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Knee-jerk analysis: Rudolph & the run game run wild as the Steelers inch closer to the playoffs

The Steelers ride their quarterback and run game to another 30 point performance

Pittsburgh Steelers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

If it wasn’t clear already, it is now- Mason Rudolph is the best quarterback on the Steelers’ roster, and he saved Pittsburgh’s season as they won their second straight game by the score of 30-23 over the Seattle Seahawks. The win also marks the first time that the Steelers have scored 30 points in consecutive games since Weeks 5 and 6 in 2020.

This game was such an inverse of what he have been accustom to over the last two years. In that time span, if the Steelers won, it was because their defense carried their offense in a low-scoring, gritty win that was as stressful as it was ugly. This week, it was the Steelers’ offense carrying the defense through injuries, and putting up enough points to get the W.

Let’s start with Mason Rudolph, because for the second straight week, he played his tail off. He finished the evening 18-of-24 for 274 yards and a passer rating of 112.2. Over the last two weeks, he has averaged 282 yards per game while posting a passer rating of 117.8. he has looked poised in the pocket, he’s made all the right decisions and all of the throws needed to make this offense explosive. He is bringing out the best in George Pickens (7 catches, 131 yards) and Diontae Johnson (4 catches, 76 yards), as well as Pat Freiermuth (3 catches, 44 yards) who had been invisible for the last month. This is Rudolph’s team for the rest of the year. No matter what Kenny Pickett’s health is going into Week 18, there is no way the Steelers can fathomably bench Rudolph after what he’s done the last two weeks.

How about the run game, as well? Najee Harris ran the ball 27 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, while Jaylen Warren picked up 75 yards on 13 carries for a score of his own. The Steelers totaled 202 yards on the ground for the day. Harris did a great job of staying north-and-south and just powering his way for yards. Warren had a few pop plays, including his touchdown on an 18-yard carry that set the tone for the Steelers early on. Pittsburgh finished with 468 yards of total offense, which is their most total yardage offensively since 2018.

Defensively, we knew it was going to be rough with all of the injuries in the middle of the field and in the secondary. That said, they came up when it mattered most. The Steelers held the Seahawks to just three third-down conversions on nine tries, and Seattle had 17 first downs to the Steelers’ 25. There were lapses that led to D.K. Metcalf having a big day (5 catches, 106 yards) and Noah Fant had a nice day at tight end (5 catches, 59 yards), but outside of that, most of the Seahawks passing game was check downs to Zach Charbonnet, which the Steelers did a good job of stuffing out. Eric Rowe led the team in tackles, and very nearly had his second interception in as many games in the first quarter. Markus Golden showed some flash, as well with three hits on Geno Smith- nice showing from No. 44. I thought nickel cornerback Chandon Sullivan also had a nice game, making a key third-down tackle, and the Seahawks’ slot demon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba had just one catch. While, yes, it was a touchdown, keeping him largely in check was a big win for the Steelers.

The play of the game though went to Nick Herbig, who strip-sacked Geno Smith and recovered the fumble, which set up a late field goal to put the Steelers up 10 and put the game game out of reach for Seattle.

Was it perfect? Of course not. It was never going to be with the amount of injuries Pittsburgh had. But without Minkah Fitzpatrick and Elandon Roberts, as well as all of the other linebackers and safeties the Steelers have lost this season, they got the job done. And with a win, and either a loss by the Bills or Jaguars, they’ll be playoff bound.