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Steelers’ new cast of characters upstages the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 12/01/2022 - 7:15am
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

In perhaps their grittiest effort of a difficult season, the Black-and-gold got winning performances from newbies and backups to snatch their fourth win.

Imagine someone telling you last Monday morning that the Pittsburgh Steelers would go on the road to defeat the Indianapolis Colts, but without a single sack by T.J. Watt and losing the services of Najee Harris for a major portion of the game. Despite the usual chorus of naysayers, the Steelers prevailed with an uncanny, 24-17 victory on Monday Night Football at Lucas Oil Stadium — while Matt Ryan walked away still looking for his first career win against Pittsburgh.

After surprising Steelers Nation by playing a nearly flawless first half — jumping out to a 16-3 advantage — the Black-and-gold seemed to shut off their power switch and revert to their familiar pattern of falling down after the intermission. On the second-half kickoff, they surrendered an 89-yard kick return to set up the Colts’ first TD. Despite consistently moving the sticks in the first half, the Steelers’ offense became suddenly dormant throughout the third quarter. What had been a fairly comfortable, 13-point lead evaporated as the Colts scored 14 unanswered points to surge ahead 17-16.

At this point, a collapse seemed imminent while many fans were ready to write the Steelers off. We heard plenty of the usual “trade everyone” and “fire all the coaches” narratives before Pittsburgh managed to right its ship in the final quarter with an impressive, clock-killing TD drive and 2-point conversion. While the Colts made a late bid to tie the game, they botched any opportunity they might have had with abysmal clock management. As it turned out, the Steelers had generated just enough offense in the final quarter to secure the victory.

So how did this team which many fans had given up for dead manage to rise up and boost its record to 4-7? The star performer of this prime-time show clearly was rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Passing for a modest-but-efficient 174 yards, Pickett was a standout chiefly in his continuing ability to take care of the football (only one interception and no QB fumbles in the past four games). He also sustained scoring drives, most importantly in the final quarter when the game was on the line. To the surprise of some of his early doubters, Pickett also demonstrated pro-level arm strength and accuracy.

Overall, Kenny took some of the major strides forward that Steelers fans have anticipated ever since his selection last spring in the 2022 NFL Draft. Perhaps most tellingly, Pickett’s average quarterback rating (QBR) for the past two games has increased to 62.5, representing more than a 20-point jump from his 39.3 QBR average for the three prior games against the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.

This substantial boost in QBR reflects a young quarterback whose efficiency and leadership continue to grow week by week at mid-season. Contrary to the scenario typical of many other rookie NFL quarterbacks, Pickett hasn’t yet experienced the utterly disastrous game which might have relegated him to a seat on the bench. On the contrary, he’s shown remarkable maturity and leadership in only his first pro season.

And in fairness to Kenny, he wasn’t on the field when the kick coverage team surrendered that monster kick return. Nor was Pickett responsible for a Steelers defense that seemed to fall asleep throughout the entire third quarter. This was a game that never should have been close enough for the Colts’ last-ditch drive to matter.

As NFL insiders Troy Aikman and Ryan Clark both mentioned following the game, this victory looks very much like a breakthrough performance for Pickett. Kenny showed precisely the kind of progress suggesting he has only begun to scratch the surface of his talent. If Pickett extends this progress through the season’s final stretch, the Steelers will go into the offseason with confidence they’ve found their QB. By itself, this would check the most important box on the list of needs for a team playing its first transitional season after losing a Hall of Fame quarterback.

But Pickett’s play was only the most significant aspect of the Steelers’ overall performance in Indianapolis. We also saw considerable improvement from an offensive line that had been written off by fans and pundits alike. With their backup RBs playing the majority of the game, the Steelers nevertheless managed to rush for 172 yards with a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. Amazingly, Benny Snell and newly activated Anthony McFarland chewed up chunks of yardage enabling the Steelers to control time of possession throughout most of the game.

While the Steelers receivers dropped a couple of key passes, they still managed to deliver the big plays that kept the offense moving. Despite missing a couple of opportunities, George Pickens continued to demonstrate his impressive athleticism, grabbing three passes for 57 yards (19-yard average per catch). It seems only a matter of time and better coordination until the Pickett-to-Pickens connection will be registering bigger numbers. Pat Freiermuth (three receptions for 39 yds) and Diontae Johnson (five receptions for 49 yards) also made significant contributions to the victory.

It’s always risky to read too much into any single game and, as witnessed during a dismal third quarter, this win clearly doesn’t mean the Steelers have solved all or even most of their nagging problems. For the time being, Steelers Nation must practice some patience and accept the reality that this team likely will continue to experience periodic lapses which create the impression they can’t do anything right.

But these are normal growing pains of a youthful team only starting to build a stronger identity. Regardless of the likelihood that Pittsburgh will miss the playoffs this season, the kind of toughness and effort on display in Indianapolis was an inspiration for this team. It was a game that justified, at least to some degree, the comments of Steelers players and coaches that they are seeing continuing improvement as the weeks go by and regardless of their record.

Steelers fans certainly understand things can go wrong just as easily as they’ve gone right in the team’s other wins over the Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in Week 1 against the Bengals. At this point in the season, the Steelers’ faithful doesn’t widely anticipate any quick or complete turnaround. But the progress fans have been waiting to emerge definitely made its appearance in this gritty win over the Colts.

Being okay with the Steelers losing is not as easy as you think

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 12/01/2022 - 6:00am
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Steelers almost let one get away against the Colts on Monday Night Football. I wasn’t expecting that to aggravate me as much as it actually did.

I’ve been a bit of a realist regarding the Steelers and their chances of being even moderately okay over the past two seasons.

Why? I have eyes, that’s why.

Therefore, I go into most games expecting mediocre play, anticipating sloppy football, and hoping for the best this young Steelers team can give me.

Lower expectations, that’s the way to go when you’ve watched enough football in your life to spot a good team when you see one and a bad team when you see one.

Of course, it’s easier to not get frustrated during Steelers games when they’re often down by two scores or more, something that’s been a reality for them going back to the latter stages of the 2020 campaign.

That hasn’t been the case since Pittsburgh came back from its bye, however.

The Steelers have actually been playing their best football since their break, which made the second-half meltdown against Cincinnati at Acrisure Stadium on November 20 a little hard to swallow.

That brings me to their temporary meltdown against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Monday night. If being in a two-scores-or-more deficit has become the norm for the Steelers over the past two-plus seasons, then being up by at least two scores has been the exception.

The Steelers went into halftime of that game with a 16-3 lead. Sure, they could have had a bigger margin, but it wasn’t like they were playing the Chiefs or Bills. They were playing a Colts team that had been struggling almost as badly on offense as Pittsburgh was.

If there was ever a time to have an easy victory, one that didn’t expend much mental and emotional energy from the fans, Monday night seemed to be a perfect spot.

Then, in the third quarter, the Steelers started playing like the team I had been passively experiencing over the past 30 games or so, and something rose up inside of me: Angst.

I was literally mad and aggravated as I watched the game over a friend’s house.

At that moment, I was experiencing the emotions that used to well up inside of me while watching 7-3 Steelers teams that actually had something huge on the line: Relevance.

These 2022 Steelers aren’t relevant, right? They’re playing for draft positioning, no? Every loss from here on out will just lead to a more premium pick, and, hopefully, a more premium prospect.

But while that kind of philosophy is nice to say when the bullets aren’t flying, it’s not so easy to endure once you begin to contemplate the reality of an easy Steelers win slipping away before your very eyes.

My point is this: It’s one thing to talk about tanking and being okay with losses, but it’s just not how most fans are wired when the rubber meets the road...if you will. It’s counterintuitive to place value on losing. It just doesn’t make any sense, especially when you’re essentially positioning yourself to draft an unknown commodity.

Fortunately, the Steelers found a way to defeat the Colts on Monday, thus improving their record to 4-7 and devaluing their 2022 draft positioning in the process.

