Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Game 12 – Atlanta Falcons
1. Finish What You Started – Now that the offense has found its identity, I think we have a good idea of what we will see. A ball control, running offense that wins the time of possession aspect of the game. They are moving the ball well, putting together long drives. The dare is to say the offense looks solid. If they start finishing drives, turning 3’s into 7’s, these one score games will cease. Fourteen field goal attempts in the last four games with 12 makes. Turn half of those into touchdowns and they could be a team opponents won’t want to play the rest of the way.
2. Hangry Harris – He could be hungry and angry or happy and angry works also. Najee Harris looks really good right now. Some of it has to do with an offensive line that has found their way. Getting over the foot injury was huge. Using Jaylen Warren and now Benny Snell helps too. Over the last four games he has 310 yards rushing while averaging 4.62 yards per carry. He had 40 yards after contact versus Atlanta. Stiff armed another defender into the turf. The success of him and the running game determines the offensive success.
3. Left Side, Strong Side – Following up on that running success it would seem the majority of it comes on the left side running behind Dan Moore and Kevin Dotson. They are getting the push and sustaining the blocks allowing Harris to read and react to where the gap is located. He’s even had a chance to hit the hole without hesitation a few times. That’s something we haven’t seen in two years. Now if we could just get them to stop committing penalties seemingly every week.
4. Patterson Rules – Game planning for the best players on the other team is commonplace. It’s not often that player is a kick returner. When a player has nine career kick return touchdowns you take notice. Danny Smith had a plan. Kick it where he ain’t. First, they kicked it to the up back. Atlanta countered by putting Avery Williams back with Patterson. Williams is no slouch with nine kick/punt return TDs in college. They took their chances with him, and it worked. Somebody send Smith some gum, he earned it.
5. Deep Doubts – Kenny Pickett’s game is progressing. He has looked his best the last two weeks. The next step I’d like to see is with the deep shots. Right now, it feels like he needs to see that his receiver has won the rep and gotten over the top before releasing the ball. He holds on to the ball too long. It results in allowing defensive backs to catch up to his receiver or him taking big hits in the pocket. He needs to recognize his guy doesn’t need to be in an advantageous position before he throws it. Make a good throw to the right spot and let your teammate do his job.
6. Turf or Trip? – Practice this week should include learning how to make cuts on the move without stumbling. Maybe it was the turf monster causing the problems. Harris stumbled a couple times. Steven Sims had a full head of steam around the edge and looked wobbly making a cut and stopped a good gain. There seems to be a different odd issue with this team each week that leaves me shaking my head.
7. Fixing The Little Things – Continuing the head shaking notion let’s talk about Diontae Johnson. Statistically a solid day for him. He made a big catch late in the game to keep the chains moving and clock running. A drop on a crossing route happened but he’s gotten much better. Guys like Amari Cooper, Deebo Samuel, Stefon Diggs, Jaylen Waddle, Travis Kelce and Davante Adams all have more this year. He nearly fumbled but was saved by the “no one knows what a catch is” rule. The false start he committed bothers me. According to Pro Football Reference that is his 12th in his career. That seems like a lot for a wide receiver. That needs to stop. At least he ran forward with the ball this week.
8. Hanging In There – Quite possibly the best of his 132 career NFL punts. Pressley Harvin has taken a lot of heat from just about everybody. That punt late in the fourth quarter was perfection. He couldn’t have done it better. A high, hanging kick allowing his teammates to get down there. It hit on the one and bounced straight up pinning the Falcons deep. He is quietly having a much-improved year. His yards per punt are up almost two. His net yards per punt are up over three. It’s nice to see him bounce back from a rough season on and off the field.
9. Moving the Chains – As you may have heard on the broadcast, Derek Watt is now five for five on converting first downs on his rushing attempts. That includes four in the last four weeks. For his career has now converted 17 of 25 rushing attempts. Bet you didn’t know that. I dig it and happy to see they found a role for him. Now, what do they have to play off of it? Teams have seen it four times recently. They need to build in a play action off of it to take advantage of likely one-on-one coverage on the outside.
10. Team Defense – This game really seemed to be team effort. No one really stood out for me overall. Ten players had between three and seven tackles. There wasn’t a ton of pressure on the passer with just one sack and three quarterback hits. I thought Montravius Adams played pretty well overall but it I’m not sure anyone really was a star in this game. And that’s okay. If everyone is doing their job, you don’t need anyone to stand out. Make tackles and get off the field. Now, on to Raven’s Week.