score, the longest streak in over a decade. The Ravens Top 10 defense entered the contest with the third best run defense in the NFL, and the Steelers would have finished with 200 total yards on the ground without the yardage lost from two kneel downs.

That type of dominance in the trenches simply doesn't happen against the Ravens, but it just did.

It was apparent heading into the game that something had to give. The Steelers have found an offensive identity since the bye week. Run the football consistently enough to create favorable down and distance situations, convert a high percentage of those situations, and improve their overall time of possession in the process.

This simplified approach is anything but simple actually. It requires clean, almost perfect execution to be successful. Ball security is a must, and self inflicted wounds like penalties must be kept to the bare minimum. That is a tall task for the youngest collection of offensive talent in the league, but the Steelers offensive youth movement is taking shape right before our eyes, and on back-to-back weeks, on the prime time stage.

My lovely wife pointed out Sunday night that Kenny Pickett has the 4 C's that every potential franchise quarterback needs to be successful:

  • Calm
  • Cool
  • Confident
  • Clutch

Good to know she is paying attention to all my Steelers rambling.

In my opinion, Najee Harris fully displayed, for the first time, precisely why the Steelers utilized their first round selection in 2021 to acquire his services. That was Harris’ first opportunity to run behind an above average offensive line performance in the NFL, and the results speak for themselves. That was a breakout performance for Harris, hopefully just the first of many such opportunities.

Jaylen Warren is proving to be the ideal complimentary partner for Harris. He continues to perform effectively and aggressively, with enough burst and surge to convert in critical situations. The Steelers have unearthed another diamond in the rough in the young man my aforementioned wife affectionately refers to as ‘Mighty Mouse’.

The Steelers talented young group of receivers weren't targeted often, but they rose to the occasion when the opportunity presented itself, which included some effective run blocking.

The Steelers were able to impose their new offensive identity on the bewildered Ravens defense Sunday night, a reality believed unimaginable prior to the game. You actually had to see it to believe it.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Defensive creativity

As the BTSC community already knows, I was particularly perplexed by the Steelers inability, or unwillingness, to modify to more aggressive run sets in the first meeting with the Ravens. Especially after the Ravens spent the first three quarters of action dominating the Steelers defensive front seven in the trenches.

No run blitzes or heavy sets to speak of. That was inexcusable, especially after the Ravens were forced to play a third string rookie quarterback that had never taken an NFL snap.

The Steelers defensive coaching staff has actually shown some impressive flexibility and creativity at various points this season. Trying to generate any semblance of a pass rush without T.J. Watt, playing winning football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a mixture of backup secondary personnel, breaking out the three interior linebacker look in that same contest, and the three safety set looks late in the season.

All those examples were nice, but the creativity on display Sunday night against the Ravens was special, because that was totally out of character for the Steelers, to the point I can't remember a previous point in time when the Steelers coaching staff fully committed to such innovation. I fully believe that change in defensive philosophy caught the Ravens by surprise.

Schematic creativity is all well and good, but it's up to the participants on the field to execute the game plan. Needless to say, the Steelers defense rose to the challenge.

Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi gave inspiring performances, and the defensive line rotation held their own. Watt and Alex Highsmith did a much better job setting the edge against the Ravens powerful rushing attack, although the Ravens did exploit Watt's overaggressive tendencies on occasion in the first half, until Watt tightened up his lane responsibilities in the second half.

The biggest adjustment by the Steelers was their commitment to utilize two rookies, DeMarvin Leal and Mark Robinson, in their defensive rotations. Not only did they use them, but both youngsters played at least half of the Steelers defensive snaps. Needless to say, they didn't disappoint.

Leal relied on his tweener characteristics to foil the Ravens best laid plans. He utilized his exceptional wingspan, mobility, and attacking nature to clog running lanes, and stretch outside runs to the boundaries. The Ravens runners were meeting Leal in the hole, instead of defensive backs.

Mark Robinson was exactly what I thought he would be: an ultra aggressive, contact-seeking missile bound and determined to hit a moving target, especially the ball carrier. He looked like an inexperienced rookie at times, especially when he failed to complete a couple of tackles after arriving with bad intentions. That's to be expected from a rookie linebacker with a grand total of 7 defensive snaps on his resume.

With that being said, his always forward aggressive mindset is just what the Steelers defense has been missing at the position this season. Robinson finished the game with 7 total tackles, a couple of physical solo tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, and the respect of Mike Tomlin. Tomlin specifically mentioned the valuable contributions of both Leal and Robinson in his post-game press conference.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the game-altering performances of Robert Spillane and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Spillane has settled nicely into his leadership role at the position, and once again played 100% of the defensive snaps. He snuffed out a couple of potentially big plays for the Ravens with his defensive acuity.

Fitzpatrick continues to stabilize the Steelers defensive secondary, and he has also blossomed in his leadership role this season. He has made a habit out of closing out games late with key takeaways, including a game saving blocked kick. Fitzpatrick has shown clutch ability this season, his best season to date, in my opinion.

3 & OUT: ‘Klutch’ Kenny, “Saturday-ish” offense and a win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 8:30am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in a big Week 17 game, and there was a lot to like about the visiting team’s performance.

The Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 16-13 on Sunday night behind a second straight game-winning touchdown drive from Kenny Pickett. Here, in my 3 & out column, I look at how “Klutch Kenny” and an offense that has been described as “Saturday-ish” got the better of Baltimore to keep Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes alive.

Klutch Kenny

I don’t know who first coined “Klutch Kenny” to describe Pittsburgh’s rookie quarterback, but they should trademark it. One week after taking the Steelers 76 yards in 10 plays in the final three minutes to beat the Raiders, Pickett piloted an 80-yard, 11-play drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris with 0:56 remaining to knock off Baltimore. On those two drives, Pickett went a combined 12-15 for 139 yards and two touchdowns while calling most of the plays himself. Nit-pick all you want about how Pickett isn’t yet a complete quarterback, but his poise, moxie and ability to rise to the moment has the potential to make him special.

For three-and-a-half quarters on Sunday night, Pickett was anything but. Entering that final drive, he was 10-21 for 104 yards. Coordinator Matt Canada had been exceptionally conservative with his play calls, relying on a zone-based run game and a dink-and-dunk passing attack to move the football. But just like the previous week, once the reigns were off, and the urgency of the moment necessitated a more aggressive approach, Pickett flourished. He made three ridiculously good throws on the game-winning drive that resembled prime-Ben Roethlisberger, the last of which put a dagger into the Ravens.

On 1st-and-10 from his own 30 with 2:33 remaining, Pickett was flushed from the pocket to his left, where he made a heady throw to Pat Freiermuth for a gain of 20 yards. What made this play special was how Pickett recognized the coverage to Freiermuth’s right. Rather than lead him into it, he purposefully threw to Freiermuth’s left shoulder. Freiermuth had to stop and collapse back on the ball. But it was the only place Pickett could throw it where it wouldn’t be defended:

One of the things analysts often talk about with quarterbacks is how well they see the field. Pickett has struggled with this at times, especially when he’s in the pocket. But here, on the move, he diagnosed the situation perfectly. The fact he placed the ball on Freiermuth’s inside shoulder while moving in the opposite direction was special. It was a big-time play that spoke volumes about Pickett’s ability.

On the following play, Pickett got a great pocket from the guys up front and used it to rip a perfect throw between the hashes to Steven Sims for a 28-yard gain. Sims ran a divide route from the right slot against a Cover-2 look from Baltimore, clearing the underneath coverage of 6’4” safety Kyle Hamilton before bending his route towards the middle of the field. Pickett had a tiny window in which to locate the throw — over top of Hamilton and between the two-deep safeties — yet his placement was perfect. Sims, to his credit, did a great job of focusing on the football as Hamilton lunged for it, then getting down to avoid a hit that could have jarred the ball loose. The degree of difficulty on this pass was exceptional, and the circumstance made it even more impressive:

The touchdown pass to Harris may have been the best play of the three. Facing 3rd-and-8 from the 10-yard line with just under a minute to play, Pickett motioned Harris out of the backfield to an empty formation. This was subtle but important, as it revealed man coverage by Baltimore and, specifically, that linebacker Roquan Smith was responsible for Harris. At the snap, Pickett was almost immediately chased out of the pocket by end Jason Pierre-Paul (4). Pierre-Paul got a hand on Pickett’s right shoulder, but Pickett pulled away. With linebacker Patrick Queen closing in, and with his shoulders turned towards the sideline, Pickett managed to flick a throw that hit Harris in stride as he broke away from Smith. It was a throw of which Roethlisberger, who made a living torturing Baltimore with plays like this, could be proud:

All the caveats we’ve been applying to Pickett remain in place. He is not a finished product. He needs to hang in the pocket better and diagnose coverages quicker. He needs to work on his read progressions, and on his mechanics as he goes through them. There aren’t many rookie quarterbacks in the history of the league to whom those caveats have not applied. Then again, no rookie has led back-to-back game-winning drives until now. Pickett’s clutch gene is the most exciting thing to emerge for the Steelers in this suddenly fascinating season. He looks increasingly like their next franchise quarterback.

