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Tomlin Appreciates Harris, Freiermuth, McCloud Stepping Up To Secure Victory

Being a Pittsburgh Steeler means earning stripes against the Baltimore Ravens. That’s how seasons, including today, get defined. Sunday, young guys like Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, and Ray-Ray McCloud stepped up in big ways to secure the win and (almost certainly) keep the Steelers’ season alive.

Mike Tomlin praised all three and the team’s collective youth for another memory in football’s best rivalry.

“I’m just appreciative of it,” Tomlin said post-game via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “And particularly just some of those young ones. Najee sustained a elbow injury and was able to get himself back into the game and make significant plays for us.”

Harris was injured on the third play of the drive, a third down catch short of the sticks. He suffered an elbow injury, missing the rest of the first half due to it. He came out in the second half with a leaner-looking brace, and though some of his numbers don’t look pretty (11 carries for 28 yards is a far cry from his 188-yard performance), he made several key plays. In overtime, he made a one-handed catch to not only pick up a first down but probably save a Ravens’ pick-six that would’ve ended the game and the Steelers’ season, not to mention Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

Later in overtime, he bounced a run left side to get into much more makeable field goal range for Chris Boswell’s game-winner.

Freiermuth made key grabs, including a clutch third-down catch in overtime on third and long. It made up for a failed third down conversion earlier in the game.

“Pat had an opportunity to get a first down. He came up a little bit short in terms of lacking a little awareness there and we had to punt the ball. He came back and made a significant play.”

Freiermuth finished the day with six catches and a team-high 53 yards.

Ray-Ray McCloud has been the butt of plenty of jokes this year for his high usage. But he stepped up both in the return game and as a wide receiver, with two clutch grabs. One was a 20-yarder on the go-ahead fourth quarter drive, while the other came on 4th and 8 in overtime, leading to Boswell’s kick.

“Ray Ray had an opportunity to secure field goal position and force overtime. He didn’t. He came back and made a play.”

Sunday’s win was a team-effort offense, defense, and special teams. To win close games against the Ravens, that’s normally required.

“The growth and development of these young guys throughout this journey and the negativity that’s usually associated with growth and development did not take away from their efforts. They smiled in the face of it. And I’m just appreciative of that.”

Pittsburgh’s young guys smiled down the stretch, finding a way to sneak into the playoffs, assuming the Chargers and Raiders do not tie tonight. Now they’ll get to smile their way into the postseason.

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