Yet again, the Pittsburgh Steelers did just enough to pull off a second straight win on Sunday against the Packers, with a final score of 23-19. The back-and-forth affair throughout the game was sealed with a Damontae Kazee interception, securing the Steelers' sixth win of the year.
This game, once again, showcased sloppiness on both sides of the ball, but miraculously, they managed to pull away by the skin of their teeth. Here are some of the biggest things we learned from the Steelers vs. Packers game in Week 10.
Offense brings back the old school Steelers ground attack
The offense seemed to find its groove in the first half, scoring 17 points and moving the ball at will on the ground with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren both finding the endzone. However, the second half presented a complete reversal of what we've seen so far this year late in games. They couldn't gain any momentum or rhythm to secure a comfortable win.
According to ESPN, the Steelers ran the ball 36 times for 205 yards, while only throwing the ball 23 times, completing 14 attempts for 126 yards. Clearly, the initial game plan was to run the ball down the Packers' throats, and while successful, they struggled to find anything in the passing game. Despite the talent of Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, the Steelers seemed reluctant to utilize the middle of the field.
The absence could stem from a combination of scheme and route concepts, yet it is perplexing how avoidant they are in that particular facet of the game. Take a look at George Pickens' route chart against the Packers in Week 10.
Achieving a passing game flow becomes nearly impossible with a route chart like that. For a balanced attack, an immediate change in strategy is needed. As well as the route tree, most of Kenny Pickett's completions and attempts were outside the numbers, making it challenging to consistently make those throws for an entire game. Just check out Kenny Pickett's passing chart from Next Gen Stats.
Furthermore, despite their success running the ball, they should have incorporated more play-action. This would involve taking advantage of linebackers crashing down to stop the run, thereby creating opportunities to attack the middle of the field. Pickens and Johnson excel in yards after catch and it's crucial to utilize this aspect of their game if they have any hope of improving a critical aspect of their offense.
Bend don't break defense showcased again
Defensively, there was disappointment in their performance. Although they forced two significant turnovers and contained the Packers' rushing attack, Jordan Love was able to exploit the secondary. The Steelers' pass rush was virtually non-existent for most of the game, giving Love ample time to throw. Chunk plays were surrendered on crucial downs, including two touchdowns on third and longs.
Additionally, during the last Packers drive, a 46-yard completion was given up, providing the Packers with great field position to potentially win the game. This defensive theme of " bend don't break" throughout the game and making a play or two in crunch time needs addressing.
Hopefully, the potential return of Minkah Fitzpatrick next week will provide the much-needed boost to this secondary. For this defense to live up to its expected elite status, addressing the issues in the back end is crucial.
Despite the struggles, the Steelers secured a win—an ugly one, but a win nonetheless. In the unpredictable AFC North, they managed to maintain their positioning in the division. Looking ahead to the next week, they face a significant matchup with the Cleveland Browns. To secure a win, they must address issues on both ends of the ball.
The Browns, coming off an exciting comeback win against the Ravens, will be eager to prove themselves as top contenders in the conference. The Steelers coaching staff and team need to address the hiccups that have been a thorn in their side in recent weeks if they want to sweep the Browns this year.