The Pittsburgh Steelers offense looked like a breath of fresh air in Week 12. Just five days after firing the troubled coordinator Matt Canada, the offense seemingly broke out. The team collected their seventh win of the year while moving up to the fifth spot in the AFC. Pittsburgh marched into a hostile environment in Cincinnati and got the job done against the stingy Bengals. The Bengals had just lost Joe Burrow for the year last week but still stayed in the game close to the end. The 16-10 win in Week 12 gives the Steelers a record of 7-4 as they approach two very winnable games.
Kenny Pickett, Steelers Offense Take Big Step Forward in Week 12 Divisional Win
Offense Looks Much Better Overall in First Game with Interim Coaches
Early on in Week 12, there were mum talks about the pace of the Steelers offense. The team had well over 100 yards after the first quarter and well over 200 in the second quarter. This put the team on pace for a potential 400-yard game, something that the offense hadn’t accomplished since before Matt Canada’s coaching term. In the first game without Canada, the offense compiled 421 yards, the most in a game since the 2020 season. Overall, the offense looked a lot better overall by using the middle of the field more and having fewer three-and-outs. Big props to the players on offense and the interim coordinators for putting together a decent game plan in just five days!
Kenny Pickett Assembles Career Game
In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 12 game against Cincinnati, Kenny Pickett showed up and balled out. The second-year quarterback out of Pitt assembled one of the best games of his young and promising career. He threw for 278 yards (highest total all season, second-best in career) while completing 72.7% of his passes. Pickett was mostly efficient and used the middle of the field well for the first time all year. He did have a couple poor decisions in response to pressure, but nothing ended up being too harmful. Pickett put together his seventh-straight game without an interception as he continues that strong conservative stretch. I would like to see Pickett start scoring more, as he has just six passing touchdowns through 12 weeks. But a win is a win and all you can do is get ready for next week now.
Run Game Again Useful but Week 12 Results are Shocking
The Steelers’ running back tandem of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren again were very productive in Week 12. The duo combined for 148 yards on 28 carries (good for about 5.3 yards per carry), with Harris also scoring a touchdown. In the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the highly explosive Jaylen Warren, and rightfully so. But in Week 12, Warren was mostly contained, and it was Harris who instead led the way. He compiled 99 yards on 15 runs while also getting into the end zone for the only touchdown of the day. Harris ran hard and angry all game, and even had two runs of 20+ yards. Both backs have been playing well and it seems that the team should just roll with the hot hand for that particular week.
Freiermuth Leads Receiving Corps With Season-High Mark
The receiving core did a decent job in Week 12 in a support role for Kenny Pickett. Pat Freiermuth exploded for 120 yards on nine catches, his best game this season by far. He entered the game with 60 yards all year, but the big Week 12 performance of 120 yards tripled his yardage production. He was open over the middle of the field a lot and converted several big third downs. The Steelers need him to be a safe target, and he was just that and some more in the win. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens also had 50 and 58 yards, respectively. Obviously, one would like these totals to be higher but with Freiermuth’s big day, it’s expected and perfectly fine.
These three all having 50+ receiving yards marks the first time this season the team has had three such receivers. The Steelers have had two 50+ yard receivers a few times, but this game shows how well Pickett played and how well the ball was spread out. Pickett and Johnson seemingly connected for a first-quarter touchdown, but it was ruled incomplete. However, it would’ve been a touchdown catch had the Steelers challenged it. It was a frustrating blow to the stats of Pickett and Johnson, but ultimately it didn’t end up affecting the final score.
Defense Steps Up and Continues ‘Bend But Don’t Break’ Strategy
The Steelers defense continues to play decent enough to get the win despite having some obvious holes. Jake Browning, in his first start, threw for 227 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The secondary could’ve been a bit better at allowing zone coverage leaks (big pass plays), as they allowed four passes to go for 25+ yards. But the run defense was stout, holding the Bengals to a measly 2.3 yards per carry and essentially shutting Joe Mixon down. The defense had four sacks of Jake Browning, two of which were from TJ Watt, who currently leads the NFL in that category. Nick Herbig and Cam Heyward also tallied a sack in the win while Trenton Thompson had the lone turnover in the form of an interception.
Despite the decent passing performance from Jake Browning, the Steelers defense held their own and limited the Bengals to just ten points. Despite poor showings at times, the defense usually tightens up and doesn’t allow too many points with proper offensive support. If the Steelers can just score a decent amount of offense and give the talented defense some decent rest, this team could be dangerous come December and January.
Who’s Up Next on the Steelers Schedule?
With the 16-10 win over the Bengals in Week 12, the Steelers move to 7-4 in the year and currently hold the fifth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The team has two very winnable games ahead as they’ll host both the Arizona Cardinals and the New England Patriots. Both teams have just two wins each this year and have struggled tremendously on both sides of the ball. These games won’t be easy because the Steelers almost always play down to their competition, but nevertheless, these are still two very important games. Two wins here, or even just one, puts the team in a position to have ten or more wins and a great shot at the playoffs. These games may seem like pushovers, but only time will tell just how good this team might be.
After hosting the Cardinals and Patriots, the Steelers will finish out the year with three of four games on the road. They still have the Ravens and Bengals one more time and will also play the Colts and Seahawks. All four of those teams are decent or playoff hopefuls, so it’ll be an important and defining stretch.
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