Oh well.

Even if the Steelers go into the final week on a five-game winless streak and lose a nailbiter to the Browns, I’ll likely still feel aggravated.

I’m guessing most Steelers fans will feel the same way, better draft pick or not.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 12/01/2022 - 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 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:

The Cutting Room Floor: The Steelers are flawed, but they are learning how to win

The Steelers have a lot of on-field flaws, but despite the seven losses, they a learning how to win each and every week Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

The Steelers War Room: Promise? Potential? What the win tells us about the 2022 Steelers

This will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to heck out our Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, Sheldon White and Dan Colbert when it comes to personnel.

Rundown of the show:

  • A look back at the Colts game
  • Preview of a road trip to Atlanta
  • Steelers’ Rookie contributions
  • Atlanta rookies (all 10+ that aren’t on IR)
  • Tempering college draft prospect hype
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

Know Your Enemy: How hot will it be for the Steelers in Atlanta?

It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game. This time around, we get to know more about the Falcons of Hotlanta in the latest edition of Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down the upcoming opponent for the black-and-gold. This week, Geoff and Shannon, welcome Jeanna Thomas of SBNation’s Falcoholics to the podcast.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the 2022 Atlanta Falcons
  • Special Guest: Jeanna Thomas of SB Nation’s Falcoholics

Geoffrey and Shannon walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: There isn’t a cookie-cutter stat to bring the Steelers success

Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Looking at the Steelers points off of turnovers
  • There’s ore than one formula to win games
  • The numerical matchup of the Steelers and Falcons
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Steelers start to move up in the rankings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 4:30pm
IndyStar Staff-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth game in Week 12, but it did little in improving their ranking on the latest Power Rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 12 of the 2022 regular season, beating the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Field. Through 11 weeks of the regular season it has been extremely difficult to gauge where the Steelers rank among their NFL peers.

How far did the team rise after winning in Week 12? Based on this week’s NFL Power Rankings, not too far, but that isn’t say much considering where they were ranked before their third win of the season.

All in all, the Steelers’ rankings this week were all over the map. The truth might be somewhere in the middle, but it’s that time of the week where we take a look at other outlets’ rankings after Week 12 of regular season action.

Let’s get to the rankings...

ESPN

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Miami Dolphins
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Tennessee Titans
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
26. Pittsburgh Steelers

Realistic expectation: Developing Kenny Pickett.

The Steelers aren’t making the playoffs this year. Even though the AFC North is in a down year, that’s the reality they face after starting 4-7. But the back half of the season can be all about developing the rookie quarterback, who was unceremoniously inserted at halftime of the Week 4 loss to the Jets. The final weeks are Pickett’s on-the-job training and can establish a baseline for him to build from for his second season.”

NFL.com

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Miami Dolphins
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Tennessee Titans
10. New York Jets
...
24. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers might not make the playoffs, but this season will still feel like a success if they come out of 2022 confident that Kenny Pickett is their quarterback of the future. The first-round pick is on track to do just that after a solid performance in Monday night’s 24-17 win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. After Indianapolis scored 14 unanswered points to take the lead in the third quarter, Pickett orchestrated an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a pretty two-point conversion pass to George Pickens to finish the scoring. Fun fact: The Steelers are 12-1 in their last 13 appearances on Monday Night Football.”

The Sporting News

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Tennessee Titans
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
22. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers are playing to be much improved for next season, ahead of what should be a promising full Year 2 with Kenny Pickett and upgraded personnel. You can bet Mike Tomlin’s team will be relentless and pesky, despite no winning season in sight in 2022.”

Yahoo! Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Miami Dolphins
5. Buffalo Bills
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Tennessee Titans
...
23. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers obviously believed in Kenny Pickett. They drafted him 20th overall. If you made that investment, then watch Pickett make the strides he has the past few weeks, you have to feel very good that you made the right pick. Pickett isn’t great yet but he’s giving the Steelers plenty of hope.”

CBS Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Tennessee Titans
...
26. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Kenny Pickett has done some nice things as the starter for this team. He is going to be a good one in the coming years.”

Pro Football Network Tier 5 | Ugly, But There Are Positives

26. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh got a great look at Kenny Pickett on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts, whose defense has played well under Gus Bradley in 2022. Learning what Pittsburgh has in their rookie quarterback is all that matters for the rest of their season.

For the most part, Pickett looked sharp against the Colts’ defense. Matt Canada won’t win any awards for his abilities as an offensive coordinator, but he tried helping his young QB by forcing the Colts coverage hand prior to the snap by using motion.

The Steelers offensive line deserves a lot of credit, too. Many, including myself, have chastised the Steelers’ front office for not addressing the lack of star power on the line. However, like Washington a season ago, they have outplayed their reputation.

What do you think of these rankings? Should the Steelers be higher? Are they ranked too high? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13.

Steelers Injury Report: Jaylen Warren returns to practice on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 2:35pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While one running back was unable to practice, another returned as a full participant.

The Pittsburgh Steelers exited Monday night’s game with a victory as well as with some players dealing with some “bumps and bruises associated with play.” As the Steelers took the practice field for their first official day of preparation for the Atlanta Falcons, there were two players who did not participate while six were limited. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, 10 names start off on the list.

Steelers PR Department

The most significant injury which happened in-game on Monday night was running back Najee Harris leaving just before halftime with an abdominal injury. With no update in regards to Harris by Mike Tomlin at his Tuesday press conference due to the quick turnaround from playing on Monday night, the expectations for Harris are still foggy. On Wednesday, Harris was one of the two players who did not participate in practice.

After coming back to play in Week 8 after missing four games, Ahkello Witherspoon found himself missing another three games with his hamstring injury in Week 10 through Week 12. On Wednesday, Witherspoon was still unable to practice.

Another player who missed Monday’s game was running back Jaylen Warren with a hamstring injury. As the Steelers took the practice field on Wednesday, it was reported that Warren has been cleared to return and expects to play on Sunday. On Wednesday, not only did Warren return, he was a full participant.

Steelers’ RB Jaylen Warren told reporters that doctors have cleared him to return from his hamstring injury and he expects to be able to play Sunday vs. the Falcons.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2022

Two more players who missed Monday’s game even though they were only questionable going into the contest were Robert Spillane with a back injury and Miles Boykin with an oblique injury. On Wednesday, Boykin returned as a full participant while Spillane was able to practice in a limited capacity.

At Mike Tomlin‘s press conference on Tuesday, he listed several players that were dealing with some minor issues that could limit them early in the week. Those specifically mentioned were Minkah Fitzpatrick (ribs), T.J. Watt (ribs), Larry Ogunjobi (toe), and Myles Jack (knee). On Wednesday, all four players were able to practice in a limited capacity.

One more player who is listed on the injury report is center Mason Cole as he was limited with a foot injury. Last week, Cole was unable to practice early in the week yet still was able to play in the game. Starting the week off as limited rather than not participating is a good sign towards Cole‘s participation on Sunday.

As for the Falcons’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Atlanta Falcons Participation/Injury Report, Week 13Wednesday, November 30

OLB Arnold Ebiketie (Forearm) - LP

OL Chuma Edoga (Knee) - LP

RB Cordarrelle Patterson (Not Injury Related - Resting) - DNP

DL Jalen Dalton (Toe) - DNP

James Pierre leads the Steelers defensive PFF grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:30pm
IndyStar Staff-USA TODAY Sports

In the grades provided by PFF from Week 11, Pierre had the second-best coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back on the winning track by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday Night Football. The offense played strong in three of the four quarters as they bounced back in the fourth for the come-from-behind win. As for the defense, holding a team to zero yards in the first quarter got things started in the right way.

