Week 12 Blog: A recap of the news

Saturday, November 26

Stopping the run: The last two weeks the Steelers run defense has looked good, holding the Saints Alvin Kamara to just 26 yards in Week 10 and a combination of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to 50 yards last week against the Bengals.

It's been something they have been focused on, and the results are showing.

"I think it's a mix of a lot of things," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "Scheme. Just guys being more aware of their gaps. Trusting everybody in the back end. I don't know if you can pinpoint one thing specifically, but I think we're taking a lot of pride in it this year."

They will have to continue on the same path this week if they want to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night. Running back Jonathan Taylor has been having a strong season and slowing him down is paramount.

"He's able to make the offense go," said Watt. "And that's talking about the run game, pass game. He's done some great things. Just a really good downhill back who can get up to speed quickly. I've watched a lot of him in college. He's very talented.

"It's going to be a challenge for us. I think we just have to play a very technical, sound football game. It's just going to take every man to do their job and not try to be something they are not."

One advantage the defense has right now is health, with them as close to full strength as they have been since Week 1.

"It's huge," said Watt. "I feel very confident with the guys that we have in this room. Always feel confident with the game plan. I feel good about the week that we had, but it doesn't matter unless we perform on Monday."

Bringing the juice: To say Damontae Kazee is a bundle of energy might be one of the biggest understatements of the year.

Kazee brings fire, energy and passion every time he steps on the field, and in the locker room, and his energy is contagious.

"Kazee has always been a guy with high energy," said cornerback Levi Wallace. "Sometimes too much."
All kidding aside, that energy inspires Wallace and others.

"You love when a guy is out there playing with so much passion," said Wallace. "It brings so much energy and good spirit to the team, especially the defensive back room. When you have a guy who can instantly come in and make plays like that, you want to play for someone like that. He is just a great dude. I am how I am. He is completely different. Always talking. You can hear him now. It's fun to have someone like that."

Wallace was joking because sometimes you do hear Kazee before you see him, and in that particular moment, that was the case.

That is just who he is, and it's a great thing.

"It's just being blessed," said Kazee. "At the end of the day, we are blessed to be able to come here and do the thing we love to do, and that is play football. Being out with the injury, and two years ago the Achilles injury, you have to enjoy the moments. That is what I try and do, enjoy the moments, because it's not going to be here forever."

This is nothing new for Kazee. His personality is the same now as it was when he was in college, always being the perfect guy to get the team hyped.

"I have been that type of guy my entire life," said Kazee. "Even in college, when we had to wake up at 5 in the morning, I would be out there on the field talking. That has always been me. It's always been in my blood.

"I like to talk to my teammates. Get them hype. Put some juice in them. I am like that all of the time. Games, practice, whatever. Practice is like a game to me. You have to put it on film at the end of the day, so you have to be that way always."

The fact that it picks his teammates up, gives them energy, is something that excites Kazee even more.

"When one person sees it, it makes others want to do it," said Kazee. "It brings everyone together. That is why I do it. People teach in different ways. Leaders lead by doing different stuff. Me, I am just bringing energy. That is my point. My point is to bring energy as a leader so that is what I do."

A strong bond: Quarterback Kenny Pickett is the same as everyone in Steelers Nation.

When receiver George Pickens makes one of his signature amazing catches, he shakes his head too and wonders how he did it.

"He's the best athlete probably that I've played with," said Pickett. "Just the freak things that he does, the catches he makes that are so nonchalant to him, but I kind of look around like, 'I've never seen that before in my life.' He's a unique guy that can do a lot of great things. We've just got to continue to get him the football."

Pickens, though, doesn't think he is doing anything special. For him, it just comes easy, naturally, to play the way he does.

"It's because I have been doing this for a long, long time," said Pickens.

Yes, he is a rookie. And yes, I did remind him of that when he said, 'long, long time.'

"Like you said, I really haven't been doing it that long," Pickens laughed. "I have been working hard my whole life, though. And I have fun on and off the field and that transpires to the games."

