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Steelers News: Mike Hilton hopeful to return to lineup vs. Falcons in Week 5

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the loser column after a poor performance vs. their divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens, at Heinz Field in prime time in Week 4. With the Atlanta Falcons coming into Heinz Field for a Week-5 matchup, the Steelers will need to improve on their 1-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we update some key injuries, most notably cornerback Mike Hilton

Let’s get to the news:

Free of pain, Steelers’ Hilton hoping to return against Falcons

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton still has some stiffness in his elbow, plus lingering fluid that is preventing him from fully extending it, but he is optimistic about returning Sunday afternoon when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Atlanta Falcons.

Hilton did not practice Wednesday and Friday last week and was limited to individual drills Thursday.

“The pain is pretty much out of the way,” Hilton said Monday. “If I get the full range of motion, I’ll be ready to go.”

Cameron Sutton replaced Hilton in the slot against the Ravens. The Steelers were without two regulars in Hilton and safety Morgan Burnett (groin). Safety Nat Berhe, who played in certain subpackages, left the game with a pectoral injury and was sporting a sling on his left arm Monday. Linebacker L.J. Fort was used in subpackages for the first time this season, logging 11 defensive snaps.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game,” Hilton said. “We know it’s the next-man-up mentality. Some guys have to step up and be in positions now with a couple guys down. We have guys that can do it, we just have to put it all together.”

Tim Benz: An airing of grievances after Steelers’ lackluster effort vs. Ravens

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Our inaugural ”Airing Of Grievances” column after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago was so wildly popular, I think we are going to have to make this a tradition after any defeat the Steelers suffer.

Heck, maybe some wins, too.

If there are any moving forward. With the way this season is going, there may be far more of the former than the latter.

There are plenty of grievances to air in the wake of Baltimore’s 26-14 victory Sunday night at Heinz Field.

Third-down offense

This is where the game was lost for the Steelers. Their third-down offense was an abomination.

The unit was 2 of 12 on third-down attempts. Most of that was due to horrid execution. There were misfired passes, a lack of open receivers and some blocks missed here and there.

Popcorn, as coach Mike Tomlin will probably say Tuesday.

Some of the play calls were atrocious, too.

• On the second possession of the game, on third-and-18, there was a short pass underneath to James Conner. It merely seemed to be an effort to get a few yards back before a punt. Already trailing 14-0, the Steelers appeared to concede that drive in a game where every possession was going to be necessary to come back.

• On third-and-3 from the Baltimore 20 after an Alex Collins fumble, Ben Roethlisberger lofted up a deep shot down the sideline to Antonio Brown right off the snap.

Why try that there? Even if Brown had single coverage, don’t you want Roethlisberger surveying the field with multiple options in the red zone on a possession-down like that instead of tossing up a 50-50 ball to Brown against a taller defender in Marlon Humphrey?

• On the first drive after halftime, the Steelers went three-and-out following a short pass to the left of the formation to Ryan Switzer. It lost 5 yards, and the team had to punt.

Third-down defense

Meanwhile, the Steelers defense “held” the Ravens to 8 of 17 on third downs. That looks decent on paper. But keep in mind, that includes two failed conversions where Baltimore was essentially winding down the clock at the end of each half. Plus, there was a lame “What the heck? If it’s there, it’s there” throw through the goal post from Joe Flacco on third-and-7 before Justin Tucker’s game-sealing field goal to make it 26-14.

”They converted third downs. They possessed the ball. We didn’t get off the field,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “That’s not a good recipe for success.

”It’s unfortunate. It sucks. I’m (ticked) off we didn’t get the job done.”

Yeah, that pretty much says it all.

Rotten starts

The Steelers have been dreadful when it comes to starting quickly at Heinz Field of late. Check out these numbers in the last three games at Heinz Field — the Jacksonville divisional-round playoff game and the two regular-season losses in 2018.

:::More in the link above:::

Ryan Switzer increasingly part of the Steelers’ offense

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ leading pass-catcher Sunday wasn’t All Pro Antonio Brown, nor was it emerging JuJu Smith-Schuster. In fact, it wasn’t any wide receiver or tight end – or even a starter.

It was Ryan Switzer.

Acquired the final week of the preseason from Oakland in a swap of late-round draft picks, Switzer caught all seven of the balls Ben Roethlisberger threw his way in the 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Including a second-half rush, Switzer had eight touches among the 21 offensive snaps he played.

Counting special teams (Switzer is the Steelers’ punt and kick returner) no skill player had more touches for the Steelers than Switzer. Perhaps even more notable than Switzer’s overall usage is that the Steelers often lined him up in the backfield in lieu of starting running back James Conner.

“I am just trying to continue to make a name for myself,” Switzer said, “continue to learn my role in this offense and continue to learn Ben’s trust and coaching staff’s trust.”

For a team that rarely took Le’Veon Bell off the field in recent years past, Conner sat out 13 of the Steelers’ 73 offensive snaps. Neither other running back on the team (Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels) played on offense Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin said the decision to use Switzer instead of Conner was “just personnel packages that we worked within.

“He’s a valuable component of our offense and has been a nice contributor.”

Le’Veon Bell’s absence finally catching up to Steelers

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

No matter how much the Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to separate themselves from Le’Veon Bell, his absence was deeply felt Sunday night.

The Steelers needed an equalizer to settle down the offense when things went awry in the second half of their 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. What they got was a near 5-1 ratio of pass to run in their most physical rivalry.

The Steelers always knew they would miss Bell, who’s still sitting out with an unsigned franchise tag as the team explores trading him. Otherwise, teammates wouldn’t have responded so fiercely to his absence in Week 1. They knew he changed the dynamic.

As a counter, players and coaches sold a bold new attack behind James Conner, who runs hard and is a better pass-catcher than advertised.

Still, the transition from All-Pro to first-year starter manifested in Conner’s 19 yards on nine carries Sunday. The Steelers were outmatched regardless of the running back in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City, but this week felt different as Baltimore ran 30 times for 96 yards.

Several Steelers pointed to the Ravens’ quick 14-0 lead as a reason to abandon the run.

”The run game, as long as we’re efficient, we’re getting yards here or there,” guard Ramon Foster said. “You get behind the chains a little bit and you have to throw it. That’s not an issue to be frantic about. We’re a team that always finds a way.”

Foster is saying the right things, but getting “yards here or there” doesn’t sound like the tone-setting offense the Steelers’ line wants to be.