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 12 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. Next up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one defensive snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 64 snaps on defense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

CB James Pierre: 87.1 (30 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 85.9 (51 snaps)
OLB Malik Reed: 85.4 (14 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 83.1 (64 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 75.8 (64 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

S Terrell Edmunds: 53.9 (56 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 51.8 (21 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 46.5 (44 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 36.6 (44 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 29.9 (4 snaps)

Defensive Front Five

OLB Alex Highsmith: 85.9 (51 snaps)
OLB Malik Reed: 85.4 (14 snaps)
OLB T.J. Watt: 70.7 (55 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 64.7 (19 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 63.8 (8 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 63.2 (10 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 56.3 (45 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 51.8 (21 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 46.5 (44 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 29.9 (4 snaps)

Alex Highsmith continues to bring high scores, and T.J. Watt is drawing a lot of attention and still giving scores that aren’t off the charts but are above the line. This week I noticed Malik Reed when he was in the game and not in a bad way, so I’m not surprised by his score. The big take away from this game was Cam Heyward‘s 46.5 overall score which was his lowest since Week 3 of the 2015 season. To put that timeframe in perspective, that game was against the St. Louis Rams. It should also be noted that the last time Cam Heyward scored below a 50 was Week 16 of the 2020 season when facing… the Indianapolis Colts. Showdowns between Heyward and Quenton Nelson have been quite the battle over the years where Heyward got the best of it in 2019 but Nelson has appeared to win the last two matchups.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Devin Bush: 83.1 (64 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 36.6 (44 snaps)

According to PFF, Devin Bush just had the best game of his career on Monday night as this is the highest score he has ever seen in his NFL career. Although he was not off the charts with his tackling score like usual as it was a 67.8, what made Bush’s score so high was an 81.2 coverage score, which was a bit surprising to me. Myles Jack landed in the bottom five again with individual scores where none of them were as low as his collective score. Jack had a 41.1 coverage score, a 56.9 tackling score, and a 46.5 run defense score.

Defensive Backs

CB James Pierre: 87.1 (30 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 75.8 (64 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 71.8 (18 snaps)
S Damontae Kazee: 65.9 (32 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 64.9 (61 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 63.6 (64 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 53.9 (56 snaps)

While Pierre‘s interception is definitely a play that stands out, his overall coverage score was second highest among all NFL cornerbacks in Week 12 and he did it when playing almost half of the defensive snaps. What is interesting is Pierre was only credited by PFF of giving up one reception in the entire game, but it was a 6-yard touchdown. Minkah Fitzpatrick is surprisingly pulling in high scores from PFF as he did not get much love last season. This entire group had a solid performance with only Terrell Edmunds having a score that came in below the 60.0 standard. Honestly, I didn’t notice Edmunds that much but he was credited with giving up one reception for 28 yards.

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.

Steelers Burning Questions: Win as much as possible, or root for higher draft picks?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 11:00am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team trying to navigate unchartered waters, but how do you, the fan, feel about the outcome of the

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, and with the new week comes a new set of questions for Steelers fans to answer. Throughout the 3-7 start to the season, many fans of the black and gold are starting to see their confidence fluctuate heading deeper into the regular season.

Even after a Week 1 overtime win vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, there were massive questions which remained. Throw in the Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots with a prime time loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, and doubt officially crept into every fans’ minds. When you add in the Steelers falling flat in Week 4 vs. the New York Jets, most fans were beyond fed up.

Shockingly, with Kenny Pickett’s entrance into the lineup vs. the Jets, confidence grew despite a loss in Week 4. The good vibes for Pickett didn’t last after the debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.

With fans about done with having any confidence in the team, the Steelers rebounded in Week 6 to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, but needing two quarterbacks to do it. Was the win over Tom Brady and the boys enough to lift the fans’ confidence? Following the prime time loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 7, probably not much. In Week 8 the team fell flat against the Philadelphia Eagles, another dud against a Super Bowl contender. After the bye week, the Steelers got back in the win column with a nice win over the New Orleans Saints, but those good vibes didn’t last long after a 37-30 loss to the Bengals in Week 11.

Week 12 brought more positive vibes as the Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football by the score of 24-17, moving their record to 4-7.

So, with that being said, it is time to ask some key questions to the fan base as the Week 13 quickly approaches. We call them the ‘Steelers Burning Questions’, and there is one which is consistent every week.

Are you confident in the team moving forward?

Other than that staple question, some other questions can be added to help give readers at BTSC, and Steelers fans in general, a voice in what they think about the team. This week it is a question about a common question among the fan base. With a losing record, and the playoffs being a pipe dream, do you want the team to win down the stretch? Or do you want the Steelers to have a better draft slot? Here’s the official question and options:

What’s more important for the final games of the 2022 season?

  • Win Games
  • Higher Draft Order

How do you participate in this exercise? It’s easy. All you have to do is scroll down to the polls and place your vote. The results of the votes will be published on BTSC later in the week, but getting as many votes as possible is the key with the SB Nation Reacts, powered by DraftKings Sportsbook.

So, go ahead in place your votes below, and feel free to explain yourself in the comment section below the article! In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the remainder of the regular season.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.

Please take our survey

Report: Najee Harris abdominal injury not serious, status for Week 13 unknown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 10:25am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have dodged a bullet as it pertains to Najee Harris’ abdominal injury.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been running the ball well since their Week 9 bye, and a large part of that has been the play of Najee Harris. After a slow start to the season, Harris has re-gained the form fans grew to expect from him as a rookie in 2021.

What was the reason for the resurgence and bounce back play? Many assumed it was Harris finally getting back to form after suffering a foot injury during training camp, which at one point required him to have a steel plate inserted into his cleats.

During the team’s Week 12 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, Harris suffered an abdominal injury and never returned to the game. Due to the short week, Mike Tomlin had very little update on the injury during his Tuesday press conference, but reports are now circulating the injury is not deemed to be serious.

This per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:

#Steelers RB Najee Harris, who was ruled out of Monday night's game with an abdominal injury, did not suffer a major injury, sources say. His status this week is up in the air, and he'll be reevaluated as the practice week goes on. But no significant injury is good news.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 30, 2022

The fact this isn’t an injury which could be deemed serious, and lead to a stint on the Injured Reserve (IR) list, is a huge positive for the Steelers. However, if Harris is available vs. the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday is another concern.

The Steelers’ depth at the running back position is being tested, and will continue to be tested if Harris can’t play this Sunday in Atlanta. The team was without rookie Jaylen Warren in Week 12 due to a hamstring injury, and when Harris exited the game in Indianapolis it was Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. who had to carry the load. They did so combining for over 90 yards rushing, and proving they can step in, and step up, when called upon.

Pittsburgh’s offense might be leaning on those two again if they are without both Harris and Warren this week. The team’s injury reports will be telling as they start to turn the page from the Colts game, and put their focus on the Falcons. We’ll have all that information for you right here at BTSC, so be sure to stay tuned as the Steelers press on throughout the 2022 regular season.

3 & OUT: Wham runs and a rookie connection highlight the Steelers win over the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 9:39am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, but how they won was almost as important as the end result.

The Steelers defeated the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday night in a game that was closer than it should have been. Here, in my 3 & Out column, I look at how smart run designs from Matt Canada and the Kenny Pickett-to-George Pickens connection helped overcome some self-inflicted wounds to earn the victory.

Wham!

The Steelers were incredibly balanced on offense against the Colts. They threw the ball 28 times for 174 yards and ran it 36 times for 172 yards. The run game was especially impressive, as Pittsburgh averaged 4.8 yards per rush against a stingy Indianapolis defensive front. They did so by incorporating all three of their running backs into the rotation effectively. Najee Harris had 35 yards on 10 rushes before exiting before halftime with an abdominal strain. Benny Snell Jr. got his first carries of the season and looked good, running for 62 yards on 12 attempts. Anthony McFarland, who was elevated from the practice squad to replace the injured Jaylen Warren, added 30 yards on 6 runs. Pickett chipped in, too, contributing 32 yards on a series of scrambles and designed runs, giving the Steelers four rushers with 30+ yards in the same game for the first time since...well, I don’t know. It feels like forever.

