Step one is complete as the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to take a 17-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens, which sat many starters having locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, due to frankly unnecessary losses early in December, the remainder of Pittsburgh's 2023 story will be written by other teams in the conference over the coming days.
Still, the Steelers ended the regular season on a high note, winning three straight games to give the franchise 20 straight winning seasons, extending Mike Tomlin's personal streak to 17 seasons, and giving Tomlin a franchise record 10th 10-win season. Mason Rudolph stepped into the starting quarterback role and gave the team a boost in morale, a boost in security in the offense, and at times a boost on the scoreboard.
Interestingly, Rudolph didn't have to do much against the Baltimore Ravens considering the putrid weather conditions. Instead, Pittsburgh had to do what the franchise chooses to do in most situations: rely on the running game and the defense to bleed out a hard-fought, if not ugly win.
Despite how ugly the game was with the cold rain and turnovers, the Steelers showed the kind of good to give Black and Gold fans some hope for fireworks in the playoffs should things fall their way. Still, enough improvements should be analyzed for the team moving forward, whether the season is over or not.
The Good: Steelers Took the Net Win in the Battle for the Line of Scrimmage
The Steelers won the game how they'd like to by winning the turnover margin (tying it works too) and controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
The "net" adjective is needed because the Steelers could not take the edge on rushing plays and Dan Moore Jr. had a particularly bad day in pass protection. These factors notwithstanding, the Steelers were stronger up front against the Ravens, with respect to how many players were sitting out for Baltimore.
Najee Harris had a big day on the ground, toting the rock for 112 yards on 26 carries, adding the first touchdown of the game. With those totals, Harris notched the first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games of his career and the first back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing season for any running back in Steelers history. While both of those stats are as bizarre as they are surprising, he deserves some recognition for his efforts.
Overall, the Steelers racked up 155 yards on the ground while holding the Ravens to 106. The difference may not be large, but the Ravens are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, with or without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore notched its 33rd-straight 100-yard rushing game as a team and nearly lost it if not for a late scramble by Tyler Huntley.
Without a strong rushing game to lean on, Baltimore was forced to rely on Huntley through the air without Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, or Mark Andrews, who was lost to the Ravens in the first matchup with the Steelers. That was a poor recipe for success for Baltimore.
Understandably, the circumstances of the game helped the Steelers tremendously, but Pittsburgh still had to play soundly enough to take a win away over their rivals for a chance to make the postseason. They did just that, which is all any Steelers fan can reasonably ask for at this point.