“Saturday-ish”

NFL star receiver-turned-television-commentator Steve Smith Sr. made some headlines last week when he described Pittsburgh’s offense following their win over Las Vegas as “Saturday-ish.” Smith’s reference suggested that Canada’s scheme was better suited to the college game than to the NFL. According to Smith, the plethora of pre-snap movements Canada incorporates to mask his largely vanilla play designs may fool college defenses, but in the NFL, it takes more than smoke and mirrors to consistently move the football.

It’s true the Steelers haven’t scored many points this season. How much of that is the product of a scheme that does little to stress opposing defenses versus a young offense that hasn’t played much together? Is Canada’s scheme the primary culprit? Or do other factors share in the blame? These are good questions.

Based on what I’ve analyzed, the scheme is pretty vanilla, particularly in the run game. I charted every play the Steelers ran the past two weeks. Of their 68 combined rushing attempts, they pulled a lineman on exactly ONE play. Here it is, a power run against Baltimore with left guard Kevin Dotson wrapping up to the play-side linebacker that gained three yards. Try not to get too excited:

All the other attempts were zone runs or wedge blocks on sneaks and dives. Zone runs, for those who are unfamiliar, utilize area blocks where linemen work along a track rather than blocking an assigned defender. They can involve double-and-chip concepts, and there are several variants — inside zone, mid-zone, wide zone — but the scheme is pretty straightforward. All the linemen block in the same direction, with no one pulling or trapping.

Here’s a zone run from the Ravens’ game. This is inside zone to the right. Everyone works through their play-side gap, while Connor Heyward, aligned as the wing to the right, comes back to wham block the backside end. Harris tucks the ball inside Heyward’s block, then squeezes through the back door for a nice gain:

It seems elementary to use the same blocking scheme repeatedly. The Steelers had been a power, counter-gap and pin-and-pull sweep team for years before Canada arrived. What happened? Where did the gap runs go?

It may be Canada doesn’t like Pittsburgh’s athleticism up front and doesn’t feel the linemen are good pullers (Dotson did fall to his knees in the clip above and has never been considered a great athlete). Or maybe it’s that Canada hasn’t needed them lately. Pittsburgh ran the same zone plays over and over on Sunday night, and the Ravens couldn’t stop them. When he wanted to switch things up, he didn’t run a new concept. He simply added a wrinkle, like we saw on this jet sweep to Jaylen Warren where the line zone-blocked in one direction and Warren took the sweep the other way:

Or here, where Freiermuth wrapped around as a lead blocker on a zone run with counter action in the backfield:

The scheme is not complicated, but it is working. Pittsburgh is a Top 5 run team over the last eight weeks and ran for 198 yards against a tough Ravens defense. “Saturday-ish” or not, they’re getting it done on the ground.

The passing attack is another matter. I’ll save my more detailed breakdown for after the season. For now, let’s just say that concepts like this all-hitch route, which the Steelers ran against Vegas, lend credence to Smith’s criticisms:

On this play, four receivers run out about five yards and simply turn around, while Harris runs a swing route out of the backfield. That’s more “Friday Night-ish,” as in something you’d see in a high school game, than what colleges run on Saturday.

The quick passing game Canada has relied upon could be a product of Pittsburgh’s desire to protect Pickett, not turn the football over and keep games close with their defense. Mike Tomlin has made no secret of his desire to play this way. That formula has served the Steelers well at times, particularly over the past two months. But it has hamstrung the offense, too. How much of that is on Tomlin as opposed to Canada is hard to know.

Of course, it could also emanate from Canada simply not knowing how to develop an NFL-style passing attack. His passing schemes as a college coordinator were fairly remedial, and little has changed in Pittsburgh. Ironically, when he does let Pickett off the leash, the youngster has shown play-making ability. So too have his receivers, like George Pickens on this sensational grab to convert a 3rd-and-14:

Why it takes 3rd-and-14, or a hurry-up situation at the end of a game, for Canada to open up (or for Pickett to take over, as he is rumored to have done again on the final drive against Baltimore), is frustrating. It’s impossible to ignore his lack of creativity. Then again, with the run game improving, and the strategy to play conservatively paying off, maybe this is the best approach for an offense loaded with players who only recently left their Saturday careers behind.

Odds and Ends
  • If Canada’s play-calling is hard to ignore, so too is the unit’s propensity to derail promising drives with self-inflicted wounds. Against Baltimore, Pittsburgh had three 1st half possessions that totaled 29 plays, took 16:34 off the clock and gained 146 yards. Yet they scored just three points. Freiermuth jumped offsides on 1st-and-goal from the 2 to derail one touchdown opportunity. Pickens stepped out of bounds on a completed pass that would have resulted in a 1st down and was flagged for illegal touching to derail a second. And Chris Boswell hit the right upright on a 48-yard field goal attempt to wipe out a third. That’s how it’s gone all year for the offense. They are young and experiencing growing pains. These are the requisite frustrations.
  • All of this talk about the offense is nice. But really, it’s the defense who is keeping Pittsburgh’s season alive. Sunday made six straight weeks Pittsburgh has held their opponent to 17 points or less. Despite averaging just 18.3 points per game themselves, they’re 5-1 over that stretch. I don’t write about the defense as much as I should, partly because offense is easier to analyze without the All-22 film and partly because Canada and Pickett have proven to be fascinating topics. But the ability of the defense to keep the Steelers in games until the offense does just enough to win has been the defining element of their resurgence.
And Out...

Originally in this space I had some thoughts on the intensity of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry and how much I enjoyed watching that physical contest on Sunday night. Then, last night in the Buffalo-Cincinnati game, the play with Damar Hamlin happened. It doesn’t change my feelings about Steelers-Ravens, which remains the best rivalry in football. But it makes me step back from the spectacle of the sport to consider the men who play it, their humanity, and the brotherhood that is a football team.

I’ve been playing and coaching football for over 40 years. I can say, with complete certainty, that no one on that field last night cared about finishing the game. They only cared about Damar Hamlin. The things you experience with your teammates creates a bond that is impossible to explain to those who have not shared it. To see one of them literally fighting for their life on the field, as it appears Hamlin was, is stunning. The notion of continuing to play after that is absurd. Anyone who expected the game to resume has a lot to learn about football, and even more about being human.

Thank God the NFL came to its senses and postponed the contest. They can sort through the implications later. Right now the only thing that matters is Hamlin, and everyone praying for his recovery.

Updated 2023 NFL Draft order after Week 17

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 8:00am
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Some are looking at the playoff picture, while others are looking at the 2023 NFL Draft order.

After Week 17 of NFL action, there are some teams who are enamored with the Playoff Picture. Regardless of the conference, they’re trying to figure out the jockeying for playoff positioning, and that’s always an enjoyable time for everyone involved.

Then there are the teams who find themselves on the outside looking in, and the only thing they are waiting for is the news they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. For those teams, it is never too late to start looking ahead. Not to the playoffs, but to the upcoming draft.

Where will their favorite team draft? Will they have a Top 10 pick?

Well, for those teams wondering, here is an updated projected order for the 2023 NFL Draft:

1. Houston Texans
2. Chicago Bears
3. Seattle Seahawks (from the Denver Broncos)
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. Detroit Lions (from the Los Angeles Rams)
7. Atlanta Falcons
8. Las Vegas Raiders
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from the New Orleans Saints)
11. Tennessee Titans
12. Houston Texans (from the Cleveland Browns)
13. New York Jets
14. Washington Commanders
15. Pittsburgh Steelers

For the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful, it is depressing having to look at the NFL Draft order with an 8-8 record, but this is where the team finds itself after a very underwhelming first half of the season. After the Week 14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, many fans have abandoned the outside thought of a possible playoff push, and even after beating the Carolina Panthers in Week 15 and the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16, it is not looking as if they’ll be near a Top 10 pick this year. What might surprise some, is how after the Steelers shocked the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, they actually moved up one spot in the draft order to 15th.

Some find solace of a mediocre season in the team’s potential draft positioning, considering where they could potentially end up, and when you throw in the 2nd Round pick the Steelers received from the Chicago Bears for Chase Claypool, it makes this draft order sweeter. The thought of potentially having the first, or second, pick in the 2nd Round makes the team’s success, and therefore lower draft position, easier to swallow for many.

Picks are nice, but the organization has to hit on those draft picks to truly turn things around. Nonetheless, we’ll keep you updated on the draft order as the season wraps up in Week 18, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in Week 18.