The run concept Matt Canada dialed up again and again was the wham play. Wham runs involve offensive linemen blocking away from a designated interior defender, who is then trapped or accounted for by a blocker coming from outside the box. This can be a tight end, an off-set fullback or a wide receiver.

Canada wasted no time incorporating the wham play into his game plan. On the first snap from scrimmage, he called one for Harris. Pittsburgh zone-blocked to the left with their five interior linemen, while tight end Zach Gentry, who aligned next to right tackle Chuks Okorafor, turned out the edge player. This created a bubble in the B-gap, which was filled by receiver Cody White (15), who wrapped around from the left wing:

Canada used jet motion by slot receiver Gunner Olszewski to move the linebackers and White picked up the safety, who came down late with the motion. Harris slammed the ball into the backside A-gap for a seven-yard gain.

Later, the Steelers ran a different version of Wham, using Gentry to trap a defensive tackle. They executed fold concepts along the front, with linemen who were uncovered to the play side climbing to the second level while the blockers to their left pinned Indy’s down linemen:

Snell made five yards, but it could have been more had Gentry gotten his head up-field on the trap and prevented the tackle from falling back to make the play. Still, the design was effective.

The Steelers finished their lone touchdown drive of the first half with a split-zone run that closely resembled wham. Pat Freiermuth came from the right wing to kick the backside edge, while Moore and Kevin Dotson washed down the right side of Indy’s front. You can see why Canada kept dipping into this well, as Moore and Dotson had great angles on their defenders and Freiermuth an easy kick on the edge. Harris took care of the rest by running through the tackles of Indy’s unblocked defensive backs:

Canada wisely stayed with the wham scheme after the break. On Pittsburgh’s first play from scrimmage in the 3rd quarter, he ran it again, this time to McFarland. White again wrapped through the backside B-gap, and McFarland took the run up the gut for a nine-yard gain:

In the 4th quarter, on the touchdown drive that provided Pittsburgh’s winning margin, Snell broke loose on the same concept, keeping the run on the front side of the play rather than winding it back:

Last week, against Cincinnati, the Bengals commented after the game that they were able to stop Pittsburgh’s offense in the 2nd half because they knew what was coming. The Steelers ran the same plays over and over, linebacker Germaine Pratt said. This was true against Indy as well, as Canada dialed up wham runs repeatedly. Only the Colts never stopped them.

Pittsburgh has now rushed for 140+ yards in three of their last four contests. The improved run game is the product of several things: better cohesion along the offensive line, Harris rounding into form, and strong contributions by secondary backs like Warren, Snell and McFarland. Pickett has provided a valuable element with his legs as well. But Canada has struck the right notes with his run designs, too. The criticisms of Canada are well-deserved, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Revitalizing the rushing attack has been a boon to the offense, and Canada’s schemes have played a big part in that success.

Pickett-to-Pickens

Speaking of success, the Kenny Pickett-to-George Pickens connection that struggled to get going Pickett’s first few weeks has begun to blossom. It played a pivotal role in the win on Monday night, especially on the second half drive that helped the Steelers reclaim the lead after Indianapolis had gone in front.

Before those late heroics, Pickett found Pickens on a shot play in the 2nd quarter that broke from several of Canada’s tendencies. First, it was a successful deep ball, which has been rare this season. Also, it came off of play-action. And not just any play-action. It came from play-action while Pickett was under center. The Steelers almost exclusively run the football when Pickett goes under center, so for them to throw it here, and deep down the field no less, was a pleasant surprise. It made sense, too, given how Indy was in single-high coverage because they’d dropped a safety into the box to defend the run. With Pickens singled up outside, the look was too tempting for Canada to ignore:

Pickett did a nice job looking left after his ball fake to move the safety with his eyes. From this angle, you can see how that effected the safety just enough to prevent him from flying over to help on Pickens:

Pickens did a great job of catching the ball at a high point with his hands and then shielding it from the defender so he couldn’t knock it out. The awareness Pickens has in situations like these belies his youth and inexperience.

It was that second half scoring drive, however, where the duo really flourished. First, on what may have been the most crucial snap of the night for the offense, Pickett found Pickens on a Dagger route (a deep in) on a 3rd and 12 play just after Indy had rallied from a 16-3 deficit to take a 17-16 lead. The offense had gone 3-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half, and with all of the momentum on Indy’s side, a failure to convert would have been demoralizing. But Pickett was cool in the pocket, moving calmly to his left when he got pressure in his face so he could keep his eyes downfield and focus on his routes rather than on the rush. There, he found Pickens crossing the field from left to right and delivered a beautifully thrown ball that was low and away from the tight coverage of the defender. Pickens went down and got it, extending his hands to pluck the ball out of the air just before it hit the turf. It was a well-executed play by both rookies, and it provided a much-needed first down.

Then, following a touchdown by Snell that put the Steelers back on top, the duo connected again for a two-point conversion. Pickett looked initially to his left, where he hoped to find Snell one-on-one against a linebacker. But Indy was in a matchup zone, and with the corner squatting in the flat, Snell wasn’t an option. A scramble ensued, with Pickett escaping the pocket to his right. Pickens, who is circled in the clip below, had run a fade/wheel, and was pinned against the back pylon. As Pickett moved right, Pickens feigned like he was working towards the middle of the field. Then, abruptly, he cut back towards the pylon, creating just enough space for Pickett to wedge in another well-placed ball:

This play demonstrated good communication between the two, and an understanding on the part of Pickens of how to free himself from coverage in a scramble situation — something Pittsburgh receivers have struggled with at times. Pickens finished with just 3 catches for 57 yards on 6 targets. But the impact he made went well beyond the stat line. It’s clear Pickett looks for him in big situations now. I anticipate he may become to Pickett what Antonio Brown was to Ben Roethlisberger — the go-to guy Pickett seeks out when the offense needs a play.

SIW’s

To say the Steelers dominated the first half would be an understatement. Pittsburgh outgained Indy 232-71, had 16 first downs to 4 for the Colts, possessed the ball for nearly 22 of the first 30 minutes and moved inside Indy’s 40-yard line on all five of their possessions. They led 16-3, but it felt like it should have been more.

That’s because the Steelers, as they have done so often this season, left points on the board by committing SIW’s — self-inflicted wounds. They came in an array of shapes and sizes — communication errors, penalties, poor execution. This play derailed a 1st quarter drive that began in plus territory after James Pierre intercepted Matt Ryan on Indy’s second play from scrimmage. It was a sack of Pickett on 3rd down from the +26 yard line that lost 12 yards and pushed the Steelers out of field goal range. You can see from the photo below that the protection scheme the Steelers used on the play — a full slide to the right — did not account for edge rusher Yanick Ngakoue (circled).

To block Ngakoue, Pittsburgh needed to keep in either tight end Connor Heyward (83) or McFarland, the back to Pickett’s left. Both, however, released down the field, with Heyward running a wheel route and McFarland a pivot. Pickett looked at McFarland as Ngakoue closed in, but McFarland had not yet made his break. Pickett had no choice but to duck and take a sack.

It’s hard to know why this play failed. The onus may have been on Pickett to tell McFarland to block Ngakoue. Or it may have been on McFarland to recognize that Ngakoue was unaccounted for and to look for the ball quicker. Either way, it was a self-inflicted wound that likely cost the Steelers points.

Here’s another, from later in the first half. Leading 13-3 with just over a minute to play, the Steelers had 3rd and goal from the +7-yard line. Pickens aligned as the inside receiver in a trips set to the field, where he ran a corner route. He was wide open towards the back of the end zone, but Pickett made one of his few poor throws of the night and missed him. The Steelers left more meat on the bone by settling for a field goal.

