You can call the Steelers lots of things, but it’s hard to call them bad
You ever try and have a conversation about the Steelers these days? It’s just weird.
It doesn’t matter if you’re at work or on Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to your brother or to someone named Mississippi_Steelers_493, the discussions are just so damn confusing.
I guess it’s because you don’t know how to feel about the 2023 edition. That didn’t change after Sunday’s game, one that saw Pittsburgh outlast the Packers by a score of 23-19 at Acriruse Stadium.
The win pushed the Steelers record to 6-3 on the season, and they’re now just one game back of first place in the AFC North with two months to play. Believe it or not, Pittsburgh is tied for the third-best record in the AFC. If the playoffs started today, Pittsburgh, whose point differential is minus-26, would travel to play the AFC East Champion Dolphins, whose point differential is plus-60. As stated before, the Steelers are the only team currently in a playoff position that has scored fewer points than it’s allowed.
The Steelers again got outgained in total yards on Sunday, 399-324, but seemed to be the one in control of the tempo more often than not.
Kenny Pickett again looked like the inferior quarterback and was outshined by the Packers’ Jordan Love, like Pickett, a recent late first-round draft pick. But while Love completed 21 of 40 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, he also had two critical interceptions. Meanwhile, Pickett, who completed 14 of 23 passes for just 126 yards and zero touchdowns, also had zero interceptions. Pickett somehow managed to end the day with a higher passer rating than Love (75.6 to 71.8).
The Steelers offense mostly relied on the ground game to control the action; Pittsburgh rushed for 205 yards on the day–including 101 yards on 15 carries by Jaylen Warren and 82 yards on 16 carries by Najee Harris.
The Steelers actually jumped out to a 17-7 first-half lead thanks to two touchdowns–one each by Harris and Warren–and a field goal on their first three possessions. Then someone turned the valve off, as Pittsburgh managed just two field goals over its final seven drives.
However, those two field goals by Chris Boswell, who was a perfect three for three on the afternoon, turned a 19-17 second-half deficit into a 23-19 advantage.
Yes, the Packers slowly climbed back into the game and briefly took a slim lead, but the defense defended every single blade of grass until the very end.
That’s right, the Steelers defense, one that was again missing safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on Sunday and is now down two inside linebackers thanks to Kwon Alexander’s injury that pushed him to the season-ending Injured Reserve list alongside Cole Holcomb, is far from elite, but it rarely blinks when the game is tight.
The Steelers’ defense won Sunday’s game with two late interceptions–one in the end zone by safety Keanu Neal with 3:32 remaining; and one at the goal line by safety Damontae Kazee on the final play of the game.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s now three late interceptions either in the end zone or at the goal line over the last two games that have preserved victories.
Defend every blade of grass.
Back to those confusing conversations. They include a lot of “Yeah, but..” It’s usually me complaining about someone or something, and the person I am talking to saying, “Yeah, but they’re (insert their latest record here),” and me retorting with, “Yeah, but are they any good?”
Are the Steelers any good? What is their identity?
I don’t know if the Steelers are any good, but they seem comfortable with who they are. You can say what you want about head coach Mike Tomlin, but he’s obviously gotten his guys to buy into this confusing and frustrating style of play that has now seen them win nine straight one-score games.
Next up for the Steelers is a road date with a Browns team that they had no business beating in Week 2 but did it anyway.
Who are these 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers? What are these 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers? Are they any good?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but I do know this: You can call these Steelers a lot of things, but it’s just so hard to call them a bad football team.