Week 11 Blog: News and notes

Friday, November 17

Wins are all that matters: Linebacker T.J. Watt doesn't care about style points.

The only thing that interests him is wins and losses. 

And that is the focus this Sunday against the Browns. 

"No one's going to remember in 10 years what the scores were, how close games were," said Watt. "It's all about wins and losses. 

"Each and every week we're just trying to get the job done. And that's not to say that we're not trying to get style points or anything. We understand there's so much more good football that is left in the tank for us. We're not trying to peak right now. We are trying to continue to trend in the right direction."

And trending in the right direction this week will mean going against a rookie quarterback who is making just his second NFL start in the Browns Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

"It's a challenge," said Watt. "There's not a whole lot of film on a guy like this, we have one game and then some preseason stuff. 

"But other than that, it's just what their cultural beliefs are. Running the football is something they do very well. They're really effective in the screen game. And obviously have two on the edge you take some shots with. 

"They're going to give him opportunities to be able to make plays and it's our job to stop him."  

The talk is with an inexperienced rookie quarterback the Browns could become a one-dimensional team. 

Watt is wise enough to know anything can happen. 

"I think it'd be easy to say yes, but you never know," said Watt. "I mean, there could be an RPO aspect of it. It could be more boots. You won't really know until you step inside the stadium. 

"Just like any other team we face, it's all about how you stop the run. It doesn't matter if you're facing a rookie quarterback or if you're facing a seven-time All-Pro quarterback. If they're running the football effectively, they're going to continue to do that." 

Watt is ready for whatever the Browns do, as well as ready for the challenge of playing in a hostile AFC North environment. 

"I am excited honestly for just an atmosphere, a road atmosphere in AFC North," said Watt. "It's going to be pretty much us against all of Cleveland and I'm really looking forward to that type of atmosphere."

Turnpike rivalry: It's a rivalry steeped in history, one between two cities separated by less than 150 miles on the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes.

There have been some epic battles through the years and there is no doubt when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns play on Sunday, it will once again be epic. 

"There is a lot of history involved with this rivalry for sure," said safety Miles Killebrew. "This is only my third year, but it's long enough to know that it's rich in history. 

"The reason why this game is so huge is you don't have to look that far back. You have two defenses that have a case for being the best in the league. Their numbers are well known right now. They are a stingy defense. We all know what we're capable of here in Pittsburgh. We are very splash oriented. 

"You don't have to look far to know that it's going to be an exciting game from a defensive standpoint. These are two very exciting defensive teams."

The two teams share identical 6-3 records, but the Steelers are ahead of the Browns in the AFC North based on head-to-head record. 

The only way to come out on top of this one is simple. 

Don't hold anything back. 

"The history. Two great fan bases. The atmosphere is going to be crazy, very hostile," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "That makes it a great rivalry. A lot of great players on both sides. Two 6-3 teams. It's going to be a really important game and one I think we will remember for a long time. 

"We're both two stringy defenses. Our goal is to be the best defense in the stadium on Sunday. We have to hold them to the fewest points we can. We have to come out with the mindset on Sunday of being the best defense on the field."

Everyone in the Steelers locker room is expecting nothing but the best from the Browns and they know in return, they have to give the same.

"This is going to be smashmouth football," said Killebrew. "This is going to be a very physical game. It's probably going to come down to just a handful of plays in the game. It's very exciting. 

"I can't wait to get there. I have been having dreams about it."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 11 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

Ready and waiting: With the Steelers dealing with injuries at the safety position, Trenton Thompson was elevated last week from the practice squad for the game against the Packers. 

And if it happens again this week, he will be more than ready. 

"Last week I got a helmet, so it was about staying ready," said Thompson. "But with the injuries going on, once I found out I was going in, I got antsy, but it's football. This week I have an opportunity. I just tell myself it's football, starter or getting thrown in the mix. I will be all right. I am a calm, collected football player."  

Thompson played seven snaps on defense and two on special teams and there is the potential he could be called upon again this week. 

"I think those (decisions) are going to go down to game time as we get closer to the game and we'll see," said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. "But I think we have some guys here, we elevated Trent last week, we had Eli (Elijah Riley) play a little bit more. I think we'll lean on the guys that have been in the program and try to see if we can get those guys to step up if they have to step up and do the job. 

