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Highlights at the bye

It hasn't been all highlights and celebrations but they've had their share, as the .500 record through six games would suggest.

Following is a look back and some of the best and most potentially impactful of what we've seen from the Steelers on the way to 3-3:

OCT 17: Steelers 23, Seahawks 20 (OT)


The game was hanging in the balance in overtime until outside linebacker T.J. Watt wrecked it.

The Steelers had just punted, which meant the Seahawks could win it with a drive for a field goal. But Watt saw to it that quarterback Geno Smith never even made it back to the line of scrimmage when he dropped back to pass on first-and-10 from the Seattle 15-yard line with 4:27 left in the extra session.

Watt's sack and forced fumble and inside linebacker Devin Bush's recovery set the table for kicker Chris Boswell to win it with a 37-yard field goal three snaps later.

"The thing I love about T.J., he just kept beating at the door, beating at the door, beating at the door, and then finally he got through," fellow All-Pro Cam Heyward observed.

Watt finished with seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.

His first sack resulted in a 13-yard loss on third-and-4 from the Steelers' 45 on the Seahawks' first possession in overtime.

"I loved the fourth quarter and the overtime by T.J.," Heyward continued. "All game he was like, 'Man, I'm just not hitting home.' And I was just like, 'It's gonna come, just keep staying after it, you're gonna be great.' And when we needed it most he made his plays."

When asked if Watt's dramatic impact had been reminiscent of Troy Polamalu, Heyward opted for a James Harrison comparison based on Watt's relentlessness.

"He's one of the best defensive players in the game," Heyward maintained. "He's the best outside linebacker. He's the best defensive player to me.

"He's a game-wrecker, he's a play-maker, he's a rare breed and I'm glad we have him."

OCT 10: Steelers 27, Broncos 19


The best game of the season for second-year pro Chase Claypool was also the best turned in to date by a Steelers' wide receiver.

Claypool's five-catch, 130-yard effort included a 59-yard, catch-and-run splash play that helped set up a touchdown and an 18-yard reception in the end zone for Claypool's first TD of the season.

The two big plays were examples of what can happen at the confluence of play-calling, pre-snap recognition and execution.

Consider quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's explanation of the 59-yard hookup, when Claypool beat outside linebacker Von Miller initially and strong safety Kareem Jackson after the catch:

"That actual play was kinda designed to go to 'Naj' (running back Najee Harris) on a linebacker, that was kinda the first read. They rotated a corner down at the last minute, kinda saw it out of the corner of my eye, and it took me off of that.

"I didn't realize Von was on (Claypool) at first. Once they rolled to kinda a 'Cover 2' on that side it brought my eyes right back over and Chase is the first read on that side. Just so happened to get him the ball in space and he's gonna make something happen."

And Roethlisberger on the Claypool touchdown: "Coach Canada (offensive coordinator Matt), heck of a play call. We had something set up. We put Chase on the inside. It was actually a double-move outside to (wide receiver) Diontae (Johnson) and they kinda slacked off him. There were two-high safeties and I knew Chase was going down the middle.

"The best thing I could do was try and keep the safety left for as long as I could and just try to deliver it close to where (Claypool) could make a play. He did the rest. The line gave me great time."

OCT 3: Packers 27, Steelers 17


Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick's blocked field goal and 75-yard return for a touchdown late in the second quarter was nullified by an offside penalty against cornerback Joe Haden, a penalty the Steelers disagreed with vehemently.

"We were not offside, I can assure you of that," special team coordinator Danny Smith maintained days later. "We played it the way we wanted to play it."

Had the play held up as the Steelers insisted it should have, they'd have taken a 17-14 lead into halftime at Lambeau Field rather than a 17-10 deficit.

But the block was nonetheless another example of the ability the Steelers have demonstrated to identify and exploit areas to attack in such situations.

They returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the regular-season opener at Buffalo (strong safety Miles Killebrew's block and inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III's scoop and score actually held up in what became a 23-16 victory over the Bills).