In the second half, Cam Sutton made what could have been a devastating error by extending an Indianapolis drive by jumping off-sides on a field goal attempt on 4th-and-4. The Steelers led 16-10 at the time, and the Colts eventually moved to the 1-yard line before making a huge mistake of their own and fumbling the ball back to Pittsburgh. Sutton’s SIW could have turned out far worse.

There were others. A holding penalty on Moore derailed a promising opening drive that ended in a field goal when it looked like the Steelers would march down and score six. And on the 89-yard kickoff return that opened the second half and started Indy’s comeback, Pittsburgh’s coverage team ran down the field at the same level, failing to squeeze to the ball. Return man Dallis Flowers had to pop just one seam before he was off to the races.

No one expects the Steelers to play perfectly, but when they leave points on the board on offense and create scoring opportunities for their opponent on special teams with SIW’s and sloppy play, they make winning a lot harder. It would be nice to see these errors reduced over the final weeks of the season.

And Out...

Pittsburgh is now 22-3 in their last 25 games against the Colts, dating back to 1978 when Bert Jones was their quarterback and the team resided in Baltimore. That sort of one-sidedness is not often seen in the NFL. It feels more like something Alabama does to Vanderbilt or Oklahoma to Kansas. In a season like this one, when victories are scare and the team sometimes looks like a shell of its former self, it’s nice to know the Steelers can still dominate an opponent.

2022 NFL Week 13: Steelers vs. Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 9:38am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Steelers and Falcons are going head-to-head in Week 13.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons are preparing to go head-to-head in Week 13 of the 2022 regular season, and it pits the 4-7 Steelers vs. the 5-7 Falcons. These two teams have quite the one-sided history, with the Steelers holding a 14-2-1 overall record vs. Atlanta all-time. On top of that, the Steelers are 3-1-1 vs. the Falcons in their last five meetings.

The Falcons are a team who found themselves in a very similar situation to the Steelers this past offseason. In fact, they played their cards almost identically throughout the offseason, but how things have shaken out since the season started are vastly different.

With Matt Ryan out as the quarterback in Atlanta, the Falcons went the free agent route, just like the Steelers did. While the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota. Both teams drafted quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, with the Steelers taking Kenny Pickett 20th overall in the 1st Round, while the Falcons signed Desmond Ridder in the 3rd Round of the draft.

The Steelers benched Trubisky in the middle of the Week 4 matchup vs. the New York Jets, and it’s been all Pickett ever since. In Atlanta, the team has tied their ship to Mariota, and fans are wondering if/when they’ll see Ridder play this season.

The results for the Steelers have been a rookie who is learning on the job, and an organization who is looking to have an answer at the position in the coming years. As for the Falcons, they have been left wondering what the future will hold, considering Ridder hasn’t seen the field yet this year.

These narratives and story lines add intrigue to the matchup as the Steelers hope to win back-to-back games for the first time this season by beating the Falcons on the road in Week 13.

Be sure to keep tabs of this stream as all articles relating to the upcoming game will be placed into this one-stop-shop for all things Steelers vs. Falcons.

Kenny Pickett leads the Steelers offensive PFF grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 8:15am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, the Steelers young quarterback had one of the best scores at his position this week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back on the winning track by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday Night Football. The offense played strong in three of the four quarters as they bounced back in the fourth for the come-from-behind win. As for the defense, holding a team to zero yards in the first quarter got things started in the right way.

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 12 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 (except for Minkah Fitzpatrick who only played in victory formation) and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 69 snaps on offense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

QB Kenny Pickett: 88.5 (69 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 76.8 (28 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 74.4 (49 snaps)
C Mason Cole: 72.7 (69 snaps)
RB Anthony McFarland Jr.: 71.5 (21 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

TE Zach Gentry: 53.5 (36 snaps)
TE Connor Heyward: 53.4 (10 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 48.4 (24 snaps)
G James Daniels: 48.4 (69 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 47.3 (69 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Kenny Pickett: 88.5 (69 snaps)

There has already been a lot reported about Kenny Pickett‘s PFF score. The Steelers have not seen a score this high by quarterback in several seasons, and it was the second-highest overall score of any quarterback in Week 12 only behind Lamar Jackson (90.9). Pickett had an 86.3 passing score despite not throwing any touchdowns or breaking 175 yards. But it was his efficiency which scored well. He also added a 69.0 running score.

Running Backs

RB Benny Snell Jr.: 76.8 (28 snaps)
RB Anthony McFarland Jr.: 71.5 (21 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 66.4 (20 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 59.2 (5 snaps)

Both of the “Juniors” landed in the Steelers top five this week as they each got their first carries of the season. Benny Snell ended up on top thanks to a 75.6 rushing score despite having only an 18.0 pass blocking score, albeit on only two snaps. Najee Harris had a decent performance despite trying to play through injury before he left the game. Regardless of who was getting the ball, it was just great to see effectiveness from all the Steelers running backs.

Receivers

TE Pat Freiermuth: 74.4 (49 snaps)
WR Cody White: 71.1 (10 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 66.6 (54 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 65.9 (66 snaps)
WR Gunner Olszewski: 59.9 (21 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 53.5 (36 snaps)
TE Connor Heyward: 53.4 (10 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 48.4 (24 snaps)

Pat Freiermuth. I just have to say his name to start off each week because he continuously gets a high score each week. Cody White landed as the second-highest score from the position group because of his 86.0 run blocking grade from the wide receiver position. George Pickens and Diontae Johnson finished with scores above the line but some inconsistencies at times kept their scores from creeping to high. It also didn’t help that each of those two receivers was credited with a drop according to PFF.

Offensive Line

C Mason Cole: 72.7 (69 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 71.2 (69 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 55.3 (69 snaps)
G James Daniels: 48.4 (69 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 47.3 (69 snaps)

These scores are ones I’m not quite sure about this week as my eye test told me something a little different. Mason Cole was in the top five as he scored over 70 in both blocking categories with a 73.0 pass blocking score and 70.5 run blocking score. Dan Moore Jr. just missed being in the top five as he led the team with a pass blocking score of 86.8 while registering a 61.0 run blocking score. Kevin Dotson came out at the bottom of the offense despite having an 83.3 pass blocking score on 35 of the 69 snaps. But his 32.9 run blocking score brought down his overall grade. James Daniels came in towards the bottom as he was below 50 in both blocking categories. What ultimately didn’t pass the eye test for me this week was the Steelers had very high pass blocking scores overall but not very impressive run blocking scores where I thought they were doing a nice job. But as Geoffrey Benedict said to the BTSC staff, “The Colts had players winning individual matchups in run defense, but the Steelers were still clearing holes and hitting them. It’s the natural problem even if you grade individual players effectively, football is a team sport.”

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.

12 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 7:00am
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media ahead of their matchup with the Falcons.

Less than a day after the Steelers defeated the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, head coach Mike Tomlin was back at the podium to speak with the media ahead of Week 13. Being fresh of the previous game, there were a lot of questions at the Mike Tomlin press conference on Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

James Pierre & Arthur Maulet

The Steelers got production from players in a lot of different areas on Monday night. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he contributed to this when it comes to offense, but in his answer he focused on defense and specifically mentioned James Pierre and Arthur Maulet.

“I don’t know—it’s just daily work. Whether it’s the offense, or a guy stepping up on special teams, or on defense. I think we used everybody in the secondary in some form or fashion; James Pierre, Arthur Maulet and others. We just work diligently every day, and we continually try to put eight pounds in a five-pound bag. That’s an analogy that I use because you just never know when you’ll get an opportunity to call upon it. I never ask guys to be patient; I just ask them to work while they wait and to display their readiness when called upon. That’s what a lot of guys were able to do.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked what Arthur Maulet’s role is in the defense and if he can describe the intensity he brings to the game.