Kenny Pickett once again leads the Steelers offensive PFF grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 7:00am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, Pickett had his highest score of the season

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their third game in a row with a come-from-behind victory over the Ravens in Baltimore Sunday night. The Steelers slowed down the Raven’s run game much better than when they faced off three weeks ago, and the offense put up almost 200 rushing yards against one of the NFL’s best defenses against the run.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 17 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up this week is the offense. Included will be the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 70 snaps on offense in Sunday night’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

QB Kenny Pickett: 92.4 (70 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 86.5 (70 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 83.0 (45 snaps)
RB Jaylen Warren: 80.5 (28 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 70.4 (29 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

FB Derek Watt: 63.9 (4 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 63.4 (51 snaps)
WR Miles Boykin: 60.1 (10 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 52.4 (28 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 47.6 (70 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Kenny Pickett: 92.4 (70 snaps)

Despite only completing 15 of 27 pass attempts for 168 yards and one touchdown, Kenny Pickett had the highest PFF score of his young career. But to put it in perspective, Ben Roethlisberger had not had a PFF score this high since Week 13 of the 2015 season against the Indianapolis Colts. Kenny Pickett came a long way in showing he can be the Steelers next quarterback to lead the team to victory after doing it again this week, but I’m not sure it was exactly the historic performance that the PFF score would indicate otherwise. When it comes to other quarterbacks this week, Pickett’s score was the second-highest score from Week 17 just behind Tom Brady with a 92.6 for the day. Pickett’s score breakdown comes as a 90.9 passing grade and a 75.2 running grade.

Running Backs

RB Najee Harris: 83.0 (45 snaps)
RB Jaylen Warren: 80.5 (28 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 63.9 (4 snaps)

Seeing both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren with scores in the 80s should be heartwarming to any Steelers fan. Although it was not Harris’ highest score of the season as he had an 88.3 against Atlanta, it was his most balanced game with a 79.4 running score and a 74.5 passing score. As for Warren, this was the best of his career despite PFF still not understanding what he does in pass blocking as he received a 35.4 grade.

Receivers

WR Steven Sims: 70.4 (29 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 68.2 (54 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 64.6 (64 snaps)
TE Connor Heyward: 64.4 (12 snaps)
WR Gunner Olszewski: 64.1 (25 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 63.4 (51 snaps)
WR Miles Boykin: 60.1 (10 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 52.4 (28 snaps)

In a game with the focus was definitely on running the football, the receivers took a little bit of a backseat when it came to the overall scores. But when three receivers are in the bottom five yet two of them have a score above a 60.0, that just means it was an all-around good offensive performance. Steven Sims had the best passing score of the receivers but it came behind both running backs. Both Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson received good marks for run blocking with 73.0 scores while Gunner Olszewski was not far behind with a 71.6 in run blocking.

Offensive Line

G Kevin Dotson: 86.5 (70 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 70.3 (70 snaps)
G James Daniels: 69.7 (70 snaps)
C Mason Cole: 68.1 (70 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 47.6 (70 snaps)

Not only did Kevin Dotson score in the 80s overall, he had scores in the 80s for individual blocking with an 87.7 pass blocking score and an 80.2 run blocking score, both of which were highest on the team. James Daniels tied Dotson in the pass blocking with the 87.7 but was significantly lower and run blocking with a 62.7. Dan Moore Jr. landed with a score in the 70s based on a 70.2 run blocking score while Chuks Okorafor came in bottom of the offense with a 30.0 pass blocking score and a 54.1 unblocking score which was the lowest on the team in both categories.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

The Pittsburgh Steelers stay alive with old-school football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 6:00am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In a game where success seemed to be dangling just beyond their reach, the Steelers staged a memorable rally to defeat the Baltimore Ravens.

During more than three quarters of their prime time matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to be anything but a playoff-caliber team. Despite staging a series of impressive drives that moved the ball into Ravens’ territory, the Steelers were unable to come away with anything beyond two FGs in three attempts. By all indications and midway through the final quarter, the Steelers seemed to be facing yet another hard-fought but narrow defeat at the hands of their chief divisional rival.

But with time ticking away and for the second consecutive week, something magical happened. The same offense which repeatedly failed to close the deal against a staunch Ravens defense suddenly began playing with the urgency of an NFL contender. They drove methodically down the field behind a tough running attack and some of the most clutch passing seen yet from Kenny Pickett. Finally, on a crucial 3rd-and-8 play from the Ravens’ 10-yard line — when nothing but a touchdown would suffice — Pickett narrowly escaped the grasp of blitzing linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and sprinted out to his left to deliver a perfect throw to Najee Harris for the game-winning score.

This spectacular play was more than just a thrilling footnote to a 2022 Steelers season which, after all, still might be heading nowhere. Pickett’s heroics made an unequivocal statement that, while the Pittsburgh Steelers might be rebuilding, they are definitely not a team to be taken lightly. The clutch win also served notice to many of those who have sold the team short in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement at the end of the 2021 season. By the time the final whistle blew at M&T Bank Stadium, the remarkable brand of football which Steelers Nation has known and loved for so many years had emerged in plain view. When power-back Najee Harris made his leaping grab of Pickett’s perfect pass for the winning score, it placed a holiday bow upon exactly the kind of dogged Steelers victory which had defined the career of Franco Harris.

Like Steelers teams of the early-to-middle 1970s — the years leading up to their first Super Bowl — the Black-and-gold used a powerful running attack to slash the Ravens defense for 198 total rushing yards. Compiling 111 yards on the ground for a 5-yards per carry average, Najee Harris showed a national TV audience why he’s become one of the league’s most punishing and athletically gifted running backs. Najee’s sidekick Jaylen Warren added 76 yards rushing for a 6.3-yard average per carry including some crucial carries to move the chains. Kenny Pickett passed for a modest 168 yards but he once again avoided interceptions while making several clutch throws into tight coverage.

Perhaps most impressively, Pickett was making the kind of throws seen only from a QB blessed with a pro-caliber arm. In so doing, Pickett might have silenced at least some of those still not convinced he’s franchise-QB material.

But while fans revel in the strong statement these Steelers have made during their stretch run, this thrilling victory represents only a precursor to many more special moments that lie ahead for Steelers Nation. It’s no secret that an offense scoring only a single touchdown in 60 minutes of play probably won’t be able to hang with offensive powerhouses like the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs or Cincinnati Bengals. But at the same time, the Steelers have demonstrated not only that they match up very well against most of the teams in the middle of the NFL pack, but also that they can compete against a playoff team like the Ravens, albeit one missing its starting QB.

While this might not mean very much for the remainder of this season (especially given the Steelers’ unlikely playoff odds), it bodes quite well for the 2023 regular season and beyond. Overall, it’s important to recognize that this Steelers team is fundamentally different than the one we watched during the last decade of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. With its newfound power-running attack and a judicious passing game, today’s Steelers are more in the mold of the team during its early years of the 1970s when Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were teammates with a young Terry Bradshaw. This offense also is more akin to the early years of Big Ben’s career which leaned heavily on outstanding RBs like Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis.

In their present form, the Steelers haven’t yet developed the quick-strike, offensive capability which characterized the careers of Bradshaw and Roethlisberger as they matured. This is partially due to Pickett’s relative inexperience, but also because of some lingering-but-improving issues with pass-blocking. Thus, today’s Steelers are a team heavily reliant on avoiding turnovers while grinding out tough running yards on long, time-consuming drives. It’s a team that mainly uses passing strategically when necessary to keep the chains moving and control time of possession.

Against the Ravens, the Steelers continued their dominance of possession time (34:14) while converting an impressive 10 of 16 third-down situations (13 of the Steelers’ 22 first downs were by rushing and nine were by passing). By contrast to the norm during the Roethlisberger Era, Kenny Pickett’s distribution of targets was roughly equal among all of his receivers and RBs.

Most importantly, Pickett firmly established that, while he’s capable as a runner, his first preference is always to find the open receiver. The game-clinching pass to Harris was a prime example of a play on which Pickett might easily have opted to run the ball but instead threw a remarkably precise pass to Najee. In particular, Pickett has shown a surprising ability to nail passes to his receivers while rolling out and in full stride.

Recognizing the old-school nature of this developing Steelers team suggests avoiding comparisons to the latter half of the Roethlisberger Era, particularly in terms of Ben’s substantial focus on deep passing. While this distinction might spur some impatience among fans and pundits accustomed to Ben Ball, Steelers Nation can nonetheless find the happy medium of rooting hard for a team which obviously still has plenty more growing to do. As far-fetched as a Steelers’ playoff berth might remain — let alone any prospect of advancing through the playoffs — the 2022 regular season must nevertheless be viewed as a success.

During this season of transition, the Steelers appear to have found their next franchise QB while bouncing back in their stretch run to post a respectable record. This accomplishment is especially impressive because the Steelers hardly can claim to possess the best overall talent in the league.

With many in Steelers Nation expecting the worst last summer, and especially after the team dropped to 2-6 at the season’s midpoint, very few could imagine how strongly the Black-and-gold would finish. And regardless of whether the Steelers beat Cleveland at home in their final regular-season game to preserve Coach Tomlin’s record of zero losing seasons, this overall season undoubtedly should be considered as mission accomplished for the Steelers organization.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: I love it when a black-and-gold plan comes together

The Steelers were seemingly dead and buried on Halloween, the day after the bludgeoning they sustained in Philadelphia. Now on the day after New Year’s, your Iron Men are in the hunt with a week to go. Was it all part of a grand plan? Yes and No. BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis makes no apologies in sharing his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language.

