The Pittsburgh Steelers are starting to hit a bit of a stride, and a winnable game against the Green Bay Packers set up a perfect opportunity to build on some momentum for the Black and Gold.
The Steelers came out of the gate swinging, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives and tacking a field goal on the third. The offense cooled down significantly after those points, but the improvements are still welcome. Most of that improvement is in the run game. For the second straight week, the Steelers looked at a top-15 run defense and pounded the rock with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
Kenny Pickett regressed in this game overall but he did protect the football. He wasn't without turnover-worthy plays though. Both of his big fourth-quarter throws were wiped away, which made his final statsheet look even more ugly.
Defensively it was more bending and a cap on the breaking. Jordan Love at one point had converted a third of his completed passes for touchdowns. The Packers offense was able to move the ball between the thirties somewhat easily, but being limited to field goals was ultimately their undoing.
Keanut Benton won't make the good portion of the article, but his performance is more than worthy of mention. The rookie out of Wisconsin had a dominating performance from start to finish.
Patrick Peterson also had his best game in a Steelers uniform. He blocked a PAT in the first half that forced Green Bay to go for a touchdown late. Later in the fourth quarter, Peterson tipped a pass away from Christian Watson to Keanu Neal for what would appear to be a game-winning interception.
Pittsburgh had opportunities early to make for a much easier win, but that hasn't been the standard for some time. Nonetheless, the Steelers were able to survive for yet another one-score victory. Along the way, the Steelers showed more good, plenty of bad, and a frustrating amount of ugly.
The Good: The Steelers Running Game Continues to Grow
The Steelers have found life offensively with its running game. The Green Bay Packers came in with a top-10 run defense, and bigger names in its front seven than the Titans last week. Even still, Harris and Warren combined for 183 yards as the team went over 200.
Starting with Jaylen Warren, he had one less carry than Harris and picked up his first career 100-yard game on the ground after eclipsing the century mark from scrimmage last week. Warren is hitting holes and breaking tackles with a game-changing presence. His vision is top notch and the extra bit he gives the offense at the end of each play is a massive difference-maker.
Harris had fewer yards, but he was dynamic in his own right, just missing the century mark on his total yardage. Harris had his fifth run of over 20 yards and is dragging defenders for hidden extra yardage.
The lone gripe with Harris is he has to stop hurdling unnecessarily and begin to understand that he is stronger than quick at this stage of his football career and onward. He's seeing the field better, which is great, he's finishing strong too. But once he starts lowering his shoulder and leaning into how strong and balanced he is as a runner, he'll take his next step as a player.
A lot of the changes within the running game can be attributed to play calling. Harris is getting more power-designed runs while Warren is getting the zone gives. That leans into both players' strengths and forces the defense to respect more nuance within Pittsburgh's offense. Credit to Matt Canada for making that fix.
It's also worth pointing out, of course, that the offensive line is playing its part. Broderick Jones brings so much to the table, especially with his ability to move in space and hit his targets with force. Isaac Seamalu also had his best game as a Steeler this week and should be appreciated for his efforts against Green Bay.