"I think we like Trent. We thought when we got Trent, it was in camp, he came in and was tough, good tackler, showed some ball awareness, ball skill. Those are the things you like. 

"But again, until you see him in a real game situation like last week he kind of got thrown in and all of a sudden we've got Trent in the game, we've got Eli in the game, we've got a bunch of guys in the game that maybe you're not used to seeing, so until we get more of a body of work, then we'll feel more comfortable with him. But we like his initial skill set and the things we saw."

No tricks: Despite being outgained in all nine of their games this season and being outscored by 24 total points, the Steelers enter Sunday's game at Cleveland at 6-3.

Many national pundits have claimed what the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin are doing this season has been done with "smoke and mirrors."

Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward bristled on Friday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex at that thought.

"Who the heck is saying that?" Heyward said. "I don't like that. I don't think anyone's really talking to me and saying that, because if they are they already feel dumb about saying that to me. I just think who are they judging? They're not in this. Smoke and mirrors? The heck with you. I work too hard for this. You know, these guys dedicate their lives and you know, we try to be a good defense."

By many metrics the Steelers are a good defense. They've recorded a league-best 18 turnovers entering Week 11's games. They're fourth in the league in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score on just 40.7 percent of their trips inside the Pittsburgh 20. They're tied for 11th in scoring defense, allowing 20.2 points per game. Some of the other statistics might not be where the Steelers would like them to be, but they've played multiple games without Heyward and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, a pair of All-Pro players, this season.

They'll be without Fitzpatrick for a third consecutive game on Sunday against the Browns. But with Cleveland not having quarterback Deshaun Watson available, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will make his second career start. The Steelers expect the Browns, already a run-heavy team, to rely even more on their running game and No. 1-ranked defense.

"I think one thing we have to realize with this, we're not just playing the Browns offense," Heyward said. "We're playing the Browns defense as well. With that, there's gonna be some struggles on our side for out offense, so we view it as we've got to turnovers. We have to get after him. We have to stop the run. You've got to put them in situations where you can create splash. You know, a lot of times that run game, it can just come down and you know, they're happy getting to three yards. But if you can make them one-dimensional, and then throw it in tight situations and really capitalize on it, you can go and have short fields."

— Blog post by Dale Lolley

So far, so good: Kicker Chris Boswell has been posting some impressive numbers this season, including 17-for-18 on field goal attempts (the lone miss was a 61-yard re-kick after a penalty in the Jacksonville game on Oct. 29) and 13-for-13 on extra points.

But just as significant to special teams coordinator Danny Smith is Boswell being available for all nine games to date after missing five last season and three in 2020 due to injury.

"I changed his routine," Smith said. "We do a different routine this year than we did a year ago. I did a lot of studying over the offseason with guys who don't get hurt and guys who do get hurt, age groups, things like that. There are some quality kickers in this league that kick a lot that are never hurt. I really studied it and I met with him about it and we set up a program.

"We're getting a little fruit off that tree on that program. His week's work is different than it was a year ago."

Boswell isn't kicking less in advance of games, but Smith believes they're working smarter to get Boswell ready. 

"It's a little more but different days," Smith continued. "He doesn't kick at all on Fridays any more. He has 48 hours prior to a game. So the number of kicks is a little bit more because you have to maintain a strength throughout the season. But 48 hours, he's off prior to the game. We just work on technique, snaps and holds, things like that; he doesn't kick.

"That was one of the changes. There's about three or four, but that's one of them."

Smith appreciates not only the results, but also Boswell's willingness to adapt at this stage of his career.

"It's hard for him," Smith acknowledged. "It's hard for any veteran. Thank God it's working because then it's easier for me.

"He really has bought in. He's done a good job. He understands it, he understands the importance of it and he's done a very good job.

"It's been good."

Smith, likewise, has altered his routine on game day in terms of his exposure to the Steelers' specialists.

"I got away from pregame stuff," he said. "I used to go out with those guys a lot. And they're warming up, that's why they call it a warm-up. And a guy shanks one in the stands, well, I can't take that, I go nuts.

"So am I really helping him or am I hurting him by ripping his (butt) in the middle of a pregame? So we toned down some of those programs, me and them, and it's been good."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Thursday, November 16

Battle in the North: The last time the Steelers played the Browns in Week 2 of the season, cornerback Joey Porter Jr. played on 14 snaps on defense, which was just 16% of the defensive snaps for the game.

