A win is good for the soul, or so the (made-up) saying goes. It’s also good for causing teams to move up a few spots in the latest power rankings entering Week 11.
The 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Acrisure Stadium did just that for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the latest NFL power rankings from NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus Tuesday morning. Following the much-needed win in Week 10 coming out of the bye week, the Steelers moved up three spots in the latest power rankings, improving from No. 28 overall to No. 25 overall, passing the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders.
With star outside linebacker T.J. Watt back in the fold and the addition of veteran safety Damontae Kazee, the Steelers looked like a much different team defensively, pitching a second-half shutout in the win over the Saints while forcing two turnovers and a turnover on downs.
Offensively, the Steelers had some serious juice in the run game as second-year running back Najee Harris had his best performance of the season, rushing for 99 yards on 20 carries, while backup undrafted free agent Jaylen Warren chipped in with nine carries for 37 yards, helping the Steelers rush for 217 yards as a team, the first time that’s happened since the 2016 season.
All that led to a three-spot improvement in the latest power rankings from Hanzus.
“The return of T.J. Watt means the Steelers won’t be getting pushed around anymore. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year didn’t fill up the box score on Sunday against the Saints, but he drew plenty of attention and created opportunities for teammates in a 20-10 win,” Hanzus writes regarding the Steelers’ ranking in the latest power rankings. “While Watt was getting up to speed, Najee Harris looked like a player who was finally getting on track. The second-year running back had 99 of Pittsburgh’s 217 rushing yards, ground production that took the pressure off Kenny Pickett, who threw for 199 yards without a turnover. This isn’t the most exciting football in the league, but the Steelers are just happy to get back to winning.”
It’s not going to be pretty — it might not be the rest of the season. That’s perfectly fine though, especially if it continues to be winning football for the black and gold.
Watt’s return very clearly provided a spark for a team down on its luck after an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8, sending the Steelers into the Week 9 bye week on a low note.
With Watt back in the fold though, the team responded in a major way, getting back to the style of football that head coach Mike Tomlin envisioned coming into the year: suffocating defense, a strong rushing attack, and a quarterback that could make just enough throws without turning the ball over, managing the game.
We’ll see if that formula works again in Week 11 at Acrisure Stadium against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, a team the Steelers already have a win in hand on after the Week 1 23-20 overtime victory.