“He’s a run-down nickel, he’s a good blitzer, he’s a good tackler. He brings a demeanor for a small guy that’s kind of reflective of the dominant nickels that play. All the nickels that are dominant ones are angry little people. They don’t stay blocked; they don’t get blocked. They blitz extremely hard and well. They tackle big people. They play with an edge. And he fits that mold.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about the maturation he has seen in James Pierre as he has come off the bench multiple times to help the defense.

“It’s just not too big for him. I just think that there’s a steadiness in him that maybe wasn’t there before. It’s probably just reflected more than anything in levels of communication. The conversations that you can have with him in game, he’s present, he’s aware, he can articulate the things he’s seeing. I just think it’s just where he is relative to where he’s been.”

Benny Snell Jr. & Anthony McFarland Jr.

Running backs Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland both received their first carries of the season in Week 12. Coach Tomlin was asked about the work ethic of Snell and McFarland as well as James Pierre as they saw lesser roles this season than in years past.

“I think we always acknowledge that roles never stay the same; they’re ever changing. And so, sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative. This is football at its highest level. I think all guys know and understand that and that’s why they walk in the building with the spirit that they do every day. You’ve got to earn it daily. Those guys continue to walk in with that spirit regardless of what the division of labor might be, because they need to be ready for their next opportunity.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked what he liked most from what he got from the two running backs.

“I thought they stayed within their skillset. Benny is a deliberate one-cut downhill runner, AntMac [Anthony McFarland Jr.] is bursty and explosive and good in space. I just thought they leaned on their strengths.”

Mason Cole

After missing the second half of last weeks game, center Mason Cole was able to go the distance on Monday. Coach Tomlin was asked the biggest thing that he appreciates from Cole.

“Man, he’s a sharp guy. He brings a can-do attitude. He’s a winner in his approach to ball. He’s a good communicator. His football intellect is really solid, and it’s helpful at that position in terms of the identification of protections and picking up a blitz game.”

Najee Harris

The biggest injury coming out of Monday night’s game was Najee Harris not being able to return after halftime with an abdominal injury. Coach Tomlin was asked if there’s any long-term concern over Harris’ injury.

“Not as I sit here right now, but I don’t have a lot of information as I sit here right now. I have no more information right now than I had last night when I addressed you guys.”

Kenny Pickett

For the most part, both Steelers fans and those breaking down the game Monday night believed this was the best performance so far for young quarterback Kenny Pickett. Coach Tomlin was asked about how much input Pickett has now versus the start of the season.

“I think it’s a natural progression. I just think the more he gains experience, the more he’s engaged in the process of game readiness, the more there’s a give and take in communication in terms of what’s appropriate from a play-selection standpoint. Just natural business in terms of dealing with quarterbacks and their inclusion in the process.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Pickett’s ability to take on the volume of defense that he sees in the NFL.

“That’s just the transition that everyone has to go through. It’s the same thing for receivers. The myriad of coverages and the bastard coverages that you see and the complexities of the things that you see requires adjustments and thinking on your feet and running adjustments. It’s a challenge for all young people on offense, probably receivers just as much as quarterbacks.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Pickett’s first comeback win, his ability to do so, and if it was from observations when he was a Pitt or from just knowing him in general.

“Both. Both.”

Dan Moore Jr.

One player who had a very solid game after a rough couple plays early on was left tackle Dan Moore. Coach Tomlin was asked about Moore’s ability to bounce back and how he is progressing in his second year.

“It’s football, you know. In the National Football League, you’re going to lose some downs. There is ebb and flow, but you remain singularly focused on winning. When you do that, you don’t tote bags of negative plays. That’s what we ask all the guys to do. It requires a certain level of maturity, and that’s something that Dan has shown since day zero, and that’s why he’s been such a significant contributor since day zero.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about having players such as Moore and James Pierre who can be resilient later in a game after making an earlier mistake and finding a way to win.

“We expect them to. This is big boy football. We expect them to.”

Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, & Myles Jack

The Steelers were forced to have a different rotation at inside linebacker with Devin Bush playing every defensive snap. Coach Tomlin was asked if Bush has earned a bigger role since he played so much on Monday night.

“Robert Spillane was hurt.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Bush also playing more than Myles Jack.

“Myles was hurt maybe the week before.”

Diontae Johnson

One player who has struggled this season to find his role with the new quarterback is wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked about Johnson wanting to be targeted more and how he would rate his performance.

“I’m sure he does. I’m sure every receiver in the National Football League does. He made the necessary plays and we’re appreciative of his efforts. The target game, I’m not going to play that. You can play that every week with every receiver; everybody wants targets.”

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:

If you want to watch Mike Tomlin’s press conference, you can see it in its entirety below.

Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 13 game against the Falcons.

#PITvsATL Sunday at 1 PM ET on CBS https://t.co/VWDLt6LFZs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 29, 2022

Steelers invite adversity in and then kick it out in win over the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 6:00am
IndyStar Staff-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers controlled most of Monday’s game against the Colts. A few second-half lapses made the game competitive and even led to Pittsburgh trailing in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the Steelers found a way to overcome adversity and earn their fourth win of 2022.

In many ways, the Steelers' Monday Night Football matchup against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium was the most frustrating to sit through so far during the 2022 regular season.

Pittsburgh dominated the first half about as thoroughly as it’s currently capable of amid this rebuilding season. The Steelers had a sizeable lead in time of possession, as well as yardage—222-66 if my math is correct.

The Steelers even had a 16-3 halftime lead, which normally doesn’t sound like much, but it really is a substantial one for this crew.

But it sure felt like it could have been a much bigger lead. It seemed like Pittsburgh’s offense left a touchdown or two on the field while settling for one-too-many threes from Matthew Wright’s surprisingly strong and accurate right foot.

Would the Steelers do what they have yet to do for a very long time and actually dominate a foe for four quarters?

Nope.

Return specialist Dallis Flowers made certain of that by opening the second half with an 89-yard kickoff return. The Colts made quick work of the short field set up by Flowers and crawled to within six points on a Jonathan Taylor two-yard plunge.

The Steelers’ offense pulled the same second-half act that it did against the Bengals a week earlier by sandwiching two three-and-outs around a Matt Ryan fumble after the Colts had a first and goal from the Pittsburgh one.

But that Steelers six-point lead, the one that seemed in danger of going away with four-plus minutes left in the third quarter, was gone by the end of it, thanks to a six-yard touchdown reception by receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

You had to have a sinking feeling, right? This is who the Steelers mostly were through the first 10 games, a team that couldn’t play from behind.

Believe it or not, quarterback Kenny Pickett and the offense provided the life jacket the Steelers desperately needed by immediately answering with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Benny Snell Jr. scoring a two-yard touchdown on third and goal to make it 22-17. The Steelers then went for two and made it 24-17 when Pickett found receiver George Pickens in the back corner of the end zone.

There was still plenty of time remaining (just under 10 minutes), and the Colts would almost certainly have multiple possessions to try and tie—and maybe even win—the game.

Newsflash: Indianapolis did have multiple possessions to end the game, but the Steelers' defense held tough and snuffed out the Colts' final series with a stop on fourth and three from the Pittsburgh 26 with 30 seconds left.

All-in-all, it was the Steelers' most complete game of the year. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, when I said it in my postgame article following the 20-10 victory over the Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13.

Is it encouraging that Pittsburgh is starting to semi-stack complete game wins? Sure it is. It’s also nice to see the offense continue to run the ball with effectiveness and efficiency, even with the top two backs—Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren—hampered by injuries.

Thanks to Warren’s hamstring injury that put him on the inactive list and Harris’s abdominal injury which ended his night prematurely, Benny Snell Football was on display in a way that the Steelers hadn’t seen since early in the 2020 campaign. Snell, who had 12 carries for 62 yards and a score, looked about as effective as any Steelers back has throughout the 2022 campaign.

That’s a testament to Snell, but it’s also a testament to a beleaguered Steelers offensive line that’s seemingly figured out a way to open holes for its stable of running backs on a consistent basis.

