Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren Lead Pittsburgh Steelers to Week 17 Win

Steelers Week 17

In Week 14, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell narrowly to their divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens. It was a close loss, as the team fell by just two points by a score of 16-14. The team was very upset with the loss and vowed to change things in their next matchup in Week 17. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards ran all over the Steelers in their first matchup, but Pittsburgh did a much better job containing them this week. The Steelers prevailed in Week 17 thanks to a last-minute touchdown and got back to a .500 record with just one game left in the season.

Najee Harris’ Touchdown Brings Pittsburgh Steelers Back to .500 Record With Just One Game Left

The Steelers knew this game would be a challenge, especially given their matchup last time around. They only fell by two points but had four critical mistakes that could’ve changed the game. Three interceptions and a blocked field goal took tons of points off the board in Week 14, but Pittsburgh turned it around this time. The biggest keys for the Steelers were stopping the run and limiting turnovers. They did well meeting those goals but struggled to come around on offense until late in the game. The offense came alive, scored ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter, and ultimately earned a 16-13 win. With the win, the Steelers moved back to .500 with a record of 8-8.  Surprisingly, they remain alive in the playoff hunt with just one week to go.

Game Summary

Quick First Three Quarters End With Low Scores

Each team only had one possession in the first quarter as each drive took nearly eight minutes. The Steelers opened the game with a 15-play, 73-yard drive that stalled in the red zone and ended in a field goal. The Ravens answered with a 15-play drive themselves that also ended in a field goal. Both teams exchanged punts before some real action occurred again. The Steelers moved 44 yards down the field but a 48-yard field goal attempt hit the upright and was no good. In the waning minutes of the half, the Ravens went down the field but stalled on a fourth-and-nine at the Steelers’ 15. But a scrum after the third-down play led to a weak personal foul called against Cam Heyward.

With an absolute gift, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley found tight end Isaiah Likely for a seven-yard touchdown. This score put Baltimore up 10-3 at halftime and gave them significant momentum heading into the crucial second half. The Ravens opened the third quarter with a drive ending in a 51-yard field goal by Justin Tucker; this made the score 13-3. But that would be the last time Baltimore scored. The Steelers kept it close by getting a field goal on each of their next two drives, and brought the score to 13-9 by the time the fourth quarter took force.

Steelers Use Big Fourth Quarter In Week 17 Win

The Ravens punted on each of their next two drives and the Steelers did the same on their possession in between. With 4:16 left in the game, the Steelers’ offense took the field needing a touchdown to keep their season alive. Kenny Pickett found Pat Freiermuth for a gain of 20 and Steven Sims for a gain of 28 on the game-winning drive. On a third down from Baltimore’s ten, Pickett found Najee Harris in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The Ravens tried their best to get into field goal range, but a second down throw from Huntley sailed away and it was picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick, his sixth of the year. The interception sealed the deal as the Steelers notched their eighth win to keep them alive with one week to play.

Offense Struggles To Score Until Late

Kenny Pickett Clutch In Fourth Quarter

Pickett struggled due to a gameplan in which he wasn’t needed much at all. He attempted a season-low in pass attempts (27) in games he has started and finished this year. He completed 15 of those passes for a rather poor completion percentage of just 55.6%. Pickett only mustered 168 yards through the air but added one touchdown, the game-winner, to his line. He was a little shaky early on but was clutch on the last drive, going 5/6 for 64 yards and the touchdown pass to Harris. Pickett has fallen victim to a lackluster passing scheme but has had growing pains all year. Hopefully, things will get better in the coming years, because the team cannot continue to suffer by scoring just about 15 points a game.

Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren Lead Devastating Rushing Attack

The defense was concerned with stopping the run but the offense was concerned with igniting the run game. In the last matchup with the Ravens, Najee Harris had just 33 yards and Jaylen Warren had just 11. But in Week 17, the two exploded and led the Steelers’ ground attack for nearly 200 yards. Harris finished with 22 carries for 111 hard-fought yards while Warren earned 76 on 12 carries. Overall, Pittsburgh ran the ball 41 times for 198 yards and had several runs of 15+ yards to keep drives alive.

One interesting thing is that the offensive line has taken a big step forward. Last year, they were abysmal and among the league’s worst. But this year, the unit has cemented itself as a middle-of-the-pack line at worst. They are a little shaky from week-to-week but were very impressive in a matchup with the strong, physical Ravens.

Receiving Game Good But Takes Hit With Poor Gameplan

The receivers made plays when called upon but suffered from Pickett only throwing 15 completed passes. No single receiver had more than three catches but nevertheless they made each one count. Pat Freiermuth finished with three catches for 36 yards while WR1 Diontae Johnson finished right behind him with 35 yards on just two catches. Steven Sims added 34 yards on three catches and George Pickens had two catches for 29 yards including a spectacular diving catch. Out of the backfield, Jaylen Warren had 22 receiving yards on three catches which put him at 98 total scrimmage yards. Najee Harris also added two catches for 12 yards and the only touchdown on the day.

Defense Steps Up But Has Obvious Holes

Run Defense Makes Plays, Holds Strong But Allows Several Breakouts

One of the biggest issues against the Ravens in Week 14 was containing the run. No offense to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, but they aren’t the greatest running backs in the league. But they ran for a season-high 215 yards against the Steelers defense which really hurt the unit’s reputation. They held the NFL’s leading rusher, Josh Jacobs, to under 50 yards last week but struggled to contain Dobbins and Edwards in the first matchup. This time, Dobbins was narrowly held under 100 yards, gathering 93 on 17 carries. The run defense was certainly better than before but they let Dobbins loose for several gains of 15+ yards. In fact, they held him in check and to short gains for most of the game, and those long runs really boosted his line.

Pass Defense Sound, Other Than Covering Mark Andrews

The passing defense held Tyler Huntley to just 130 yards in the air and another 24 on the ground. Huntley finished with one touchdown but also one interception, the game-sealer to Fitzpatrick. He was sacked only once, with a ten-yard loss by T.J. Watt being the lone one. The secondary played very well, allowing just five catches for 30 yards to their top two wide receivers and the second tight end. But their biggest struggle was containing Mark Andrews. He finished with nine catches for 100 yards, a whopping 77% of the Ravens’ passing yards. The Steelers frequently left either clueless or undersized linebackers on him and it resulted in several big gains for the big target. Other than Andrews, the entire passing unit played well and put pressure on Huntley a lot, forcing him to scramble for minimal gains at most.

A Chance To Make The Playoffs?

The Pittsburgh Steelers started 2-6. Since then, they have won six of their last eight and crept back to an 8-8 record. Surprisingly, the team actually has a chance to make it to the playoffs as the seventh seed. Next week, they will need three games to go their way in order to make it into the playoffs. First and most obvious, the Steelers will need to win their own game (54% chance to do so). They face off against their bitter rival, the Cleveland Browns, at home to finish the 2022 season. With a win, they’d finish with an unexpected record of 9-8 and remain right in the chase for that final spot. They also need the Bills to beat the Patriots (78% chance of happening) but the big kicker is this last game. They will need the 7-9 New York Jets to beat the Miami Dolphins (just 33% chance). Granted, Miami will be without several key players potentially including their starting and backup quarterbacks.

There is just a 14% chance that all of this happens and the Steelers do indeed sneak in. Regardless of how next week turns out, it has been a fantastic but unexpected ride for the Steelers. Going from a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger to a rookie quarterback, along with several roster and coaching shakeups, is really hard. The team has made their mistakes and lost quite a few games that they should’ve won, but considering the fact that this team was supposed to go 5-12 or 6-11, they have certainly defied those expectations.