Pickens and Pickett have been the perfect match so far, something that started when the two rookies arrived for the teams' rookie minicamp back in May.

"I feel like our relationship was always there," said Pickens. "Over time, progression, us working together every day.

"It really does help as far as us coming in on the same learning curve. If he was a second-year guy, here a whole year before me, I would be trying to catch up to him. Since we came in at the same time it kind of helped us learning at the same level."

One area where Pickens has developed the most is with his football savvy, including developing a better grasp of his speed running routes.

"He's a great receiver," said Pickett. "We talk all the time about how he's evolving into a complete receiver and doing more things and running different routes and having a full route tree that corners have to deal with. You become a lot tougher to cover when you have all different ways that you can go and you're not just a deep ball threat, which he's not. He does a lot of great of things for us at the intermediate level. I think as his game continues to grow, we'll continue to grow as an offense."

Get out and vote: Voting is now open for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be a completely different format than in the past.

The traditional Pro Bowl game will be replaced by four days of activities, which will culminate with an AFC vs. NFC Flag Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 5.

Leading into the game there will be skill competitions, giving fans a fun look at all of the league's top players.

Fans can vote for their favorite Steelers players now through Dec. 15. A social aspect of voting will be available beginning on Dec. 1, so keep an eye out for that.

Tune in: 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 your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Friday, November 25

Home run hitter: The hottest topic among the defensive players this week has been finding a way to contain Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor has 693 yards on 151 carries, with three touchdowns, and 21 receptions for 97 yards so far this season, and the goal is to limit his numbers on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Home run hitter," said defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. "Hits the hole hard. Any crease he gets, he can take off. We got to make sure we really bottle him up. Multiple guys to the ball and just continue to keep playing good technique. When guys get short, and nobody is able to follow them, it makes it a tough game."

For the defense, getting players back healthy this week is nothing but a positive, but the most important thing with everyone back is communicating.

"Making sure we're on the same page," said Heyward. "Just finishing games. I think sometimes we have good plays here, good plays there. But it's about putting a consistent performance throughout the entire game.

"Just be a more cohesive unit. If one guy that doesn't make the play, there's 10 others that should be making the play. Just understand that there's gonna be mistakes and we just got to be better because of it."

Feeling comfortable: Each week rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has become more comfortable with the Steelers offense, and it's something his teammates easily notice.

"I have seen a lot of growth, especially in the last two weeks," said tight end Pat Freiermuth. "He is definitely more comfortable in there. He is understanding how the speed of the NFL defense is. He is doing a really good job."

That speed is something Freiermuth understands firsthand, going through it himself last year when he was a rookie.

"A lot of people forget it takes time to adjust to the NFL game," said Freiermuth. "I didn't feel comfortable probably until the Cleveland game last year. That was Week 6 or 7. I had a bye week then. Kenny got thrown in there and didn't get any reps before that in the first three or four games. And in camp he didn't get any reps with the ones. He is doing really good as to where he is at right now in his development."

One area where Pickett felt comfortable immediately was with his confidence. That is something that has been inside him since he was in college and is only getting better.

"His confidence is unwavering," said Freiermuth. "He has done a hell of a job just staying confident. Everyone has believed he is the guy. He is going to continue do that. The big thing for him is not turning the ball over, especially with our defense. If you don't turn the ball over, you are always going to be in the game."

Get out and vote: Voting is now open for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be a completely different format than in the past.

The traditional Pro Bowl game will be replaced by four days of activities, which will culminate with an AFC vs. NFC Flag Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 5.

Leading into the game there will be skill competitions, giving fans a fun look at all of the league's top players.

Fans can vote for their favorite Steelers players now through Dec. 15. A social aspect of voting will be available beginning on Dec. 1, so keep an eye out for that.

Tune in: 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 your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Thursday, November 24

Staying the same: Rookie George Pickens continues to be one of the NFL's exciting new players, and lately one of quarterback Kenny Pickett's top targets.