This week, things will be much different as Porter has since become a starter and knows the task at hand this week is to contain and shutdown the Browns offense as much as possible.

"We just need to continue to keep playing football. We have been on a hot road recently with dealing with wide receivers in general. I feel this time around I am more comfortable and just play our defense."

The defense will be facing rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will be making only his second NFL start, after Deshaun Watson was placed on the Reserve/Injured List this week.

"I watched him a little bit in college," said Porter. "We both came out the same year. I feel like he's going to be good. He uses his feet a lot. We just have to get after him."

Porter said they won't adapt their style of play based on who is under center, going with what works for them.

"It doesn't change at all," said Porter. "We still have to play our communicative, fast to the ball defense. I feel like if we stick to that, nobody can beat us."

While the Porter name is known in Cleveland, with his dad Joey Porter Sr. playing in his share of games there, including getting ejected for a pregame scuffle in 2004, this will be the younger Porter's first time at a game there.

"I feel like it's going to be good. I hope so," said Porter. "My dad played there a lot. It's going to be my first game in Cleveland with the crowd and everything. It's going to be fun.

"This is North football. This is what people look for. This is what we look for. Just the history with these teams. I am glad to be a part of it. I am excited for Sunday."

Added responsibility: The Steelers went into the 2023 season with three starting inside linebackers, using Kwon Alexander, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts at the position.

Now, they are down to just Roberts.

Alexander and Holcomb are both on the Reserve/Injured List, leaving Roberts the last of the three standing and welcoming the added responsibility.

"I'm not running from it," said Roberts. "I am preparing and getting ready for the responsibilities.

"I have had it my whole career. Even when we did have a trio, we all took on responsibilities. It wasn't anything different. Now just taking more on."

Roberts is joined at the spot by second-year linebacker Mark Robinson and a trio of players on the practice squad, Tariq Carpenter, Mykel Walker and Tyler Murray, who was signed on Wednesday.

"Everybody in our group will be just fine," said Roberts. "It's not just one person. It takes all 11 and it starts with communication."

Roberts knows injuries are beyond their control, the key factor is just how you react to it.

"Just from being an older guy in the league, you know how to control what you can control," said Roberts. "Obviously we had two back-to-back weeks of uncontrollable situations, so what can you do. You have to live with what is in front of you and control that.

"What is in front of us is getting better and better each day."

Finding a rhythm: The Steelers offense is not the same offense that faced the Browns in Week 2 of the season, where they produced only 55 yards on the ground and 222 in the air. 

"When we played them in Week 2, we came off a pretty bad loss to San Francisco and couldn't get stuff going early in the game versus Cleveland," said center Mason Cole. "We had no rhythm. 

"Now I feel like we have a rhythm. It will be a challenge for us, but we are up for the fight."

That rhythm is especially showing up in the ground game the last two weeks. The Steelers had 166 yards rushing against the Titans and 205 yards against the Packers last week. 

"Our backs the last couple of weeks have been fantastic," said Cole. "When you get into a rhythm and are moving the ball down field, you are more balanced. It opens everything up. When you play balanced it makes you more efficient as an offense and I think we have seen it the last two weeks."

This week will be a tough test for the ground game and the offense in general going against a Browns defense that is ranked first overall in the NFL and second in the AFC and seventh in the NFL against the run.

"They don't change much from base defense to nickel defense," said Cole. "The format of the defense is very similar. But they will load the box. They will put seven, eight guys in the box and make you throw. It will be a good challenge for us to run it and a good challenge for the receivers to win one on one matchups. 

"The way they box everything in, they don't let you get a lot outside. They're downhill. They have had a lot of success on the season, a really good defense. We feel good about where we are at and are up for the challenge."

Stay tuned: Linebacker Mykal Walker is still listed as a member of the Steelers' practice squad, but that situation is subject to change in advance of Sunday's visit to Cleveland.

"He's not on our practice squad for development, to be quite honest with you," head coach Mike Tomlin had noted on Tuesday. "He's on our practice squad to learn what to do and to position and ready himself for a moment, such as what's going to probably transpire this weekend."

Walker was signed to the Steelers' practice squad on Oct. 30. But defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had confirmed last week Walker had been given some practice reps with the regular defense, as opposed to the scout team, in the days leading up to last Sunday's 23-19 victory over Green Bay. Walker took more steps in that direction.

