Mon, 30 Jan 2023

A memorable start to second half of season

The Steelers
21 Jan 2023, 05:30 GMT+10

Dale Lolley

Every NFL season is filled with remarkable moments and plays. The Steelers' 2022 season was no different. Here is the first of the top five plays or moments of the season for the Steelers.

#4 STEELERS COME OUT OF BYE WEEK ON FIRE

At 2-6 heading into their bye week, the Steelers were in a bad way. Head coach Mike Tomlin had turned things over at quarterback to rookie Kenny Pickett a few weeks before, and Pickett had completed 67.9 percent of his passes, but also had thrown two touchdowns against eight interceptions in his first five games.

The Steelers defense, meanwhile, was struggling without reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, who had missed the previous seven games with a pectoral muscle injury.

But Watt was coming back after the bye - as was safety Damontae Kazee, a key offseason addition - to face the New Orleans Saints.

With his defense now intact again, Tomlin challenged his offense to run the ball better and the defense to be dominating.

The Steelers came out running the ball and jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 1-yard run by rookie receiver George Pickens and a 33-yard field goal by Matthew Wright, subbing for an injured Chris Boswell.

But the Saints tied the game at 10-10 just before halftime when Andy Dalton tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Juwan Johnson with 19 seconds remaining.

After getting a defensive stop, the Steelers drove the length of the field on their opening possession of the second half, but Wright missed a 39-yard field goal.

He redeemed himself on the next possession, kicking a 33-yard field goal to put the Steelers ahead 13-10 early in the fourth quarter. And the Steelers put the game away as Kazee picked off Dalton, giving the offense the ball back at the New Orleans 44.

Pickett scored on a 1-yard run to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead that would hold up.

The game marked the first game-winning drive - a drive that puts your team ahead in the fourth quarter - of Pickett's career.

Najee Harris, who had 20 carries for 99 yards, helped run out the clock after the Steelers got the ball back with just over 4:30 remaining as they picked up their third win of the season.

The Steelers rushed for 217 yards in the game, their first game of more than 200 yards since doing it against the Bills in 2016.

"We need more of it, especially coming from me," said Harris. "I have to provide more like that. We have to build off this.

"Me and the coaches, we had a conversation (during the off week) where they said me helping out the line could help out a lot more. I took that into consideration in practice throughout the week."

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

Pickett completed 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards without a touchdown, but also without an interception, starting a streak that would see him set a team rookie-record of 128 consecutive passes without an interception that would eventually grow to 147 passes.

The Steelers defense, meanwhile, limited the Saints to 10 first downs and 186 total yards. Dalton was sacked twice, both by Alex Highsmith, and threw a pair of interceptions, one to Kazee and the other to Levi Wallace.

The Saints managed just 43 total yards in the second half as the Steelers held the football for nearly 40 minutes.

"It was a lot of fun in the locker room," Tomlin said. "It was good to get the job done."

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