Pickens had four receptions for 83 yards against the Bengals last week, saying nothing has changed for him since fellow receiver Chase Claypool was traded to the Chicago Bears.

"I am doing the same thing," said Pickens. "In the NFL, you have to run every route. I am running the same routes, the same plays. I am going through the same routine. Nothing really changed."

Pickens said he felt things pick up for the offense last week when they put 30 points on the board against the Bengals, despite losing 37-30.

"I would say stretching the field and third down conversions," said Pickens of the key to the offense getting points on the board. "On third down we kind of capitalized, which in any football game you have to do to win the game or sustain points. I feel like that game we really did good on third down. There was a lot of good stuff to take away from that game on offense."

Pickens and Pickett continue to build their relationship, one that began when they met at the NFL Scouting Combine and continued in a major way when both were drafted by the Steelers this year.

"Me and Kenny have been cool the whole time," said Pickens. "Nothing has changed between our relationship, on the field. We have been connected since he had his opportunity. Me and Kenny have always been cool. Now it's just sustaining it."

He can see the improvement in Pickett in every game, something that comes with time and learning in a rookie season.

"As far as learning and getting into the groove," said Pickens. "At first, we were all new here, so every day is going to be new. I am brand new to the system. Same with him. Him just growing and knowing as we go through the season stuff is going to start to click. Opportunity is going to start to rise."

Keep working: Receiver Diontae Johnson was frustrated after the loss to the Bengals, with four receptions for 21 yards, targeted just five times.

Johnson simply wants to get the ball more to help the team any way he can, talking to quarterback Kenny Pickett and Coach Mike Tomlin about finding ways to get him more involved, even though he said defenses are double-teaming him more than they ever have.

"I am going to keep working," said Johnson. "Coach has been dialing up a plan so they can move me around. I am going to just keep playing.

"(Defenses) are trying to take me out of the game. I talked to Coach T. He said teams can only do that so long. It's how we come up with a game plan to move me around if they do tend to take me out of the game, get me in different spots so I can have those one-on-one matchups with linebackers, do what I can to help the team move the ball down the field.

"I just have to go out there and be myself, try not to press. The more you do that, it's not playing for the team, it's playing for yourself."

Johnson said he and Pickett have talked about getting him more involved, something both of them want.

"It's just having that one-on-one with him, see what I can do," said Johnson. "Try to get in his vision more, get him to look my way more. I'm not saying it's a bad thing him not looking my way, try get more opportunities, build our relationship more. That is going to continue to grow over time. I am not stressing. Communicating is the big key to me. That is what I am going to continue to do."

A day to be thankful: The Steelers held practice on Thursday, but afterwards headed home to be with family, friends and teammates for a Thanksgiving celebration.

And those in the locker room, have plenty to be thankful for.

Several players shared what they are thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

Linebacker Alex Highsmith:
"I am thankful for my wife, my family. The game of football. I am thankful for everything I have in life. But those are the three main things, my wife, my family and being able to play the game I love for a living."

Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick:
"I am thankful for my family. And, I am thankful for my health."

Linebacker Malik Reed:
"I am thankful for my relationship with God. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for the opportunities like this to be able to enjoy the guys in this locker room, go to work with these guys each and every week and go out and play on Sunday."

Cornerback Levi Wallace:
"There is so much to be thankful for. One to be on a team. Two to have great friends around me. Good teammates. My family obviously because I couldn't be here without them. My Lord and Savior Jesus. I am just thankful to be alive. I think sometimes we take life for granted. Remember tomorrow is not promised and you have to make the most of today, and I am happy to be alive today."

Safety Miles Killebrew:
"I have a lot to be thankful for. My family is the biggest one. My parents, my sister. But I am especially thankful for my wife and two beautiful children. I am thankful to have a job I love. I love Pittsburgh. I love the Steelers. I am excited to be here. Those are the two big ones. My family and these wonderful people here in Pittsburgh."

