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Week 13 Steelers Vs Falcons – What To Watch For

The Pittsburgh Steelers are winners of two out of their last three, and for this season in particular, that’s actually saying something. Sitting at 4-7 with six games left to go, this team isn’t giving up on the idea of making the postseason, which is their goal every year under any circumstance.

To do that, they’re going to have to start doing something they haven’t been able to do all year, and do it in a major way: start stacking wins. Their first three wins this year were all followed by losses, usually multiple losses. But they can ill afford to lose any more than one game for the rest of the year if they actually hope to get into the postseason.

Most fans seemingly don’t want that of course because they’ve given up on the season and would gladly trade a higher draft pick for a losing season, but the Steelers haven’t indicated any intentions to that end. They feel they already have their quarterback in Kenny Pickett, anyway, so there’s perhaps less incentive to maximize that first rounder.

But that may have much to do with what happens over the next six games. How will Pickett continue to grow during that time? He’s clearly made strides and is starting to win. His offense has put up 54 points over the past two games, which is nothing to sneeze at certainly.

There are some throws he’s missing, hots he’s not hitting, minor things that he can learn or fix. But the biggest issue has been execution in the red zone. The offense as a whole has been improving in that area, going 5-for-8 in the red zone over the past two weeks, but he must grow there individually as well.

That will be less of a short-term concern if the running game can continue the rise that we’ve seen. Hopefully the Steelers will have a full complement of running backs today, nobody ruled out, with Najee Harris returning after exiting last week’s game with an oblique injury. Jaylen Warren practiced all week but is listed as questionable after missing the previous outing.

Defensively, they must be mindful of the Falcons’ run game, particularly with the threat of quarterback Marcus Mariota using his legs. He’s one of three players on that offense with 400-plus rushing yards, so the front line has to stay disciplined and keep him in the pocket.

Mariota has found the end zone through the air 14 times as well. That’s not great for most offenses—it ranks 21st in the NFL—but it’s frankly more than I was expecting before I looked up the numbers, considering they’ve only thrown the ball 276 times this year. And those touchdowns have been distributed widely, rookie wide receiver Drake London the only one with more than two at twice that.

Special teams continues to be an area of concern, especially after the major stepback last week from the kick return game. Cordarrelle Patterson is a big-time threat in that regard. Hopefully the return of some core special teamers this week helps that, but as Mike Tomlin said, the issues go beyond personnel there.

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