"I was running with the first team (defense)," he said.

For Walker, opportunity might finally be knocking again. He played in 16 games and started 12 for the Falcons last season, his third in Atlanta. Since then, he had been waived by the Falcons last Aug. 13, claimed by the Bears, waived by the Bears, signed to the Raiders' practice squad and released by the Raiders in advance of catching on with the Steelers.

He's more enthused than confused despite all the twists and turns in his journey.
"I've been playing football for a long time," Walker said. "Learning defenses to me is like going to school, it's something you just do, you don't even think about it. It's not too challenging.

"'A.C.' (inside linebackers coach Aaron Curry), he's one of the best in my opinion. The way he's teaching me the concepts, I'm able to apply the concept with all the different calls. I'm not having to worry about, 'Oh, what do I do on this call?' I know the concept, so I know how to play it. The way he's teaching me, I really have a lot of respect for 'A.C.' I think he'll take my game to the next level."

Walker is also up to speed on what he'll be getting himself into in Cleveland.

"AFC North, I know all about the history," he said. "I'm excited to play. A lot of people think I'm kind of like a finesse linebacker. I'm ready to go out there and put my chin strap on and show people I can hit."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Wednesday, November 15

Pat's back: Tight end Pat Freiermuth returned to practice on Wednesday but remains on the Reserve/Injured List.

"It felt amazing," said Freiermuth. "Just being out there with the guys, especially the camaraderie we have on the team. It felt good. 

"I feel really good. I just have to see how the week goes."

The Steelers have a 21-day window to either activate him to the 53-man roster, or he remains on the Reserve/Injured List the remainder of the year.

"Feel good about Pat Freiermuth and we'll watch him go through the week and look at the quality of his work and the amount of it, and how he feels and let that be a determining factor," said Coach Mike Tomlin during his weekly press conference. "But feel good about his potential availability."

Freiermuth has missed the last four games while on the Reserve/Injured List, as well as the Ravens game in Week 8, while dealing with a hamstring injury.

"It's been hard, missing this time," said Freiermuth. "I missed three games at Penn State at the end of the year for my shoulder. This is the longest I have missed, six weeks, five games. It definitely was hard.

"I am a big team guy. I love being around the team. It was hard seeing them go out there and compete without me. I am a big competitor. It was definitely hard. But I am excited to be back, especially for a divisional game.

"You always think if I am out there, this can happen. But I think the offense did a good job. The tight ends held it down. Hopefully we can take that next step, especially going into late November/December football."

Freiermuth has played in only four games this season and has eight receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 11 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

A different look: The last time the Steelers played the Browns, a Week 2 win at Acrisure Stadium on Monday Night Football, Diontae Johnson was just a spectator, sidelined with a hamstring injury.

The Steelers pulled out the win thanks to big plays on both sides of the ball, including a 71-yard touchdown reception by George Pickens.

With Pickens and Johnson both on the field this week, it will be a different offense than earlier in the season. 

"I think it's going to make it a little tougher on the defense," said Johnson. "Not being able to key on just one person in George. It makes them think more of what they are going to do in certain situations, third down, whether it's double us, cloud us or whatever it is. It just puts a little more pressure on them."

And the potential return of tight end Pat Freiermuth, who returned to practice on Wednesday, adds even another aspect.   

"It's big. It puts even more pressure on the defense," said Johnson. "You can't double everybody, cover everybody. Pat works the middle. Me and GP work the outside. If they stop us on the outside by clouding us, Pat is going to tear up the middle. Little stuff like that, more pressure on them."

But pressure is something Johnson is expecting plenty of. 

He knows what a formidable defense the Browns have, ranked No. 1 in overall defense and against the pass in the NFL. 

"We're going to see a lot of man coverage this week," said Johnson. "They have a good d-line. That's who they rely on. The DBs on the back end too. 

"We are just worried about our game plan, what we can do to defeat their front four. We have to keep working, study film and dial up a good game plan for this week."

The two teams have identical 6-3 records, but the Steelers have already defeated the Browns and are 2-0 in AFC North play, while the Browns are 2-2 in the division. 

"It's a big one. Browns and Steelers is always big," said Johnson. "It's tough when you play the Browns. They have a great team. We have a great team as well. Two teams going at it you expect the best to come out on top."