"If you study you can find stuff," Smith said. "We don't put a number (of anticipated blocked kicks in a season) on it. Every week is a new scenario and a new situation. Some weeks are more viable than others and we play it like that week to week. I think you go crazy and you're wrong when you put a number on those kinds of things. I don't have a number. I know we have a plan and our goal is this week and this game and this scenario and this situation and let's execute this plan.

"The plans are good. Don't confuse execution with a good plan. We go into every game with a good plan, sometimes it doesn't look like that. Don't confuse a good plan with execution, and that's what I sell the players on. Sunday's a players day in this league and any coach that doesn't believe that is crazy.

"My job is to put them in situations. My job is to solve their problem before we get there. I'm gonna tell you what's gonna happen, I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna happen and most of the time I'm gonna be right. And when they execute, it shows."

Even if it doesn't count.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 4 game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field

SEPT. 26: Bengals 24, Steelers 10


Second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth arrived from Penn State with a reputation for making plays in the red zone.

It took three games for Freiermuth to transition that ability into the NFL.

On first-and-goal from the Bengals' 4-yard line with 1:09 left in the second quarter, Freiermuth lined up on the left side of the formation and then ran to the right behind the offensive line after the snap. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger faked a roll right and then flipped a pass to Freiermuth, who caught the ball at the 6, ran through linebacker Germaine Pratt at the 2 and fell forward into the end zone.

It was atypical of the way Freiermuth had made such plays at Penn State and in OTAs, training camp and the preseason with the Steelers, but the touchdown tied the game at 7-7 all the same.

Freiermuth hit the bye with 18 touchdowns on 20 targets, for 158 yards and one touchdown.

The numbers, while modest, have offered a glimpse of Freiermuth's potential impact in the passing game.

SEPT. 19 Raiders 26, Steelers 17


Najee Harris' 14 receptions for 102 yards included the first career touchdown for the first-round running back from Alabama.

Harris initially lined up to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's left on third-and-10 from the Raiders' 25-yard line with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter and the Steelers trailing, 16-7. After a couple of strides up the field Harris faked inside, then cut outside away from safety Dallin Leavitt and caught Roethlisberger's pass at the 21. Harris beat Leavitt's attempt at a diving tackle, got to the boundary, turned up the field and beat safeties Jonathan Abram and Tre'von Moehrig down the sideline to the pylon. Harris finished the play with a dive into the end zone from the 3.

"The game's starting to slow down a lot," Harris acknowledged. "When you get more of a feel for the game you understand what type of defense they're in.

"As a player, you understand the free spots that are going to be there as the day goes on. I think (Leavitt) had me man (-to-man) and I knew where the free spot was at and I would have a lot of space to work with."

It was the splashiest of plays in a game that confirmed the prowess as a pass-catching threat Harris had demonstrated in his final season at Alabama.

He's a matchup issue for defenses in the NFL, as well.

"I always feel like there's opportunity in anything I do," Harris maintained.

SEPT. 12, Steelers 23, Bills 16


The defense was healthy for the regular-season opener against the Bills (with the exception of defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt).

And the anticipated rotation at outside linebacker, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith starting and Melvin Ingram III coming off the bench with regularity) was on full display.

So was the Steelers' ability to generate pressure with a four-man rush (on this day that also had a great deal to do with how disruptive a game defensive tackle Cam Heyward played and the ability to mix and match coverages and personnel on the back end).

They blitzed one time against the Bills and were still able to suffocate quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense.

The defense was dialed in and dominating for 60 minutes.

"Even when we gave up the touchdown in the first half, we were like, 'Damn, we were right there,'" Heyward said. "We felt good about it. We were able to adjust and keep going."

The success of the collective effort was best exemplified by the 16 points allowed against Buffalo.

The Bills scored 35, 43, 40, 38 and 31 in their next five games in succession.

They hit their bye this week No. 2 in the NFL in points per game (33.8, behind the Cowboys' 34.2) and No. 6 in yards per game (411.5).

No thanks to having had to play the Steelers for openers.

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