Encouraging takeaways from Steelers pivotal win vs Ravens

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive in the AFC playoff hunt thanks to a crucial win over the Baltimore Ravens. Here’s what we learned from the game. 

Heading into Sunday Night Football, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were just hoping that their team would still have something to play for. After the Dolphins and Jets both lost, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes were alive and well, and we were on the edge of our seats.

The Steelers certainly didn’t play a perfect game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. The offense struggled to put points on the board and a questionable penalty from Cameron Heyward nearly cost them dearly. However, when it was all said and done, Mike Tomlin’s team emerged with a 16-13 victory to keep their season alive, and there were some truly encouraging signs from this game.

Steelers running game is heating up

This might have been the best collective rushing performance we have seen from the Steelers all season. Najee Harris bulldozed his way for 111 yards on 22 carries while Jaylen Warren chipped in 76 yards on 12 carries off the bench, As a unit, the Steelers rushed for 198 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per attempt, according to ESPN stats.

The rushing attack certainly did its part in this contest. My biggest beef is that the running game still doesn’t translate to points well, and Pittsburgh is going to have to learn to be efficient when it comes to passing the ball in the red zone. Some of this certainly falls back on Matt Canada and the play design. Still, we can be happy with what we saw from the rushing attack against the Ravens in Week 17.

‘The Big Three’ are firing on all cylinders

Back in 2019 and 2020, Pittsburgh’s ‘Big Three’ of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick were all First-Team All-Pro players and among the very best at their position. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them all play as well at the same time as they did against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

Though Watt wasn’t perfect as a run defender in terms of his gap assignment, he really picked up his game in the second half and got after QB Tyler Huntley. In the same way, Heyward was a menace in this contest as he routinely bullied the man in front of him. Minkah sealed the game with an interception and is on the fast track to the third First-Team All-Pro of his career. Pittsburgh’s stars are really starting to play some of their best football at the same time.

Mark Robinson shows promise

I want to pump the brakes a little when it comes to expectations for rookie linebacker Mark Robinson. He was sporadic against the Ravens and missed tackles on a few plays. However, it’s hard not to love the intensity and physicality he brings from the linebacker position.

Robinson certainly packs a punch in his compact frame, and he put that on display early and often against the Ravens for by far his biggest performance of the season. Prior to Week 17, Robinson only played a handful of snaps on defense, but he rose to the challenge in primetime action. In this contest alone, he recorded 7 tackles — most coming near the line of scrimmage. I would expect him to see a lot of action against Cleveland next week, and perhaps he gives us hope that he could be a contributor in 2023.

Kenny Pickett might just have that ‘it’ factor

I don’t want to jinx it, but it certainly seems like Kenny Pickett might have that indescribable ‘it’ factor to his game. Though he doesn’t possess elite arm talent when compared to the top quarterbacks across the league, Pickett exuberates with confidence and doesn’t shy away from the big moments.

With his backs against the wall, Pickett mounted a comeback win for the second straight week, and he’s starting to gain the trust of fans who were on the fence. Will still need to see more consistency throughout the game, but his moxie and leadership are excellent signs that he could be the franchise quarterback of this team.

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