As for Pickett, he also looked as good as he has all year; with the exception of the errant red zone throw to Pickens late in the first half that would have given the Steelers a 20-3 lead, Pickett was impressively accurate all throughout the night and made the kinds of throws one would expect a rookie first-round pick to eventually discover in his toolbox.

The defense had a lapse or two in the second half but was also about as effective as it's been all year and may have played its best four quarters on Monday night.

The Steelers are now 4-7, which doesn’t look too good, but it’s a huge improvement over the 2-6 mark they had heading into the bye.

What’s next for these Steelers over the final six weeks? It’s impossible to tell. All they can do is continue to stack complete games and let the chips fall where they may.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/30/2022 - 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 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 typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

BAD Language: Enjoy the Steelers ride and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow

The Steelers took some time off of enduring hard times with a win over Indy on Monday Night Football. The win may not mean much for 2022, but it will mean much more later. Just celebrate it. BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share 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
  • Just celebrate victories when you can
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Mike Tomlin Weekly Press Conference Recap: Week 13 at Atlanta

After beating Indianapolis on the road on MNF in Week 12, the Steelers Mike Tomlin had just about 12 hours to get to the podium on Tuesday to discuss his victory, the Najee Harris injury situation, and the Atlanta Falcons. Dave Schofield, editor of BTSC, gives you all the details on what Coach T had to say leading up to the game in the latest Mike Tomlin Recap podcast.

The Steelers Fix: Championship Week prospects we’re chomping at the bit to watch

The Super Bowl is two months away, but the college football championships are just getting started. Get to know who to watch and start making your Steelers wish list. Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they break it all down on The Steelers Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The College Football Championships and possible future Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Hangover: The Steelers can build a future winner taking the present one game at a time

The Steelers’ playoff chances may be slim to none with none being the favorite but what the Steelers do in the final six contests of 2023 could set the tone for a championship in the next few years. Join Bryan Anthony Davis, Shannon, White, and Tony Defeo as they wake from the hangover that is of the victorious Monday Night Football variety on BTSC’s The Steelers Hangover.

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The Scho Bro Show: The Steelers need a ‘short stack’ after a big win in Indy

The Steelers are on a short week and in need of stacking wins as 2022 is coming to a close. How could that occur? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the Scho Bro Show. the brotherly love entry of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Winning twice in a short week

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride, Wednesday: The Steelers are quietly dispelling narratives one week at a time

There are plenty of perceptions and misconceptions of who the 4-7 Steelers are right now. But each week the Men of Steel quietly dispel another narrative. Jeff Hartman, BTSC Senior Editor, talks about this, and much more, in the latest episode of the “Let’s Ride” podcast.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers improvement is quelling narratives
  • The Mail Bag
  • 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

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 12 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 6:15pm
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

All three contestants held on for another week.

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool is rolling along as each week those who make it through are one step closer to the prize. With four leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the fifth league finished with 35 participants. While technically there are 435 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 431 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Cam Heyward football.

There were two different games selected from the three remaining contestants. Two of the choices were the Miami Dolphins over the Houston Texans. Although Houston did cut into the lead late in the game, the Dolphins were up 30-0 at halftime before resting players and ultimately winning 30-15.

The other choice this week was the New York Jets over the Chicago Bears. With different quarterbacks getting the start for each team this week, it was the Bears who could not overcome the loss of Justin Fields. Even though they held a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Jets scored the next 24 points to win 31-10, helping to put all three contestants to the next round.

So after 11 weeks, only 0.67% of the entries still remain and there are only contestants remaining in three of the five leagues. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now! Even being the only contestant remaining in your league, you must make your pick and outlast the remaining leagues.

Here are the picks used and remaining by contestant. Remember in Week 15 we go to making two selections each week.

Weekly Update:

Used teams are crossed out, Week 12 pick is in bold.

Upcoming Week 13 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Dallas (-11) at home over Indianapolis
  • Closest match up: Jacksonville (-1.5) at Detroit
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-1.5) at Atlanta

BYES: Arizona and Carolina

(all lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

Steelers swap players on their practice squad heading into Week 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 4:39pm
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made some adjustments on their 16-man practice squad.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a 24-17 win on Monday Night Football vs. the Indianapolis Colts. While this was a great win, the prime time slot also means the team is now forced to work on a short week.

This means less time for players to rest and recover from the previous game. Any players nursing an injury could find themselves not participating in the upcoming game.

When it pertains to the NFL roster set up, every team’s 16-man practice squad is extremely valuable. Players can be elevated twice from the practice squad without having to face the waiver wire. So this means a team’s “taxi squad” has a lot of value.

As the Steelers prepare for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, they have made a swap on their practice squad.

This from the Steelers official Twitter feed:

We signed DT Renell Wren to the practice squad and released WR Josh Malone from the practice squad. @BordasLaw https://t.co/PryVwW09wF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 29, 2022

The Steelers have added a defensive tackle by the name of Renell Wren, and to make room for Wren on the practice squad they released wide receiver Josh Malone.

Wren was a 4th round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2019 NFL Draft, and he played 11 games his rookie year before the next few seasons were plagued with injury. This resulted in his release from Cincinnati, and he was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in February of 2022, only to be released in August.

The journeyman gets a chance to prove himself with the Steelers and potentially finding a new NFL home. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Falcons in Week 13.

AFC North Recap: A good week for the division, except for one team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

There were three winners, and one loser, within the AFC North in Week 12.

The twelfth week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was.

Cincinnati Bengals - 20
Tennessee Titans - 16

This was a very good football game which isn’t getting a lot of coverage considering how the other games in the division played out, but the Bengals going on the road and beating the Titans the way they did is notable. Consider how they limited Derrick Henry, and the Bengals have the look of a team to beat as they prepare for a stretch run for the division crown.

Cleveland Browns - 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 16 (OT)

This was Jacoby Brissett’s final game as the Browns starting quarterback, and he saved a good game for last. With Deshaun Watson joining the team after his suspension next week, Brissett led the Browns to a thrilling overtime win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. The Browns and Steelers remain tied at 4-7 in the basement of the division, with the Browns holding the tie breaker over Pittsburgh with their head-to-head matchup on Thursday Night Football this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars - 28
Baltimore Ravens - 27

This game was possibly the shocker of the day, with the Ravens going to DUVAL and finding a way to lose. I say that considering the Ravens had a 27-20 lead with just over a minute left before Trevor Lawrence didn’t just lead the Jaguars down the field, but to the lead. Doug Pederson went for the two-point conversion after what could have been a game-tying score, and he converted. In an effort to kill clock, the Jaguars squibbed the ensuing kickoff, and it left Justin Tucker with a 67-yard field goal. But the All-Pro kicker couldn’t convert, giving the Jaguars the win and putting the Ravens in a tie with the Bengals atop the division.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 24
Indianapolis Colts - 17

After the exciting Sunday of football, the Steelers and Colts on Monday Night Football didn’t really have the draw of the other contests. Nonetheless, the Steelers proved a lot in their 24-17 win, and a lot of it hinges on the play of Kenny Pickett. Not only did the Steelers score 16 points in the first half, but they were able to come from behind, trailing 17-16, and put together a scoring drive to give them the lead. From there, the Steelers defense bent, but didn’t break, on their way to their 4th win of the season.

AFC North Standings

Baltimore Ravens - 7-4
Cincinnati Bengals - 7-4
Cleveland Browns - 4-7
Pittsburgh Steelers - 4-7

Week 13 AFC North Schedule:

Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals — 4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday

A look ahead...

