In a season that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers finish 9-8 and just narrowly miss out on making the playoffs in the AFC, there were quite a few highs and lows in 2022 for the black and gold.
A slow start that saw them sitting at 2-6 entering the Week 9 bye before closing the season on a hot note, finishing 7-2 down the stretch showed it was a tale of two halves of the season for Pittsburgh.
That said, for NFL.com’s Nick Shook, the best win and worst loss of the season for the Steelers occurred in that entertaining second half of the season, as the Around the NFL writer pegged the win on Christmas Eve over the Las Vegas Raiders as the Steelers’ best win in 2022, and the Week 14 loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens as the team’s worst loss Wednesday in a piece highlighting the best win and worst loss for all 32 teams last season.
Of course, the background on the Raiders game and subsequent win are well known at this point.
Just one day removed from the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and just a few days after the tragic, shocking death of Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who was set to have his number retired at halftime, the Steelers pulled out the win late in dramatic fashion in Week 16.
“This win accomplished two important goals: 1) it kept the Steelers in the playoff hunt, and 2) it proved Kenny Pickett can be the quarterback of the future,” Shook writes, labeling the 13-10 win over the Raiders on Christmas Eve the Steelers’ best win from the 2022 season. “Pittsburgh intercepted Derek Carr three times and held Davante Adams to two catches for 15 yards — but while defense can win championships, an NFL team is nothing without a quality quarterback. Pickett demonstrated on a 76-yard drive (which used 2:09 of game clock) that he has the goods. Pittsburgh ended up staying in the playoff race until the fourth quarter of Week 18. That wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Christmas Eve heroics of Pickett and Co. — including George Pickens, who connected with Pickett on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left.”
That night on Christmas Eve in a rather emotional setting following the death of Harris, things weren’t going well overall for the Steelers, as they trailed 10-6 late in the game despite a dominant defensive performance against Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams to that point.
Then, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett took a significant step forward in his development, leading the Steelers right down the field. Pickett found tight end Pat Freiermuth for gains of 17 and 10 yards, running back Najee Harris for 19 yards out of the backfield, and later converted a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1, setting up his game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie George Pickens, starting the Pickett late-game heroics story in impressive fashion.
Cornerback Cameron Sutton then picked off Carr two plays later, sealing the win on Christmas Eve.
While the Steelers were riding high after that win, and then the Week 17 win on the road in Baltimore in which Pickett led another game-winning drive, this time finding Najee Harris for a score on a broken play, the Steelers’ worst loss that ultimately kept them out of the playoffs in the end was the Week 14 loss at home against the Baltimore Ravens.
In that one, Pickett was lost for the game early in the first quarter with a concussion, forcing backup Mitch Trubisky into the game.
“Pittsburgh had more than a few winnable games end in the opposition’s favor, but I chose this Ravens loss because of the ramifications of the defeat and how it happened,” Shook writes regarding the Steelers’ worst loss of the season. “Baltimore entered with backup Tyler Huntley at quarterback and was later forced to turn to rookie Anthony Brown, setting up what should have been a quality opportunity for the Steelers. Instead, they let J.K. Dobbins run right through them to the tune of 120 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. Pittsburgh couldn’t put any points on the board in the second half until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. If they had won, the Steelers might have been able to secure a playoff berth with their Week 18 domination of Cleveland rather than watching the Dolphins claim the final spot in the AFC.”
The Steelers had the game right there for the taking as Lamar Jackson was out, Tyler Huntley ultimately left the game with an injury, and the passing game was non-existent for the Ravens. Still, they couldn’t stop the run as J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards put the game away.
It shouldn’t have been that close though as Trubisky made some plays coming into the game, putting the Steelers in scoring position multiple times. Three interceptions killed any hopes though as the veteran quarterback, who lost his job to Pickett at halftime in Week 4 against the New York Jets, couldn’t stay out of his own way.
The loss really stung as the Steelers didn’t lose again that season. Win that very winnable game against the Ravens and there was a good chance at 10-7 the Steelers would have been in the AFC playoffs once again.