A new look: The Steelers will see a different look from the Cleveland Browns on Sunday after starting quarterback Deshaun Watson's season came to an end due to a shoulder injury.

Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will make his second NFL start, and see action in just his fourth NFL game, in a huge AFC North matchup. 

"He had a strong preseason, looked promising," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "Whoever is in there, we have to be able to cause havoc and get after him. All the guys they have are still mobile. We have to be on our Ps and Qs and play great ball. We can't let big runs happen.

"We have to stop the run first. We have to continue to be aggressive and play ball the way we do. Just like the last game, we have to get turnovers. We have to do a better job of limiting splash plays, big plays and getting off the field faster. We have to continue to get turnovers like we have been. 

"Whoever is out there, we have to be in attack mode and cause havoc in the backfield."

Reporting for duty: On Tuesday, Tyler Murray was working at Amazon when his phone rang. 

It was his agent, informing the young linebacker the Steelers wanted to bring him in for a workout.

So he did what he had to do. He told his boss he needed to leave work early.

Murray was signed to the Steelers practice squad on Wednesday morning, completing a whirlwind of a few days for him.

"I thank God for the opportunity Pittsburgh gave me," said Murray. "I was just at work yesterday, working at Amazon, and I got the call, I was in my uniform and all. My agent called and said we have a workout set up with you with the Steelers. I had to tell my boss I have to work early today. They were cool with it. 

"They decided to sign me. It's a blessing. I am so happy to be here."

Murray said he didn't even have a chance yet to tell his boss he signed with the team as he immediately had to get ready for practice. 

Murray originally signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft. He spent a short time on the Bengals practice squad this season. 

He is excited for the new opportunity, ready to do whatever is asked of him as the team is thin at linebacker after injuries to Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander landed both of them on the Reserve/Injured List. 

"I am very versatile," said Murray. "I am probably a quick linebacker because I transferred from defensive back to playing inside the box. I am a ball hawk. My stats in college were good, I just went unnoticed with that. I am versatile at playing linebacker and can read a lot of stuff."

Murray thinks he went under the radar after transferring multiple times in college, starting at Troy, before transferring to Charlotte, and finishing at Memphis. 

Now he just wants to do his part to help in any form or fashion.

"I am looking to just help the team the best I can, special teams, practice," said Murray. "I am sorry for the linebackers that got hurt. I hope I get to meet them and learn what they know. Just being here to learn what I can and do the best I can to help this team out."

Making moves: The team also signed defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko and linebacker Tyler Murray to the practice squad.

Fehoko started the season on the team's practice squad, but was promoted to the 53-man roster on Sept. 20. He was released from the 53-man roster on Monday.

Fehoko signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He spent the previous three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers after signing with them as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft.

Murray originally signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft. He spent a short time on the Bengals practice squad this season.

Murray played college football at Memphis in 2022 where he started all 13 games. He recorded 67 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two interceptions, three quarterback hurries and two passes defensed. He was a third-team All-AAC (Phil Steele) preseason selection.

Prior to Memphis he played at Charlotte where he started all 18 games he appeared in. He was a two-time Honorable-Mention All-Conference USA selection.

On Tuesday, the Steelers placed linebacker Kwon Alexander on the Reserve/Injured List.

Alexander suffered what Coach Mike Tomlin called an Achilles injury against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The team also released guard Joey Fisher and tight end Scotty Washington from the practice squad.

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Monday, November 13

All about the W: The Steelers had their best day of the year in the ground game with 205 yards rushing against the Green Bay Packers, with Jaylen Warren putting up 101 yards, his first career100-yard game, and Najee Harris adding 82 yards rushing.

"We just play football," said Warren of the ground game producing. "We make the plays, and the energy gets reciprocated."

Warren said he was excited to get the first 100-yard game, even giving his jersey to his mother afterwards as a keepsake. 

"It was cool," said Warren. "As long as we got the 'W,' that's all I care about it."

It was the first time Warren was introduced as part of the starting lineup, joining Harris with both backs getting the nod. 

"That was cool," said Warren. "(Coach Mike) Tomlin told me I was going to get announced on Friday. "He mentioned it the night before too, whatever transpired he was going to announce me. (He said) I am deserving of it."

Once he knew it was going to happen, he put some thought into it, choosing a nod to surfing to honor his part Polynesian descent. 