The final opponents for all AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens: vs. Broncos, at Steelers, at Browns, vs. Falcons, at Steelers, at Bengals
Cleveland Browns: at Texans, at Bengals, vs. Ravens, vs. Saints, at Washington, at Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers: at Falcons, vs. Ravens, at Panthers, vs. Raiders, at Ravens, vs. Browns
Cincinnati Bengals: vs. Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Buccaneers, at Patriots, vs. Bills, vs. Ravens

Steelers Week 12 snap counts show a team coming together

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 1:30pm
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

It may be too little too late for this season, but the Steelers are starting to play good football.

The Indianapolis Colts have an older, and more decorated roster than the Pittsburgh Steelers, but even with the Colts playing better under new Head Coach Jeff Saturday, the Steelers were the better team on Monday night.

Offense

It’s always good to have your offensive line and quarterback playing together consistently, and it has showed in how Kenny Pickett is looking more comfortable maneuvering the pocket and avoiding danger. It also shows well in the stats Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland put up, as each averaged 5 yards a carry for the game. A rare event for both running backs. With Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren currently injured and a short week looming, the Steelers might need Snell and/or McFarland to carry the load against the Falcons.

The Steelers went more tight end heavy this week. Pat Freiermuth played his normal ~70% of snaps, Zach Gentry played half the game and Connor Heyward got a decent number of snaps. The Steelers led for all but 5 minutes of the game, and with their running backs producing, it makes sense that they would focus on running the ball.

With the heavier set the Steelers averaged only 2.5 wide receivers per play, meaning roughly half the game they only played two receivers. Interestingly, in that lower receiver snap situation, the backup receivers played more snaps (55 combined) than George Pickens played (54). Diontae Johnson again led all non-QBs and lineman in offensive snaps, and while he averaged a paltry 6.13 yards per target, that number is the third best mark of his season. Johnson and Kenny Pickett are playing better together, but that’s more an indictment of how poorly they were teaming up before the bye than actual praise. Meanwhile George Pickens recorded 9.5 yards per target, a very good mark that happens to be only the 6th best mark of his 11-game career.

You have to wonder why the Steelers are playing their backup receivers so much, when combined they accounted for 4 targets and 11 yards in this game. Gunner Olszewski’s jet sweep (the only one of the game) gained 9 rushing yards. It’s pretty clear to any team facing the Steelers that the only thing you really need to worry about with these depth receivers is the jet sweep.

For the season, wide receivers not named Pickens, Johnson or Claypool have accounted for 17 targets, 10 receptions and 79 yards. That’s on 285 snaps, more snaps than the three backup running backs have recorded, and those backs have done more as receivers than the backup WRs, recording 154 yards on 21 targets. When backup running backs have almost doubled the receiving output of your depth receivers, your team has a serious problem, because on 50% of the Steelers snaps this week (more in most weeks) the defense has one player they know they can dump their worst defender on and be fine.

On a positive note, Minkah Fitzpatrick played a snap on offense this week. He lost his job as the safety in victory formations to Miles Boykin, and with Boykin out, he got to play that snap again. His record is now 11-0 when he plays at least one snap on offense. I wonder if he can play receiver...

Defense

Devin Bush Jr. joins frequent 100% club members Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton, the Robert Spillane injury ending the rotation the Steelers had been using with Bush and Spillane.

An interesting development on the defensive line occurred this week with Montravius Adams playing more snaps than Chris Wormley for the first time this season. Chris Wormley even had an enormous fumble recovery, wrestling the ball away from Colts quarterback Matt Ryan after a botched handoff.

T.J. Watt is off his snap count restriction, playing all but 9 snaps this week, facing a very good right tackle in Braden Smith, and the Colts took great pains to keep him double teamed all game. Watt and the Steelers pass rush didn’t put up many stats, but they did provide a lot of pressure.

The defensive backfield saw several changes throughout the game with James Pierre coming in on nickel and dime plays, moving Cameron Sutton inside early on, and Arthur Maulet playing late in the game, and ended up leading the team in tackles despite only playing 18 snaps on defense.

Damontae Kazee played his third game for the Steelers, and the same as the week before, played as the dime back, played 8 snaps for Terrell Edmunds and only 4 plays involved all three safeties on the field at the same time. Giving more evidence that the signing of Damontae Kazee is just an upgrade on Tre Norwood.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13.

Betting Preview: Steelers now 1-point favorites vs. the Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 12:30pm
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After the Steelers win in Week 12, the line has changed to make them them slight favorites in Atlanta

The Pittsburgh Steelers just finished their Week 12 game against the Indianapolis Colts and the result have changed the odds for Week 13. The next matchup for the Steelers is a trip to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. 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 13 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022 at 1:00 PM

Steelers betting line: -1

Over/under: 43.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (W) 41-17 vs Falcons

Win streak: 3 games PIT

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 3 - 0 ATL

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 8 - 1 - 1 ATL

The opening line on the game was at -2.5 after the schedule was announced in May. Based on the first eleven weeks of the NFL season, the line had moved in favor of Atlanta on Monday. But after the Steelers’ win in Indianapolis, the line has moved back to where the Steelers are favored by a point.

Being the slightest of favorites on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -110 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 10/11 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Falcons would have a payout of $38.18 ($18.18 plus the original $20 bet). The Falcons also have a current moneyline of -110, or 10/11 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Atlanta to win straight up would have the same payout of $38.18 ($18.18 plus the original $20 bet).

The Steelers are 3-5 against the spread in their last 8 games played and are 9-2 against the spread in their last 11 games against the AFC South. The Steelers also have gone UNDER in 4 of their last 6 games and have gone OVER in 7 of their last 10 games played against the AFC South.

If looking at the futures bets at DraftKings.com, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl are at 800/1 after Week 12. The Steelers odds to win the AFC Championship are 400/1 odds. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers are currently at 50/1 odds behind the Browns at 30/1 odds, the Bengals at 9/4, and the Ravens as the favorite at 5/14 odds.

Steelers dealing with injuries, and a short week, as they prepare for the Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/29/2022 - 11:30am
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have a quick turnaround before playing the Falcons in Week 13, and several players are dealing with injuries leading up to the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 12 after beating the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday Night Football, and while the win was sweet the prime time victory also results in a short week afterwards.

In Week 13 the Steelers have to turn the page quickly as they prepare for another road trip, to another dome, when the head south to play the Atlanta Falcons. Mike Tomlin met with media Tuesday to lay the groundwork for the team’s next game. During the press conference Tomlin talked about players who are dealing with some form of injury heading into the game vs. the NFC South opponent.

The biggest injury was to starting running back Najee Harris. Harris left the game Monday night with an abdominal injury, and Tomlin talked about how this will be challenging on a short week to get Harris back in the game. However, as Tomlin always says, Harris’ participation will be their guide for him playing this week vs. Atlanta. When asked later in the press conference if Harris’ injury could last the entire season, Tomlin said he wasn’t sure considering he doesn’t know much on the short week.

Tomlin then said there were other injuries which could be labeled as “bumps and bruises” associated with the game, and the list of players he listed who were dealing with these “bumps and bruises” was both long and riddled with big name players for the team, mainly the defense.

Tomlin said Minkah Fitzpatrick was evaluated post-game in Week 12, but didn’t say what he was being evaluated for. He also said linebacker T.J. Watt, defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and linebacker Myles Jack could all be lumped into this category of players dealing with injuries, although they might be minor injuries.

With that being said, Tomlin said the aforementioned players could be limited early in the week, and he might be doing some unique things to get players the rest they need before they board a plane again in Week 13 to play the Falcons.

A couple players who weren’t mentioned by Tomlin during his press conference were Levi Wallace, who was forced to leave the field when the officials notified the officials for the need for him to be further evaluated. Also not being mentioned were wide receiver Myles Boykin, who missed the game with an oblique/abdominal injury, or running back Jaylen Warren, who missed the Monday night game with a hamstring injury.

The Steelers’ first reported practice will be Wednesday, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 13 road game vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

For a complete rundown of Mike Tomlin’s time with the media on Tuesday, check out BTSC’s Press Conference Recap podcast below:

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