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Steelers Climb Two Spots In Latest NFL Media Power Rankings Following Win Over Panthers

Needing a major response after being pushed around on their own home field in a rivalry matchup in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers went on the road in Week 15 and were the bullies in the matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

The black and gold dominated in the trenches on both sides of the football throughout the day, rushing for 156 yards and three touchdowns while holding the Panthers to just 21 yards rushing and recording five sacks in the win.

That performance on the road, which was rather dominant in all aspects, led to the Steelers climbing two spots in the latest power rankings from NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus Tuesday morning. 

Currently, the Steelers sit at No. 22 overall, climbing up from No. 24 last week, passing the likes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Panthers in the process to move to the fringe of the top 20 for the first time since the win over Tampa Bay in Week 6.

“You get the feeling that Mike Tomlin will eventually look back at this transition season in Pittsburgh and call it one of his most rewarding from a coaching perspective,” Hanzus writes regarding the Steelers’ placement at No. 22 overall. “Things could have been ugly as the Steelers quietly turned over their roster in a post-Big Ben era. Instead, Pittsburgh profiles as a young team that’s steadily improving as a long season nears its conclusion. We were reminded that as the Steelers out-executed the Panthers on both sides of the ball in a 24-16 win in Charlotte. Mitch Trubisky played mistake-free football in place of Kenny Pickett (concussion), and the Steelers punished the Panthers on third down, finishing 12-for-16 in those situations.

“This won’t be a playoff season in Pittsburgh, but the franchise reset is going according to plan.”

That last line from Hanzus is the most important one overall.

While the Steelers likely won’t be making the playoffs this season unless dramatic things happen that are out of their control (there’s still a chance!), the transition year from the post-Ben Roethlisberger and post-Kevin Colbert era has had its ups and downs but is very clearly trending in the right direction.

The offensive line has started to play much better as of late in the second half of the season, which in turn has allowed the run game to take over games. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has shown flashes at times of being a solid starting quarterback, while the trio of playmakers in the passing game in Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth and rookie wide receiver George Pickens have all flashed in major ways this season.

Defense remains a slight concern though, which is a bit surprising considering the Steelers have the highest-paid defense in football. The depth on the defensive line is a concern, and the inside linebacker room is mostly a mess. Same for the cornerback room. There’s some holes the Steelers will have to plug, but Sunday’s performance against the Panthers was a sign of what this team can be moving forward with a power rushing attack, a smart, safe quarterback and a dominant defense that controls the line of scrimmage.

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