  • News and Notes
  • They had it all along
  • BTSC Accountability
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: A great way to kick off the new year

The Steelers win on New Year’s Night was a thrill ride that starts out 2023 just right. Join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White for another Steelers Hangover in the 2022 season.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Starting New Year’s Right
  • and MUCH MORE!
Cutting Room Floor: The Steelers are streaking toward a playoff berth

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers recent 5-2 stretch may inexplicably put them in the playoffs. Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Streaking towards the playoffs
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Bills vs. Bengals: Monday Night Football picks, odds and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 6:15pm
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Monday Night Football is here! Check out the latest odds, picks and more.

The 2022 NFL regular season is in full swing, and it’s an AFC North vs. AFC East battle in Week 17. The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills go head-to-head. When it comes to storylines, there are plenty surrounding this game.

As for the game itself, below you’ll see some vital information for you to enjoy the contest. You’ll get odds for the game, check out our staff picks for the game and to use this comment section as an open thread for the game.

Let’s take a closer look...

How to Watch:

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills
Date: Monday, Jan. 2
Venue: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Streaming: ESPN App, ESPN+

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

CIN: +1.5
O/U: 49.5
Moneyline:
CIN: +100
BUF: -120

Staff Picks:

This is a game black-and-gold fans will be watching closely, and that’s based on both playoff hopes and the draft order. The Steelers would benefit from a Buffalo win, so they don’t feel as if they should rest players in Week 18. Why does this matter? The Steelers need the Bills to beat the Patriots in Week 18. Likewise, the Bengals can clinch the AFC North with a win in prime time, but they too will want to try and keep the top spot in the AFC within reach. As always, some football is better than no football, so follow along with other Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the comment section below as the open thread.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold. And continue counting down the days until the Steelers play the Cleveland Browns in Week 18 of the regular season.

NFL officially announces the kickoff time for Steelers vs. Browns in Week 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 3:08pm
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

No games for Week 18 had an official time until the league could determine a schedule based on various playoff scenarios.

When the NFL announced the 2022 schedule back in May, they did so once again with the freedom to manipulate the final week of the season in order to place specific matchups in front of a national audience as well as not give one team advantage over another based on knowing the outcome of games that had already occurred. While it is not always possible to schedule games in this manner, the league does attempt to not give a team either an advantage or disadvantage by having key games conclude prior to their kickoff.

The NFL has attempted to do so over the last several seasons, but almost had an epic failure in 2021 as two teams played the final game in what was believed to be a “win and get in” situation. Missing out on how the scenarios could play out, the NFL almost gave two teams the opportunity to choose to play to a tie so they both made the postseason. Luckily the Las Vegas Raiders chose to kick a field goal at the end of overtime against the Los Angeles Chargers which allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to make the 2021 postseason.

Hoping to miss a similar situation again, the NFL had already made a questionable decision with their Saturday lineup they previously announced for Week 18. In the 4:30 PM matchup, the Kansas City Chiefs will be visiting the Las Vegas Raiders. There is still the potential that the outcome of this game could affect the need for the Buffalo Bills to defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday. If that is the case, it could ruin the playoff chances of both the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But this is still only a possibility.

The other game which was previously announced for Saturday night at 8:15 PM will be for the AFC South championship with the Tennessee Titans traveling to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Whoever wins this game will win the division.

When it comes to the slate of Sunday games, the main matchup is one for Sunday Night Football where they have selected The Detroit Lions visiting the Green Bay Packers.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are slated for a 1 PM kickoff at Acrisure Stadium as they host the Cleveland Browns for Week 18.

The Week 18 schedule is here! #NFLSeasonFinale pic.twitter.com/h6lLHeQH5k

— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2023

Although the most important part of the Pittsburgh Steelers having a chance to qualify for the 2022 postseason is for them to win their game against the Browns, the other two games which have to go their way are the Buffalo Bills have to defeat the New England Patriots and the New York Jets must defeat the Miami Dolphins. With these games all dependent on the results of the others, they have all been slated for a 1 PM kickoff.

Even though the NFL has announced all of the kickoff times, there is still a potential for one change. If the Buffalo Bills defeat the Cincinnati Bengals tonight on Monday Night Football, the Ravens and Bengals will be playing for the AFC North championship. For this reason, the game will be moved to 4:25 PM if this is the case. If the Bengals defeat the Buffalo Bills tonight, they lock up the AFC North and the game with the Ravens will be played at 1 PM.

If Buffalo defeats Cincinnati tonight, #BALvsCIN will be played at 4:25pm ET on CBS.

If Cincinnati defeats Buffalo, #BALvsCIN will be played at 1pm ET on CBS.

— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2023

With the Steelers starting off their season 2–6 before the bye week, they lost the opportunity to control their own destiny early on. On the other hand, the fact of the Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the hunt for the postseason after such a rough start really is a testament to the team’s resilience. While things may or may not fall their way to qualify for the postseason, the Steelers simply need to take care of what they can control and end the 2022 regular season with a victory over the Browns.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Cleveland Browns in the regular season finale at Acrisure Stadium this Sunday at 1 PM.

Steelers Week 17 snap counts show consistency and adaptation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 2:00pm
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Steelers were winners in Week 17, and the snap counts show a team that’s winning and changing at the same time.

The Steelers beat the Ravens in Baltimore, splitting their season series, keeping their still slim playoff chances alive and getting back to .500. The Steelers have won 6 of their last 8 games with a steady game plan augmented with smart adaptation to the game they are in.

Offense

The Steelers offensive line has become a steady and reliable unit over the course of the season, but in this game they took a big step forward, winning the line of scrimmage and carrying the load for the offense all game. The Steelers shied away from heavier sets in this game, going with three wide receivers more and playing Zach Gentry and Derek Watt less than they did in run heavy game plans. For this matchup it worked well, receivers threw some good blocks, Pat Freiermuth had a better run blocking day than his recent games and the Steelers ran for 198 yards against the third best run defense in the NFL.

George Pickens made a couple of clutch catches, and yet he played his second lowest percentage of snaps in the last twelve games. The Steelers used their depth receivers a good bit in this game, and Steven Sims took advantage. Interestingly, the three depth receivers, Sims, Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski, played a combined 64 snaps, the same as Diontae Johnson. Johnson gained 35 yards in the game while the depth receivers combined for 40 yards. That’s a good sample of the Steelers game plan that spread the ball around a lot, and did so effectively.

Najee Harris had 24 touches for 123 yards, Jaylen Warren had 15 for 98 yards. That’s just off from a 60/40 split in touches, with both backs averaging over 5 yards a touch. They also were close to a 60/40 split in snaps. The Steelers didn’t just split snaps either, they played both Harris and Warren on 3 different occasions, including Jaylen Warren’s jet sweep run.

The Steelers controlled the flow of the game and moved the ball effectively outside of the red-zone, where Baltimore found ways to make plays and the Steelers, for the most part, did not.

Defense

Alex Highsmith joins 100% snap club regulars Cameron Sutton and Robert Spillane in a week where Minkah Fitzpatrick did not make it. This was Alex Highsmith’s second time playing every snap, the first was Week 6 of 2021. His total of 52 snaps ranks as the 23rd most he’s played, showing just how effective the Steelers have been at limiting their opponent’s opportunities with the football. Interestingly, while Highsmith has two complete games in the book, T.J. Watt has never played every snap of a Steeler football game. Highsmith had a pretty quiet game statistically, recording only three assisted tackles, but he played well enough to stay on the field.

Larry Ogunjobi and Cameron Heyward only missed 16 snaps combined, and both were kept under 50 snaps for the game. Defensive line depth has been an issue for a lot of the season, but with the Steelers keeping opposing team’s chances limited, they have minimized the impact of Heyward or Ogunjobi leaving the field.

DeMarvin Leal comes in 4th on the defensive line in snaps, playing over 50% of snaps for the first time in his career. That’s largely because the Steelers again leaned heavily on their 4-4 defensive group, which involves DeMarvin Leal playing defensive end and Mark Robinson at inside linebacker. Mark Robinson played a pretty good game, helping jam up the middle of the line on run plays, even if he didn’t consistently finish the tackle. He proved to be a very hard linebacker to block, and that’s a big deal when facing the Ravens. Robinson’s role expanded outside the 4-4 set in this game, he started the game and came in second in inside linebacker snaps.

Myles Jack only played 6 snaps, and Devin Bush played only 5. Bush entered the game for Robinson after Robinson was burned by Mark Andrews, only to have the team go back to Robinson when Bush was also burned by Andrews.

The Steelers will face the Cleveland Browns to close out their season, facing another top rushing offense that also features Deshaun Watson coming off his best game as a Brown, it will be very interesting to see how the Steelers divide up inside linebacker snaps in that game.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 regular season finale.

Betting Preview: Steelers currently 3-point favorites vs. the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 12:30pm
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Steelers once again host the Browns late in the season with a lot on the line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers brought home another hard-fought victory in Baltimore on Sunday night. With the victory, and some other things going their way, the Steelers will go into the final week of the season still alive in the playoff picture. Although they When it comes to the betting lines for next Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by DraftKings Sportsbook.

