As the late Al Davis used to say, “Just win baby.”
And that’s what the Pittsburgh Steelers did for the second time in their last two tries, as they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24-17 at SoFi Stadium. Here are seven knee-jerk takeaways from the contest.
1. Kenny Pickett continues to be a maestro in the 4th quarter
A common theme has developed for the Steelers’ young quarterback- he looks pedestrian through three quarters, and then authors his best drives when it matters the most in the fourth quarter. Pickett now has six game-winning drives in 18 career starts. In the 2nd half, Pickett was 11/12 for 152 yards. This was arguably his best game as a member of the black and gold, and he didn’t even throw for a touchdown.
2. TJ Watt is a large part of the Steelers offense
When the Steelers’ offense can’t get it going, TJ Watt usually finds a way to make it happen by himself. He’s the definition of a one-man wrecking crew. In my opinion, his interception off Matthew Stafford on the first play in the second half was the biggest play of the game.
The Steelers could barely muster a first down, but were able to score their first touchdown of the game without having to move the chains, as Pickett scored the first rushing touchdown of the season on a quarterback sneak following the Watt interception.
3. The Steelers are allowed to have two good running backs
The Najee Harris-Jaylen Warren debate is never-ending. Each week, a sector of Steelers fans rush (pun intended) to aggressively make the case that one is better than the other. Can we just agree that two solid running backs equals one good back? The two combined for 85 rushing yards on 20 carries against the Rams, and both Harris and Warren scored rushing touchdowns. They were both big-time factors, so let’s put the debates to rest for at least a week.
4. The secondary continues to struggle against top wide receivers
Most teams struggle against top-flight NFL receivers. However, the magnitude to which the Steelers’ defensive backs, specifically Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson have struggled, is eye-popping. Yes, they did a great job controlling Cooper Kupp. However, you can add Puka Nacua to the list of opposing receivers with big performances against the Steelers secondary:
- Week 1. vs. San Francisco - Brandon Aiyuk had eight catches for 129 yards and one TD.
- Week 2 vs. Cleveland - Amari Cooper had seven catches for 90 yards.
- Week 3. vs. Las Vegas - Davante Adams hauled in 13 passes for 172 yards and two TDs.
- Week 4. vs Houston - Nico Collins went off for seven catches 168 yards and 2 TDs.
- Week 5 vs. Baltimore - Zay Flowers - five catches for 73 yards.
- Week 6 vs. Los Angeles - Puka Nacua - eight receptions for 154 yards.
Something needs to change...
5. Joey Porter Jr. is legit, and could be the answer in the secondary
The eye test tells us all that the Steelers rookie cornerback is currently the best option on the team in the backend. Head Coach Mike Tomlin said that Porter “looked like he stood up like a big dog.” I agree that his bark matched his bite.
He’s the most physical presence the Steelers have on the outside, and his length makes it difficult for quarterbacks to fit the ball into the tight windows he’s manifesting. We’ve been clamoring for more Porter Jr. and we got it. I think we’ll continue to get even more.
6. It’s nice to have Diontae Johnson back
Johnson is one of the most underrated receivers in football. He returned from injury with five catches for 79 yards and was a safety blanket for Pickett throughout the contest. He’s an elite route-runner, has great hands, and always seems to find the soft spot in the defense. I firmly believe that the running game was able to open up because the Rams defense had to account for two legitimately good receivers on the outside. Which brings me to my last point.
7. George Pickens is dramatic... but sensational
Sometimes you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Pickens had two moments that the coaches won’t be proud of. He had a clutch first down on a slant route in the third quarter that was nullified by a taunting call. And then later in the game, he gave his quarterback an earful as he was frustrated with the offense (can you blame him?) - who knows, maybe that was the inspiration the offense needed.
But my overall point here is that when Pickens has an elite game, which he did, hauling in five passes for 107 yards, he gets a pass. Literally and figuratively.
Mike Tomlin has now won seven straight games following a bye week. Next up, the Steelers will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Acrisure Stadium at 1:00 PM ET on Sunday, October 29th, looking to make it three consecutive wins.