Linebacker Robert Spillane:
"I am thankful for my family and the well-being and health of my family. I am thankful to have an amazing fiancé who supports me all of the time and is a blessing to me. I am thankful for my teammates. I am thankful to wake up and do what I love every day. I am thankful to be surrounded by so many teammates and coaches who love what they do. There is so much to be thankful for. This is the time of year that you can really express those feelings and tell people you love them. There are so many people who support me and love me unconditionally. I have lived a very blessed life and I am thankful for it."

Get out and vote: Voting is now open for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be a completely different format than in the past.

The traditional Pro Bowl game will be replaced by four days of activities, which will culminate with an AFC vs. NFC Flag Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 5.

Leading into the game there will be skill competitions, giving fans a fun look at all of the league's top players.

Fans can vote for their favorite Steelers players now through Dec. 15. A social aspect of voting will be available beginning on Dec. 1, so keep an eye out for that.

Tune in: 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 your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Wednesday, November 23

A tough challenge: The Colts have plenty of weapons on offense, but there is no doubt it starts with running back Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor has 693 yards on 151 carries, with three touchdowns, and 21 receptions for 97 yards so far this season.

Stopping, or at least slowing him down, is a point of emphasis this week.

"Talking about the Colts, I think if you talk about them offensively, man, it starts with Taylor for us," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We haven't been in a stadium with him before, but we respect his talents and his resume, what he's been able to do and put together. We believe quality play, for them, centers around his exploits and what he's able to do. They had a nice significant win a couple of weeks ago in Vegas, and I think he ran for 147 (yards). There was a commitment last weekend to the run game, I think he had 22 plus carries. For us, we've got to minimize his impact on the game. We can't allow them to be on schedule and minimize possession-down football via an effective running game."

While the Steelers haven't faced Taylor yet, cornerback Levi Wallace has while playing for the Buffalo Bills and he knows what he brings.

"I played him a couple of times already," said Wallace. "Great running back. Has incredible speed once he gets to the second level. And he has real good balance too. He's first and foremost who we have to stop. He is active out of the backfield too. Definitely a tough player to go against."

While Taylor is the main focus, he isn't the only one.

"They have some good receivers as well," said Wallace. "They have some really good skill. (Michael Pittman) is really good. I know he gets a lot of catches, targets over there. (Parris Campbell) is fast as well. I know they have the new guy, Alec Pierce out of Cincinnati. He makes a lot of plays downfield.

"Definitely a challenge. We have to be prepared Monday night to go out there and get a win."

This will be only the third game the Colts will play under interim coach Jeff Saturday and that will be another challenge as there isn't a ton of tape on what he likes to go off.

"Things definitely change a little bit, but it's not like this is the first game," said Wallace. "You never really know a team's tendencies until you go in there. They change week to week. You have to look back at past experience and go off those tapes. They have been pretty competitive the last couple of games. They only lost by one point against Philadelphia who is a great team. They have the identity to give Taylor the ball and run it. We have to be ready in all phases. It's definitely a physical week for us."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 12 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts

Dinner time: If you're looking for something new for your Thanksgiving dinner, check out one of the recipes from the #Steelers family: https://steelers.com/thanksgiving/

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Extra protection: The Steelers wore Guardian Cap helmet covers during Wednesday's practice, something that was done during the offseason and training camp and Coach Mike Tomlin has implemented for some in-season practices as well.

The soft-shell pads are worn over the helmet as an extra layer of protection. They were mandatory at certain positions from the start of training camp through the second preseason game, but the Steelers are wearing them now for player safety.

"I was very clear at the outset of this journey in that regard," said Tomlin earlier this season. "When the medical experts' opinions regarding its effectiveness changed, then so did my attitude. They talk definitively now about the reduction of concussion risks for those that wear them, and when both parties are wearing them, it doubles the reduction risk. So, when we get definitive information by medical experts, I follow their lead."

Get out and vote: Voting is now open for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be a completely different format than in the past.