Game Info: Week 18 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns Sunday, Jan. 8, 2022 at TBD

Steelers betting line: -3

Over/under: 39

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (L) 17-29 vs Browns

Win streak: 1 game CLE

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 2 - 1 CLE

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 5 - 4 - 1 CLE

NOTE: The entire Week 18 lineup will be announced Monday night. The two games played on Saturday have been announced, so the Steelers know they will be playing Sunday but the kickoff time is still unknown at this time.

There was no opening line on this game after the schedule was announced in May. It’s not uncommon for the final game of the season to be held off the books due to uncertainty with resting players and various playoff scenarios, neither of the Steelers matchups with the Browns had an opening line due to the unknown of the Deshaun Watson suspension.

Being the favorite on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -150 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 2/3 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Browns would have a payout of $33.33 ($13.33 plus the original $20 bet). The Browns also have a current moneyline of +130, or 13/10 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Cleveland to win straight up would have a payout of $46 ($26 plus the original $20 bet).

The Steelers are 5-1 against the spread in their last 6 games played and are 18-1 straight up in their last 19 games at home against Cleveland. The Steelers also have gone UNDER in 4 of their last 5 games and have gone UNDER in 9 of their last 11 games at home.

If looking at the futures bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl are at 200/1 after Week 17. The Steelers odds to win the AFC Championship have not been reported due to the matchup between Cincinnati and Buffalo on Monday night keeping all AFC odds from being available. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers and Browns have both officially been eliminated in the race for the division with the Ravens at 11/2 and the Bengals as the favorite at 1/7 odds.

Official tries to explain unnecessary roughness penalty on Cam Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 11:15am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a call go against them, and it almost cost them the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a lot in the Week 17 Sunday night win over the Baltimore Ravens. Of all they overcame, the most significant was a sequence in the second quarter.

Following Chris Boswell’s field goal in the waning minutes of the first half, Tyler Huntley and the Ravens offense moved the ball into the red-zone. On 3rd down the Steelers defense stood tall, and looked as if they forced another Justin Tucker field goal.

Then a penalty flag was thrown after a skirmish following the play.

For those who’ve watched plenty of Steelers vs. Ravens games, many times these penalties are off-setting dead ball fouls, and the game continues. It’s a chance for the referees to show they will flag players for misconduct, without having an immediate impact on the outcome.

That didn’t happen in this game.

Instead of the Steelers’ field goal block unit going on the field, the Ravens benefited from an official penalizing Steelers captain Cam Heyward a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. It gave the Ravens new life, and on the next play Huntley hit Isaiah Likely for a touchdown.

It was a 4-point swing, and until Kenny Pickett and the offense’s late-game heroics, it looked as if those points would be the deciding factor in the game. So, what happened which resulted in the flag being thrown? This is what referee Land Clark told a pool reporter after the game.

“Well, there was some pushing and shoving after the play,” referee Land Clark told a pool reporter after the game via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “No. 97 continued to push after the play, and that’s why it was called.”

In the locker room after the game, Heyward sang a different tune. Nonetheless, he didn’t run and hide from the play, instead focusing on getting his defense ready for the second half.

“I got pulled back down, and it looks like hit the ref,” Heyward said. “We were able to regroup at halftime. Swallowed my pride and just kept going.”

Take a look at the replay of the play in the video below:

Here’s the unnecessary roughness penalty that was called on Cam Heyward. pic.twitter.com/6TigX9VMa7

— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) January 2, 2023

With the Steelers finding a way to come back and win the game, this story will likely get brushed underneath the proverbial rug. But if the Ravens had found a way to win, it would have been a huge story within the Pittsburgh media.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in the 2022 regular season finale in Week 18.

AFC Playoff Scenarios: What needs to happen for the Steelers to get in

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 10:15am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff hopes remain alive, and here’s what needs to happen for them to get in.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in dramatic fashion Sunday night, beating the Baltimore Ravens 16-13 in prime time. The win kept their playoff hopes alive, but before the two teams even kicked off in Week 17, a lot needed to happen to keep that game meaningful.

In Week 17 the Steelers needed the following to happen for their playoff hopes and dreams to remain:

As was noted after the Dolphins lost in the early games, the Steelers would not have been eliminated from playoff contention even if the Jets won in Seattle. However, if the Jets would have won the Steelers only hope would have been in a Week 18 tie between the Dolphins and Jets. So, they would have essentially been eliminated.

Nonetheless, the Steelers entered the game Sunday night with the goal of keeping their playoff hopes alive for another week. They did their job vs. the Ravens, and now face a different scenario in Week 18.

So, what needs to happen for the Steelers to claim a Wild Cart playoff spot? Let’s take a look at the scenario:

Steelers Clinch wild card berth with:

Those might look like long odds for some, but there is more to it than at face value. The Bills, who play on Monday Night Football vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17, will likely have to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs for the top spot in the AFC Playoff Picture. Therefore, it is unlikely they rest players in the regular season finale.

As for the Dolphins, it is unclear if Tua Tagovailoa will be cleared to play after his third concussion of the season had him out of the lineup in Week 17. On top of that, Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the game with a reported broken finger, so the Dolphins might be leaning on rookie Skylar Thompson. Granted, it would mean the Jets, who were eliminated from postseason play in Week 17, would have to still beat the depleted Dolphins.

Will it happen? Will the Steelers find a way to get in? The fact this is even a discussion after a 2-6 start is amazing, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Browns in Week 18.

11 Winners and 3 Losers after the Steelers win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 9:15am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Time to take a look at who would be considered a ‘Winner’ and a ‘Loser’ after the Steelers latest action on the gridiron.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 of regular season action. The Steelers were winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good or bad performance.

Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.

Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after the latest game...

Winners

Najee Harris
Stat Line: 22 carries, 111 yards, 5.0 ave., 0 rush TD, 15 yard long / 2 rec., 12 yards, 6.0 average, 1 rec. TD, 10 yard long

It had been since Week 17 of the 2021-2022 season, Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game vs. the Cleveland Browns, when Najee Harris notched his last 100-yard game. It may have taken a while, but it was great to see the team’s 2021 first round pick running with aggression against one of the league’s best run defenses. The criticism of Harris “tip-toeing” at the line of scrimmage seems like a distant memory. What changed? Was it Harris’ health? The offensive line? A combination? Who cares...Harris was awesome Sunday night.

Kenny Pickett
Stat Line: 15/27, 168 yards, 6.2 ave., 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 sack for 15 yards, 86.7 rating

When someone talks about if a player, mainly quarterbacks, have that “it factor”, well Kenny Pickett has shown fans exactly what that might look like the past two weeks after his back-to-back game-winning drives. Pickett isn’t a finished product, but even if you hated the Pickett selection, I’m not sure how you aren’t excited with his improvement. Is Pickett the next “guy” for the Steelers? That might not be decided yet, but he certainly looks more like the next “guy” than he doesn’t.

T.J. Watt
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 QB Hits

This wasn’t a game where Watt flashed all over the television screen, but he certainly had a huge impact in this game. When you face the Ravens, and their style of running, it takes both skill and intelligence to slow down their running attack. Watt was instrumental in this endeavor, and it was good to see him add a sack to his total as well. Watt played a tremendous game, despite what some might call a mundane stat line.

Running Game
Stat Line: 198 yards rushing, 41 attempts, 4.8 ypc

Ever wonder what it would look like for a team to do to the Ravens what the Ravens do to others? Well, you saw it in Week 17 on Sunday Night Football. The Steelers lined up and ran the ball right down the Ravens’ throats. They knew it was coming, and could do nothing to stop it. The Steelers almost had two rushers (Harris: 111 / Warren: 76) hit the century mark. That’s unheard of in this rivalry. No Calais Campbell in this game was huge, but who cares...the Steelers did the job.

Offensive Line
Stat Line: 198 yards rushing, 41 attempts, 4.8 ypc / 2 sacks surrendered, 9 QB Hits

Speaking of the running game, you can’t talk about the team’s ability to move the ball, both through the air and on the ground, without giving props to the big men up front. They were paving the way on the ground, and providing protection when the team elected to throw. When the Steelers got into obvious passing situations pass protection led to quarterback hits at times, but the two sacks were far from the line’s fault. A tremendous job by the line when they needed it.

Rookie Contributions
Stat Line: Mark Robinson, DeMarvin Leal, Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Jaylen Warren

With Mark Robinson getting significant snaps in this game, it made me realize how many rookies are playing significant roles on this team. Just look at the names above, and I left Connor Heyward off for this week, and you see just how many young players are making big-time contributions and bodes well for the team’s future.

Robert Spillane
Stat Line: 9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 TFL

Fans love to beat up on Spillane, especially when he struggles in coverage, but this was a game which was built for Spillane. Downhill, stop the run, make tackles. If you are going to bash him for his poor play at times, you have to give props when he plays well. Spillane led the Steelers in tackles, and was all over the field. A great performance for a guy who has been a whipping boy for the fan base the majority of the season.

