On a night when the organization retired the number of Franco Harris, things just didn’t seem to be falling into place. Very little the Pittsburgh Steelers did on offense worked on this Christmas Eve but when it mattered most, rookie Quarterback Kenny Pickett led the Steelers to a 13-10 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. These were my thoughts as the game unfolded.
-No answer for Maxx Crosby in the first half. Zach Gentry and Pat Freiermuth couldn’t block him.
-Kenny Pickett (26/39 244 yards 1TD/1INT) is missing too many opportunities. I wish I could say exactly why he won’t throw some balls but my sense is he’s gun shy. He’s been told so many times to “take care of the ball” and “don’t force it” that I think he’s just not willing to take shots even when they’re there. When it finally mattered however, Pickett came up huge.
-Toss sweep on third and two. FB dive on third and short. In the NFL it doesn’t matter if these things have high success rates, you have to change things up and keep the defense from seeing exactly what you’re doing.
-The offensive line was often overpowered in pass protection. Pickett had some clean pockets at times but all too often was never really allowed to set up. They did however provide the necessary protection on the final drive.
-Matt Canada’s call… A jet sweep to tight end Connor Heyward to win the game, may have been his best call of this entire season.
-I’d like to see more snaps with Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris on the field together. Both are capable blockers and receivers and with both of them in the game there’s an air of uncertainty.
-Harris (16 carries 53 yards, 6 catches 43 yards) didn’t have a lot of running room for the most part but he made some crucial runs or runs after the catch to move the sticks or get the offense in better situations.
-Pat Freiermuth (7 catches 66 yards) struggled as a blocker tonight but he came up huge on that final drive. His ability to get yards after the catch was a huge plus.
-George Pickens (5 catches 57 yards TD) had a couple of more opportunities tonight and made the most of them. Sure, his winning TD catch wasn’t overly difficult but it’s a huge step for both him and Kenny Pickett. They are the future after all.
-I remained convinced that the Steelers have to upgrade the left side of the offensive line this offseason.
-Darren Waller is a really great tight end which makes me wonder how in the hell he isn’t accounted for more often.
-Robert Spillane (12 tackles) gives great effort every time he steps on the field. I don’t understand however why he plays so much. If he can come downhill? He’s fine but there’s a lot more to playing LB than that. There’s no way they can go into next year with him as a starter. He’s just too much of a liability.
-Cam Heyward was sensational tonight. Seven tackles, two sacks and a pass batted down. While he hasn’t been as consistent as he was in recent seasons. tonight was a great performance by him.
-Sensational interception by Arthur Maulet.
-Alex Highsmith had a sack that came on a stunt with Cam Heyward. Not sure why they don’t do that more often.
-I could probably make the argument that had Derek Carr made a better throw to Hunter Renfrow he may have scored let alone been in field goal range. But the throw wasn’t great and Cam Sutton closed like a missile to make a terrific interception.
-If you had told me that Davante Adams would have just two receptions for 15 yards tonight I would have said you were crazy. Not only did the defense shut down Adams but they limited Josh Jacobs to 44 yards on 15 carries.
-Fourth and four and Mike Tomlin elects to go for a 52 yard field goal. In that weather??? Come on Mike.
-Chris Boswell missed two of his three field goals and that’s not good. I realize the conditions weren’t great but he has to make these kicks. Without the game-winning TD, those missed field goals would have been the difference.
Next Week: The Steelers head to Baltimore where the rival Ravens knocked off Atlanta to secure a postseason berth. could Lamar Jackson return for this one? Either way, the Steelers have to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.