The traditional Pro Bowl game will be replaced by four days of activities, which will culminate with an AFC vs. NFC Flag Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 5.

Leading into the game there will be skill competitions, giving fans a fun look at all of the league's top players.

Fans can vote for their favorite Steelers players now through Dec. 15. A social aspect of voting will be available beginning on Dec. 1, so keep an eye out for that.

Making moves: The Steelers made multiple practice squad moves on Wednesday, including signing running back Master Teague III and receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley.

Teague was with the Steelers for a short time in training camp this year.

Teague played college ball at Ohio State (2018-21) where he rushed for 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Teague also caught 11 passes for 118 yards. In 2020 he rushed for eight touchdowns, third-most in the Big Ten.

Teague, who played in 31 games for the Buckeyes with six starts, played on three consecutive Big Ten championship teams and two that advanced to the College Football Playoffs. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020, and third team in 2019.

Bradley, who played at Louisiana-Lafayette, was most recently with the Cleveland Browns where he spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He played in eight games, finishing with nine receptions for 124 yards. His best game was against the New York Jets in 2020 when he had five receptions for 60 yards.

His senior season at Louisiana-Lafayette he had 60 receptions for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The team also released defensive tackle Renell Wren from the practice squad. The Steelers released defensive back Quincy Wilson from the practice squad on Tuesday.

Tune in: 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 your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Monday, November 21

Always prepared: Preparation always pays off and for J.C. Hassenauer that was the case on Sunday when center Mason Cole left the game against the Bengals with a foot injury, and he stepped in.

Hassenauer said he doesn't know Cole's status for Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts, but he will be ready if he is called upon.

"Every week as a backup you prepare to start," said Hassenauer. "You never know when your opportunity is going to be. You have to take advantage of that opportunity. Every week I am going to prepare as if I'm starting, like I did last week and the weeks prior. We are going to take it day by day.

"The hardest part about being a backup is you have to prepare as if you are the starter every week. You get the glory without ever reaping the benefit of starting. It's the hardest part. You have to get all the mental preparation down and you might go, you might not. Every week you have to prepare as if you are going in the game."

Hassenauer ended up playing 56% of the snaps on Sunday, something he welcomes but doesn't want to see a teammate go down because of it.

"It's a goal of mine to play in NFL games," said Hassenauer. "To be able to do that during the regular season is tremendous. I give all the glory to God and the blessings he's given me."

Guard Kevin Dotson praised Hassenauer for his preparation and knowledge of the playbook, stating it wasn't a drop off when he came into the game.

"He is truly dedicated to it," said Dotson. "He is very informational. He helps the starters. He is in tune with the playbook. He helps everybody. When he gets on the field there is no drop off."

While Hassenauer appreciates his words, he knows that is his job.

"I think it's the center's responsibility to know the offense in and out, like a quarterback would," said Hassenauer. "It's goes with the position."

On the run: The Steelers ground game continues to improve as the season rolls on, with Najee Harris putting up 90 yards against the Bengals after a 99-yard performance against the Saint the previous week.

"I feel like we are feeling way more confident in our run game," said guard Kevin Dotson. "It still needs improvement. If we can improve on that it makes things easy."

With a young offense, improvement was expected as they began to gel as a unit, but there is definitely a way to go.

"There has been improvement in the run game," said center J.C. Hassenauer. "It's not where we want it to be. Every week we strive to improve it. We haven't attained our goal yet."

Get out and vote: Voting is now open for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be a completely different format than in the past.

The traditional Pro Bowl game will be replaced by four days of activities, which will culminate with an AFC vs. NFC Flag Game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 5.

Leading into the game there will be skill competitions, giving fans a fun look at all of the league's top players.

Fans can vote for their favorite Steelers players now through Dec. 15. A social aspect of voting will be available beginning on Dec. 1, so keep an eye out for that.

Take a look at the best photos from the Week 11 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium

Tune in: 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 your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

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