Steven Sims
Stat Line: 3 catches, 34 yards, 11.3 ave., 0 TD, 28 yard long, 4 targets

3 catches for 34 yards is hardly a performance which lands a lot of players on the winners list, but the 28-yard catch by Steven Sims was a critical play in the game-winning drive. It was a beautiful throw by Pickett, but a tremendous catch by Sims in traffic which set up the Steelers for the go ahead score. These games vs. Baltimore often come down to unlikely players making big-time plays, and this week it was Sims who stepped up big when his number was called.

3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 10-for-16

The goal is 50%, and the offense did that and then some. This Steelers offense is a grind-it-out and kill-the-clock style of offense. If only they could end more drives in touchdowns compared to field goals. Baby steps, I guess.

Steelers/Ravens Rivalry
Stat Line: Renewed

I have bemoaned the fact the Steelers and Ravens rivalry has gotten a little soft over the years. With players like Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Terrell Suggs, Ben Roethlisberger, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu now gone, the rivalry seemed to lose its luster. It wasn’t the same cold-blooded hatred which was seen twice a year for over a decade. While I don’t think any modern day NFL rivalry will ever match that intensity, largely because the league won’t allow it, but I will say you can see the rivalry returning to where it once was. I loved Najee Harris jawing at defenders, and it made me realize there is still hope for the Steelers/Ravens being what it should be...a nasty rivalry.

Mike Tomlin
Stat Line: Coaching his butt off

I know a lot of fans hate Tomlin. They hate his non-losing season record, but I have to give props to Tomlin for the job he’s done in 2022. When you think about this team being 2-6, it wasn’t as if that was uncharted waters for Tomlin, but when you throw in the fact he didn’t have a future Hall of Fame quarterback to lean on, and it absolutely was uncharted waters. He’s had to do it differently this year, but he’s still getting it done. Playoffs or not, Tomlin should be lauded for the job he’s done this season.

Losers

Chris Boswell
Stat Line: 3-for-4 FGs / 1-for-1 XPs

When you talk about the low-scoring affairs that is Steelers vs. Ravens, you can’t leave points on the field. When you consider going against Justin Tucker, who misses a field goal attempt maybe once every presidential cycle, you have to be perfect. Boswell is quietly having a sub-par season, and I’m sure his groin injury which landed him on Injured Reserve (IR) has a lot to do with it. Nonetheless, when this statistic showed on my Twitter feed, it showed how poorly things have been for Boswell this season.

Chris Boswell is 4-of-9 on FG from 40-49 yards (44%) this season, the lowest such percentage in the NFL, per @ESPNStatsInfo

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 2, 2023

Boswell has to be better, and if he isn’t healthy, he shouldn’t be playing.

Unnecessary Roughness Penalty
Stat Line: Bogus

The penalty called on Cam Heyward wasn’t just bogus, but it completely altered the game. When you consider the situation, the Steelers defense does the job and forces Baltimore into a field goal attempt. After the penalty gave the Ravens new life, the very next play was a touchdown. A 4-point swing. Until the late-game heroics by the offense, that one single call could have altered the outcome of the game. It could have ended the Steelers’ season. Thankfully, it didn’t, but it still belongs on the losers list.

Special Teams
Stat Line: Penalties and miscues galore

The Steelers’ special teams were not the best on Sunday night. Again, with possessions at a premium, you can’t afford to suffer field position. There are times when it should be made clear how it is okay for the team to just kick the football out of the end-zone for a touchback. The short kick, which was by design, to Justice Hill would have been the back-breaking moment had the defense not pushed the Ravens out of field goal range. Throw in some bad penalties and Boswell’s aforementioned issues, and I have to put the “teams” on the losers list.

If you want a more detailed look at the above list, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast where I outline each Winner and Loser, and MORE!

Report Card: Grading the Steelers Week 17 win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 8:15am
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Steelers are a .500 team after Week 17 win.

The Steelers rematch of their awful loss to the Ravens in Week 14 went much better for the team than the first game did. In yet another elimination game the Steelers were able to stay alive in the playoff race with a 4th quarter comeback and game-winning drive followed by an interception that let the Steelers run out the clock for the second week in a row.

Offense

I’ve been talking a lot about points per drive since the bye week, and that’s not going to change with this game. The Steelers only scored 16 points in this game, but they also only had 9 possessions. If you just look at that the Steelers 1.78 points per drive is right around the Ravens average and a bottom ten result in the league. The problem is two of those drives were a kneel down to end the half. Which means the Steelers only had 7 real drives where they were even trying to score. 16 points on seven drives is 2.29 points per drive, a top 10 scoring pace this season, and a lot better than what the Ravens usually give up. You’d love to see even more scoring from the Steelers offense, but that’s not going to happen with the pace the Steelers are setting in their games. The Steelers are only averaging 18.3 points per game in their last six games, well below the league average of 22 points a game. But with one of the lowest possession totals in the NFL over that time period, their points per drive rank in the top ten.

That should match up better with the game that we all watched this week as well, with the Steelers committing zero turnovers and punting twice in the game. That means only two real drives by the Steelers offense failed to reach scoring distance. Again, you’d like to see more touchdowns instead of field goal attempts, but the Steelers were moving the ball well against the Ravens, who are one of the better defenses in the NFL.

The big deal, for me, is how the Steelers pulled that off. The Steelers ran for 198 yards in this game, the most the Ravens have given up since their playoff loss to Tennessee in 2019, and you have to go back to 2013 to find a non-overtime, regular season game where the Ravens gave up more rushing yards. Running the ball 48 times for 4.8 yards per rush against the NFL’s 3rd best run defense in both yards per game and yards per carry. The Steelers offensive line and running backs beat the Ravens by attacking their strength. That is impressive.

Kenny Pickett played another solid, but not great, game that was capped off with a game-winning drive. Pickett has throws 168 passes and one interception since the bye week, and he has multiple game-winning drives to go with it. He’s not a star player yet, but he’s been improving and is playing good football. He spread the ball around in this game, with six Steelers recording two or more catches and none had more than three.

Pickett failed to convert on a few drive-killing third downs, but the Steelers converted 10 of their 16 third downs (62.5%) and only punted twice in the game, it’s hard to look too harshly at numbers like that.

Honor Roll: The entire offensive line, Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Pat Freiermuth.

Demerits: One touchdown in three red-zone appearances.

Final Grade: B Defense

The Steelers defense gave up 13 points on eight Ravens drives, forcing four punts and an interception to seal the victory. The Steelers also held the Ravens to 120 yards rushing, since 2019 they’ve only held the Ravens to 120 or less rushing one other time. In the passing game, Mark Andrews caught all nine of his targets for 100 yards, but no other Raven had more than 12 receiving yards for the game. Andrews is one of the hardest players in the NFL to defend, and the Steelers were focused heavily on defending the run, putting the player(s) covering Andrews in a lot of tough situations. Similarly in the run game the Steelers gave up 93 yards to J.K. Dobbins, but no other runner had success.

The Steelers were only able to slow down the Ravens best two weapons, but they shut down the rest of their offense. That turned out to be a winning formula this week.

The Steelers offense again came out looking to control the clock and keep the possessions low in this game, and with the Ravens also moving the ball slowly, the Ravens first drive of the game ended with a field goal that was kicked in the second quarter. The Steelers defense played better as the game went on and won the second half adjustments game. The Ravens first four drives gained 174 yards and led to all 13 of their points. The last four drives gained 44 yards with no points and an interception that let the Steelers kneel out the rest of the time on the clock.

The Steelers defense has found a knack for closing out games since the bye week. This is something that has gone hand-in-hand with players like T.J. Watt getting healthier, with the reduced possession count, and plays faced by the Steelers defense each week.

Lastly, I need to mention Mark Robinson playing substantially in this game, even before Myles Jack left with an injury. Robinson brought aggressive and powerful run defense, but also brought coverage vulnerability and too many missed tackles. Overall, he played well for a player who only had 7 defensive snaps before this game, and I look forward to his growth as a player going forward.

Honor Roll: T.J. Watt, DeMarvin Leal, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mark Robinson’s aggressive play.

Demerits: Covering Mark Andrews, Mark Robinson’s missed tackles.

Final Grade: A Special Teams

Chris Boswell did miss a field goal in this game, but he hit three others and was good on kickoffs. The Steelers didn’t put one kickoff out of the end zone, and it was a mistake as Justice Hill returned it 56 yards. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and forced a punt. Pressley Harvin III only punted twice and they were good punts, Miles Boykin held the only punt return for Baltimore to 2 yards, and the Steelers return teams were neither a positive nor a negative for the team, with Steven Sims only kick return going to the 25 yard line and no punt returns in the game.

There were a few penalties on the Steelers return teams, including one against Minkah Fitzpatrick when he was blocking the Ravens gunner on a punt.

Honor Roll: Miles Boykin, Pressley Harvin III.

