All of a sudden, the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 13 win has them entering the playoff conversation. With their narrow 19-16 win in Week 13, they now jump to 5-7 and have three games left against teams under .500. After a win last weekend in Indianapolis, the Steelers traveled to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for a Week 13 matchup. Using a sound running game and a clutch interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh pushed past Atlanta for their second consecutive win. It is also worth noting that this was the first time the Steelers have had consecutive wins all year.
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Interception Seals Fifth Win, Pushes Steelers Into Playoff Conversation
A week after a comeback win against Indy, Pittsburgh started the game off strong. They scored 16 of their 19 points in the first half but found the board once in the second half. They will have to be more consistent and spread out in scoring if they want to continue to win. The running game was good again, as the rushing unit amassed 150 yards after earning 172 last week. The Falcons broke down the lead in the third and fourth quarters but a Minkah Fitzpatrick interception stopped the Falcons from advancing any further. With the win, the Steelers move to 5-7 on the year and now look to a matchup at home against the Baltimore Ravens.
Steelers Strike Twice in Quick First Quarter
Although they failed to reach the end zone early, the Steelers nabbed two field goals in the first quarter to start off with a 6-0 lead. Both of their early scores came off the leg of Matthew Wright, who knocked through consecutive attempts from 46 yards. The Steelers started off with their normal spread attack and took off a reasonable chunk of time for just two possessions.
Pittsburgh Takes Ten-Point Lead Into Halftime
Atlanta found their first points of the day early in the second quarter. After a 42-yard drive, Atlanta was stalled after Cameron Heyward notched an important sack. Younghoe Koo knocked through a 50-yard field goal to bring the score to 6-3. But the Steelers had an answer right away; Kenny Pickett found Pat Freiermuth for a 57-yard reception, a catch-and-run for the second-year tight end. From Atlanta’s 17, Pickett found Connor Heyward for the first touchdown of the year. Both teams added a field goal to put the score at 16-6 heading into halftime; Koo knocked through a 51-yarder for Atlanta and Wright had a 48-yarder for Pittsburgh.
.@kennypickett10 hits @ConnorHeyward1 for six‼️
📲 Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/E0NYNUAdNa pic.twitter.com/6LLzL1jSHa
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 4, 2022
Falcons Slowly Climb Back
The Steelers have been susceptible to third-quarter letdowns this year and it was no different in Week 13. The team never gave up the lead at any point, but the Steelers always find a way to make games interesting. After a Falcons punt to open the half, the Steelers were able to add a 33-yard field goal after a 14-play, 75-yard drive. But Atlanta answered quickly, scoring their first and only touchdown of the day after a strong drive running the ball. Marcus Mariota found tight end MyCole Pruitt for a seven-yard score to make it a six-point game.
Steelers Pull Ahead For Good After Limiting Atlanta’s Passing Game
With just twelve seconds gone in the fourth quarter, Atlanta started a possession that would take up nine minutes. They moved the ball slowly but surely but stalled in the red zone following a holding penalty. This moved the game to a 19-16 battle but neither team scored again. The Steelers took most of the time off the clock and punted; Pressley Harvin’s second punt of the day pinned the Falcons at their own two-yard line with just 42 seconds to go. On the first play, Mariota was picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who notched his team-leading fourth interception of the year. This sealed the deal for Pittsburgh and earned them their fifth win of the year.
Offense Growing but Growing Pains Evident
Pickett Plays Clean, Serviceable Football
Kenny Pickett may not play like an MVP every week but he has consistently played well enough. Pickett added 197 passing yards and a touchdown in the Week 13 win. Now, Pickett sits at 1600 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie campaign. The win also makes it three consecutive wins for the young quarterback and he has not turned the ball over once in that span. Pickett also added 14 more yards on the ground but was limited by the Falcons’ decent defense. As I said, he doesn’t play amazingly every week but he plays well enough to get the win.
Harris, Others Lead Strong Rushing Game
Najee Harris continued his hot streak in Week 13, totaling 86 yards on 17 carries. Before leaving early last week with an injury, Harris had 99 and 90 yards respectively in the two most recent games. He has really turned it around after the bye week and is looking like one of the best backs in all of football. A week after playing a great game, Benny Snell finished second in rushing with six carries for 24 yards. Overall, Pittsburgh ran the ball 37 times for a grand total of 154 yards, for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. That number is slightly lower than in their recent hot streak but it is still serviceable for a team who had been struggling to run the ball.
Frustration in Receiving Group
There have been many up-and-down games for the Steelers’ receiving group this year. The core is on pace to have a historically-poor season and looked no better in the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 13 win. The highlight receiver was Freiermuth, who had just three catches but for 76 yards. Diontae Johnson added six catches for 50 yards but did that on eleven targets. Johnson had several missed opportunities and a couple of drops and scares that didn’t help him out at all. George Pickens had just one catch for two yards on a measly two targets and was visibly frustrated. Pickens slammed his helmet down and had to be calmed down. Rightfully so, as he got just two targets all game despite a usually-heavy workload. Connor Heyward struck gold in the second quarter, catching his first NFL touchdown from 17 yards out. The catch was just his seventh catch all year but proved to be an important one.
Defense Strong and Clutch, But Have Visible Holes
The defense played pretty well once again, holding the opponent to just 16 points. They held Mariota to just 167 passing yards but struggled against a heavy rushing attack. Atlanta ran the ball 28 times and got 146 yards against the sometimes-porous Pittsburgh defense. Minkah Fitzpatrick led the team in tackles with seven, including one for loss, and had the game-sealing interception. Cameron Heyward got the only sack of the day but the front line did pretty well putting pressure on Mariota.
A little Minkah Magic for yinz 🪄 @minkfitz_21
📲 Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/E0NYNURgPa pic.twitter.com/vQSiQAmVki
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 4, 2022
Heyward Brothers Shine As Players, Leaders In Return Home
In their return to their childhood state of Georgia, the Heyward brothers showed out in an emotional game. Their father, Craig Heyward, passed away nearly 15 years ago but the two dedicated their play to their father. Before the game, Cam said that both he and Connor visited their father’s grave. They certainly made him proud, as Cam played well on defense and Connor notched his first career touchdown.
Although Cam played well on the field, he is also deserving of recognition for what he did on the sidelines. He was seen talking to George Pickens and settling him down after his outburst of frustration. Cam is a great leader on and off the field, and it was even more evident with this specific incident.
Steelers Have a Chance to Make It Back to .500+ Football
Although the Steelers are still a few games behind the rest of the pack, they still have a chance. Their odds increased after the win and their schedule looks to be a lot easier now following some developing news. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a rather-serious knee injury in their game today and could be out a “few days to a few weeks.” It is unlikely that Jackson suits up next week but there is still a week to see how he feels. Without Jackson, the Ravens offense will struggle but ultimately not fall flat with Tyler Huntley. He is a more than capable backup who has a similar play style to Jackson. If the Steelers can beat him/Jackson next week, they have a very winnable game against the Carolina Panthers the week after.
If they continue to play well, Pittsburgh should have seven wins total after the next two games and should be back to a .500 record at 7-7. Obviously, these games still have to be played but the Steelers are likely going to be favored in both. If they notch both of those wins, they will control their own destiny in the last three games. There, they will play the Raiders on Christmas Eve and then the Ravens and Browns in the final two weeks of the season. With the win, Pittsburgh moved from 14th in the AFC standings up to 12th (technically 10th place but lower due to tiebreakers). These next few games will tell the tale, but they will ultimately be in control of their own destiny if they happen to win each of the next two games. However, a loss will almost surely knock them out of the race for good.