It just didn't play out exactly as planned when he hit the 'wave,' or the ground, a little hard. 

"I was thinking about what I was going to do, and I came up with that on the spot," said Warren. "It's a Poly thing. Putting Poly's on the map.

"I didn't expect to dive. I was going to get down slowly. It was in the moment, so I dove and hit it."

All-in-all, it was a special day, exceeding the expectations he had when he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft. 

"I don't usually expect anything or envision anything," said Warren. "I put my best foot forward and whatever happens, happens."

It's an attitude he developed while playing at East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Work, sacrifice, discipline," said Warren. "It started in high school. We had a culture where you don't take a knee in practice, you don't take your helmet off in practice. It's something that has been engrained in me. 

"I have always been doubted. I never let it get to me, I used it as fuel. When opportunities present themselves, I take advantage of them."

The doubts, though, might be diminishing. 

Warren has caught wind that other teams are now talking about him during their game preparation, noting it was the Baltimore Ravens he first heard mentioned him.

It's something that he likes, although he still doesn't mind flying under the radar and still thinks he is underestimated. 

"I've heard from talk outside that teams are kind of mentioning me in their team meeting and whatnot," said Warren. "I think that is pretty cool. I like both. I like flying under the radar. It's obvious you are an impact player if the other team is focusing on you.

"I have been doubted my whole life. I wouldn't be surprised if they doubt me. I don't pass the eye test. I go out there, don't do too much. When you play me, that is when it shows."

Ready if needed: The Steelers went into the season with a three-man starting rotation at inside linebacker with Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander and Elandon Roberts, but after the last two weeks injuries have wreaked havoc at the spot.

Against the Titans Holcomb suffered a season-ending knee injury.

And on Sunday, Alexander was knocked out of the game with what Coach Mike Tomlin called a 'serious lower body injury.'

With the latest injury, that leaves just Roberts currently healthy from the initial three, along with Mark Robinson, who was playing in a reserve role.

The team called Tariq Carpenter up from the practice squad to the Active/Inactive roster for the Packers game, and another practice squad player is hoping to get his shot, Mykal Walker.

Walker was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 30 and he is hoping his number could be called soon.

And if it is, he will be ready.

"You never want to see a guy go down like that, especially when he is in your room," said Walker. "For me, if my opportunity is this week, I am ready to go.

"Coach T, I have always wanted to play for him. When you come here, there is a level of expectation, a standard. You don't have to be here long to figure that out. He is that, and more. I have been watching this game since I was born. Just watching him, what he is able to do, you have to respect it. I mean 16 years in a row, a winning record, that is unheard of."

Walker was originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent three seasons (2020-22) with the Falcons, playing in 49 games, with 20 starts.

Walker recorded 187 tackles over his three years in Atlanta, 89 of them solo stops. He added 11 passes defensed, three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, two forced fumbles, one sack and one fumble recovery.

He is no stranger to playing in big games and wants that opportunity again.

"My experience and versatility," said Walker of what he can add. "I have done it before. I have had the green dot before. I have played in big games.

"Just my experience I have out there, being able to call upon the coaching staff, I ask questions all day long. I bring experience and versatility."

And he brings a mindset of wanting to make his second chance work after not playing at all this season.

"It's been huge," said Walker. "To be honest I never thought I would be in this situation, especially with what I did last year in Atlanta. For me, mentally riding that rollercoaster up and down. Waiting for my number to get called. My agent keeps me grounded because sometimes I am ready to explode. It's taught me a lot. You have to be ready when your opportunity is called. If my opportunity is called, I will be ready."

Still chewing the gum: The final play of the Steelers win over the Packers was one where they were celebrating Damontae Kazee's interception, but there was also some concern when special teams coordinator Danny Smith went down on the sideline after getting hit on the return. 

With both teams on the sideline doing some pushing and shoving, Smith was pulled off the turf by tight end Rodney Williams, who saw what was happening all around Smith.

"I was running over to go support my teammates and I saw him on the ground, and he couldn't get up. I saw him on the ground and picked him up," said Williams. "I just saw him down there. He was trying to scoot out. I had to get my dawg up out of there."

One thing that impressed Williams when he got Smith up, was that his ever-present wad of bubblegum was still in his mouth.

"He didn't say much," laughed Williams. "He was just chewing his gum. Even when I picked him up, he was chewing his gum."

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