Demerits: Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Final Grade: B Overall

The Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens by winning the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, running right down the throats of one of the best run defenses in the NFL. The offensive line played its best game of the season by far, and the Steelers defense adjusted to the Ravens offense and dominated the second half. The team believed in the game plan and executed it at a high level, and beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore.

That matters. You can throw style points out the window anytime you beat the Baltimore Ravens, and while the Steelers didn’t win in style, they won. And that’s fine when it’s an AFC North rivalry game.

Final Grade: A

Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Give us your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below:

Analyzing the Steelers Week 17 win over the Ravens, by the numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 7:15am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Steelers had a big come-from-behind victory for the second-straight game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have three games in a row for the first time of the 2022 season. Coming through with a victory when anything less would eliminate them from playoff contention, the Steelers now head into the final week of the season still in the hunt.

So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers win over the Ravens.

+1

Both teams played a relatively clean game in the turnover department. The closest thing the Steelers had to a turnover was a deflected pass intended for Diontae Johnson which ultimately fell harmlessly to the ground. But when the Steelers needed a stop the most while holding on to a three-point lead with only seconds remaining, Minkah Fitzpatrick came up with the interception to seal the win.

10

With the Ravens scoring a touchdown just before the end of the first half and adding a field goal on the first possession of the second half, they pulled out to a 10-point lead with under 25 minutes remaining in the game. The Steelers answered the Ravens third-quarter field goal with one of their own on the very next drive. But in order for the Steelers to completely overcome the 10-point deficit, they put up 10 points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, which was the exact number of points they had to score in the fourth quarter the previous week in order to take down the Las Vegas Raiders.

198

Rushing for a total of 198 yards on the night, the Steelers would have hit the 200-yard mark had it not been for two kneel downs which each lost a yard, one of which occurred at the end of each half. It was the most yards the Steelers have rushed for as a team since they ran for 240 yards against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 of the 2016 season. Leading the way for the Steelers was Najee Harris with 111 yards on 22 carries followed by Jaylen Warren with 76 yards on 12 carries.

120

After surrendering 215 rushing yards to the Ravens in Week 14, the Steelers cut into that total significantly in the rematch game as they held them to 120 rushing yards. It was only the fourth time this season the Ravens rushed for less than 150 yards rushing, and it was the first time a team has done it against the Ravens in the 2022 season in which they were able to come away with a victory.

120

Not only did the Baltimore Ravens have 120 rushing yards on the night, they also had 120 passing yards for a perfect balance in yardage. Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley actually threw for 130 yards but lost 10 yards on the T.J. Watt sack. Of the 130 yards which came through the air, 100 of them belonged to Mark Andrews with nine receptions on nine targets. Another Ravens tight end, Isaiah Likely, added three receptions for 12 yards along with the Ravens touchdown. When it came to the wide receivers, only two players, DeSean Jackson and Demarcus Robinson, had receptions as they each had one catch for 9 yards.

8:28

In Week 14, the Steelers lost the time of possession battle to the Ravens by 5:58. This time around, the Steelers held the ball for 34:14 while the Ravens only had possession for 25:46, giving the Steelers an 8:28 advantage for the game.

23

Something I charted throughout the game was the number of times the Steelers ran motion along the line of scrimmage to which they could have performed a jet sweep. The Steelers ran this motion 23 times during the game, and on all 23 times they rushed the football. On these plays, the Steelers handed the ball to the normally-aligned running back 17 times while running the sweep on four plays. On the two other plays, the Steelers ran a quarterback sneak. Although the Steelers were very successful running the football, if they continue to only rush the ball when running this motion it could allow the defense to completely sell out on the run. Personally, I’d love to see a play-action pass out of running the jet motion.

-2

After the Steelers kicked the field goal to cut the game to a four-point deficit with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Baltimore Ravens got a 56-yard kickoff return which set them up at the Steelers 40-yard line. Needing only a few yards to be in Justin Tucker field goal range, the Steelers tackled running back J.K. Dobbins for a two-yard loss on first down. With incomplete passes on the next two plays, the Steelers turned what looked to be a sure scoring opportunity into a three and out on a drive that lost 2 yards.

4

Although the Steelers did give up three points in the second half, they only surrendered four first downs the entire half. The Ravens achieved two first downs on their opening drive in which they kicked a field goal and had one first down on their next drive before being forced to punt. The only other first down the Ravens had in the second half was on their final possession just before the game-clinching interception.

63%

The Steelers once again turned in a great third-down performance on offense converting 10 of 16 third-down attempts throughout the game. In the first half, the Steelers converted 4 of their 7 third down attempts for a 57% completion rate where the second half saw them completing 6 of 9 third-down attempts for a 67% completion rate. This compares to the Ravens only converting 42% of their third downs as they were 3 of 6 in the first half but only 2 of 6 in the second half.

1

On a day where the two other games that had to go in a certain manner for the Steelers to put themselves in the best playoff scenario fell exactly how they needed them, the Steelers had to do their part and take care of the only thing they could control which was getting their own victory. The Steelers got the job done and added another tally to their win total bringing their overall record up to .500 as they now stand at 8–8 going into the final week of the regular season.

So there are some numbers to help put the Steelers Week 17 win in perspective. The Steelers employed a different strategy to stop the Ravens rushing attack which was enough to give them the victory.

So what numbers from Sunday night’s game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Who gets the BTSC game ball in the Steelers win over the Ravens?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 6:30am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There were a number of players who had a good game, but which one gets the coveted game ball?

The Pittsburgh Steelers got their eighth win of the 2022 season with another come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens as they keep their postseason hopes alive. The Steelers have fought back to a .500 and will enter the final week of the regular season playing a meaningful game despite a 2-6 record at their bye week. The offense came through with a late touchdown to give them the lead in the final minute while the defense got the interception to seal the victory.

But who gets the game ball?

Each win for the Steelers this season, I will set forth nominations to receive the BTSC game ball. It does not necessarily have to be the best player on the field, but who really stepped up their game this particular week. After the case has been made, you all decide which player takes home the honor.

There have now been seven game balls given out this season with the most recent being in Week 16. The winner for that game was Cam Heyward in a landslide. The Steelers defensive captain played like a man possessed the entire night. After being the man carrying the 32 flag out of the tunnel, Heyward followed it up with seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a pass defensed. On the night, 97 was just a nuisance every time he was on the field. His performance earned him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

I will remind everyone of the rules that it is individual players who will be in the running. Although it could be applicable, it will not be either position groups or coaches who are eligible for this designation (until I decided to break my own rules again simply because I feel like I have to) as they are more in line for Jeff Hartman’s Winners and Losers article.

So here are the nominations in no particular order:

Najee Harris

In his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 17 of last season, Najee Harris had a 5.0 yards per attempt average as he rushed for 111 yards on 22 carries. Add in Harris catching two passes for 12 yards with a 10-yard touchdown to win the game in the final minute, it capped off a great night for the Steelers running back

Kenny Pickett

Sometimes it’s not all about the numbers and it’s simply just finding a way to pull out the victory. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett only completed 15 passes on 27 attempts for 168 yards against the Ravens, but leading two 80-yard drives in the second half, one of which was a field goal and the other a touchdown, brought the Steelers back from a 10-point deficit and found the end zone when the game was on the line.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Tied for the most tackles for the Steelers, Minkah Fitzpatrick ultimately came up with the game-clenching interception in the final moments which allowed the Steelers to take victory formation. It was the only takeaway for either team on the night and ultimately sealed the victory.

The Offensive Line

If taking away the two kneel downs, one of which occurred at the end of each half, the Pittsburgh Steelers rushed for 200 yards on the night. While the running backs were doing a great job, the big guys up front were constantly pushing the line of scrimmage down the field. Additionally, Kenny Pickett was sacked only twice on the night and both occasions were ultimately his own doing. Although it wasn’t a perfect night by any means, the guys in the trenches allowed the Steelersto continue to run the ball late in the game when everything was on the line.

So what do you think? Who deserves the game ball for the Steelers this week? Make sure you vote in the poll as this is how the winner will be determined. And of course, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Post-Game Sound: Hear from Steelers coaches and players after the win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 6:00am
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field in Week 17 of the regular season. Take a look and listen to what was said after the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners for the eighth time this regular season with their win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.

After the game, there was plenty of video/audio to take in from the locker room and down at field level. Here at BTSC we try to gather as much information as possible for those fans who might not be on social media and see this on a weekly basis.

Therefore, in the post-game sound article you will hear from head coach Mike Tomlin, and a myriad of other players as the Steelers official Twitter account goes around the room to hear from all who participated on Sunday.

Enjoy the content and be sure to stay with BTSC for all things black-and-gold as they prepare for the final game of the regular season. The next game on the docket is the Week 18 game vs. the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium, but first, the post-game sound:

Mike Tomlin Post-Game Press Conference

Coach Tomlin on tonight's win over the Ravens ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/vZSK9zHfaU

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 2, 2023

Najee Harris Post-Game Press Conference

Najee on the win ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/1n9fatfYFR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 2, 2023

Kenny Pickett Post-Game Press Conference

Kenny Pickett on the win over Baltimore ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/V36P59OqG1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 2, 2023

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

Here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, we are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

The BTSC Steelers Mike Tomlin Post-Game Presser Recap

The NFL knew what it was doing when they flexed the Steelers and Ravens to Sunday Night Football. Tensions were high and the rivalry was as fierce as ever. The Steelers rose up in the end to prevail by the score of 16-13. Of course, Mike Tomlin had a lot to say to the media afterwards. Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis as he recaps the post-game presser.

The BTSC Steelers Post-Game Show: The Steelers win an instant classic beating Baltimore 16-13

The Steelers were still alive before their primetime matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, but the rivalry reared its’ angry head, as a slobber knocker broke out. In the end, it was the young guys in the clutch again, as the Steelers triumphed 16-13. Join Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis as they break down the game like no one else does on the latest edition of The Steelers Post-Game Show.

Let’s Ride, Monday: Winners and Losers after the Steelers Week 17 win over Baltimore

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a chance to go into Week 18 with a win in the Charm City. The Men of Steel were down late, and it looked bleak, but they found a way to puncture the purple and win 16-13 in Week 17 of the NFL season. Yes, there was good, bad, ugly, and un heard of. BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman diagnoses all, and gives his thoughts on the game, on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Winners and Losers from a thriller in City
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers escape prime time win over Ravens relatively healthy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/01/2023 - 10:55pm
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to keep their playoff hopes alive, and do it without major injury.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious on Sunday Night Football in Week 17, beating the Baltimore Ravens 16-13 in front of a national audience. The game was as physical as expected, and it always takes its toll on the players from a health standpoint.

After the game, Mike Tomlin addressed the media as he always does, and while he failed to run down the typical list of players who were injured during the game in Baltimore, here is what we know about the players who were injured in-game, or banged up.

Cornerback James Pierre left the game and was questionable to return with a head injury. Shortly after halftime Pierre was ruled out of the game with a concussion. This means Pierre will likely be in the NFL’s concussion protocol this week heading into Week 18.

The other player who was officially ruled out was linebacker Myles Jack. Jack has been battling a groin injury the past few weeks, and the injury had him ruled out of the game in the second half. It is likely Jack will be managing this injury for the duration of the regular season, and the postseason if the Steelers are able to win and get help next week.

Other players who were banged up at some point in the game were wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who looked to get kicked in the shin, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick who twisted his ankle while tackling tight end Mark Andrews. Both of these players were able to return to the game, Fitzpatrick coming down with the game-sealing interception of Tyler Huntley.

In all, the Steelers were able to escape Baltimore relatively healthy as they still have a lot to play for in Week 18 when they host the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the black-and-gold.

Knee Jerk Reactions to the Steelers 16-13 win over the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/01/2023 - 10:30pm
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Steelers come from behind in the final minute for the second-straight week.

Knee-jerk reactions are immediate responses to a situation without taking the time to analyze the situation. That’s something as sports fans that we typically do. Especially if you are a full blood Yinzer, or even just a part Yinzer. As is the custom, I compile my knee-jerk thoughts and publish them immediately after each Steelers game (my son Kyle might have a few things to say as well). It’s my version of running my mouth first and apologizing later (or not apologizing at all). So with that being said, I’m going to employ that philosophy here during Week 17 of the NFL Regular Season.

1st Quarter

  • Steelers receive the opening half kickoff.
  • Offense gets to a third and short. Watt converts.
  • Steelers into Ravens territory. Good O-line play so far.
  • First and goal for the Steelers. They have really run the ball well on their opening drive.
  • Pickens couldn't win the jump ball on third down. Boswell in for the field goal. Steelers 3, Ravens 0.
  • If the Steelers are going to try to force Huntley to throw the ball, they need to keep him in the pocket and make him throw the ball and not let him run.
  • Boy I really would have liked to see Sutton come up with that interception.
  • The Steelers allow the Ravens to convert another third down. The defense can't get off the field on third downs.
  • Boy that was a fast first quarter. Only one completed drive in the quarter. Steelers 3, Ravens 0.

2nd Quarter.

  • The defense holds. Nice coverage on that third down play by Maulet. Justin Tucker's field goal makes the score Steelers 3, Ravens 3.
  • Najee and Kenny tangle feet and Kenny takes a sack for 7 yards.
  • Pickens makes the catch on third down but had gone out of bounds prior to catching the ball. Steelers will have to punt as that penalty comes with a loss of down.
  • The defense wins the line of scrimmage on third down and one. The Ravens are going to have to punt it back right now.
  • Minkah gets nailed for a holding penalty on the punt. So the Steelers will back it up some more.
  • The Steelers are running the ball well tonight. The offensive line is controlling the line of scrimmage.
  • Four straight runs and two first downs now for the Steelers.
  • The Steelers just passed 100 yards rushing in the game. It's only the second quarter.
  • Muuuutthh with the first down catch.
  • On third and three I thought the Steelers had the opportunity to run it twice to try to pick up the first down, but instead Pickett throws incomplete to Muth and Boswell will come on to attempt a field goal. He doinks it off the upright. Steelers get nothing. Steelers 3, Ravens 3.
  • After a false start of the Ravens the Steelers allowed Dobbins to run 15 yards and pick up a first down.
  • The Steelers defense is playing a six-man front and still allowing Dobbins to run the ball on them.
  • Bobby Spills sniffed out that screen to the TE and threw it for a loss.
  • 3rd and 16. Swiss cheese incoming? Not really. The defense holds, but Cam Hayward gets a personal foul penalty after the play. Looking at it now it didn't look like much that they threw the flag for.
  • The Ravens take advantage and throw for a touchdown on the very next play. Talk about deflating, feels like a Tom Brady football.
  • Score now Steeler 3, Ravens 10. The Ravens also get the ball to start the second half.

3rd Quarter

  • Mark Andrews catches another pass for a first down. That's like four for him in the game.
  • Should have been a loss of four on the next play but Dobbins gets away enough and gains two yards.
  • Third down and seven and another completion to Mark Andrews for a first down. I think everybody knows where the Ravens are going to throw the ball.
  • Minkah is now down and being attended to. Not good, not good.
  • Oh look at that.. 2nd and 25 and a long pass to Mark Andrews. This is ridiculous.
  • Minkah was back in to stop Huntley on that third down run.
  • Tucker tacks on the field goal. Steelers 3, Ravens 13.
  • One nice run by Najee, but now the Steelers face a 3rd and long. Now Pickens catches that ball doing Pickens type things. Steelers get a first down. Needed that.
  • Steelers to a third and short. They really need to convert this. A touchdown would be huge on this drive. Pass falls incomplete and the Steelers will settle for another field goal try.
  • The field goal is good. Steelers 6, Ravens 13.
  • The Steelers plan for stopping the Ravens running game is really not working. Dobbins just breaks one off for 15-plus yards.
  • T.J. Watt finally gets through for a sack.
  • On the Ravens punt the Steelers get called for a hold again. Penalties are hurting.
  • End of the 3rd. Steelers 6, Ravens 13.

4th Quarter

  • Najee with another nice run. He is approaching 100 yards.
  • Don't know how Kenny got away with that one.
  • Diontae with a catch for 22 yards on 3rd down.
  • 3rd and 10 for the Steelers. Kenny throws that ball near absolutely nobody. Boswell to try another field goal. It's good. Steelers 9, Ravens 13.
  • And what happens next? The Steelers special teams give up a huge return.
  • The defense gets the Ravens to 3rd and 12. I hope they cover Mark Andrews here.
  • Edmunds breaks up the play. Ravens punt, but the Steelers are pinned deep.
  • Diontae doing his best George Pickens impersonation, but it got changed to out of bounds.
  • Throw the ball away there Pickett. Don't take a sack. That was stupid.
  • Steelers now faced with 3rd and 18. The pass to Muth was dropped but was going to be well short. Steelers have to punt.
  • Steelers get the Ravens to a third down. Getting a stop here would be huge.
  • Cam Heyward stuffed the run. Ravens will punt.
  • Najee is now over 100 yards for the game.
  • Muth with the catch at midfield.
  • Sims with the catch on the next play down to the 21.
  • Najee carries Pickett on that QB sneak for a first down.
  • Why do I have the feeling that the Steelers are toying with my emotions this week. Last week they came through but I don't see him doing it for me 2 weeks in a row.
  • Najee catch for the TD!!!!! I can't believe it! Steelers 16, Ravens 13.
  • Boswell needs to kick this thing out of the end zone on the kickoff. He kicks it deep enough.
  • Kyle says the Steelers better put a couple guys on Mark Andrews here.
  • 2nd down and 20 and as Kyle says, nobody covered Andrews and he gets 18.
  • Minkah with the pick!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Steelers stay alive! They will play meaningful football next week!!!
  • 3-2-1 WIN!!!!! Take that Wang Harbs!

There you have it, my knee jerks. so I will sit on this for a day or two, analyze it and then talk about it on The Scho Bro Show Tuesday night. CAN’T WAIT!!!

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