Week 12 Blog: News and Notes

Friday, November 24

Any way possible: For the second straight week the Steelers will face an AFC North foe with the starting quarterback ruled out.

This week it will be Jake Browning who will make his first NFL start, seeing action with Bengals starter Joe Burrow dealing with a wrist injury.

Last week it was a similar situation in Cleveland, with rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson starting, and the Browns utilized a quick passing game.

This week, the defense expects the same from the Bengals and have to combat it.

"Get your hands up," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "Still trying to get after the quarterback any way we possibly can. All we can do is really trust the guys on the back end to try to make him hold the ball, pump fake. Do whatever to get him to hold the ball just for a split second longer, hopefully we can get to him.

"Otherwise, just being able to shut it down. One batted pass is basically equivalent to a tackle for no gain. We have to find ways to impact the game if teams are going to continue to try and do this to us."

Linebacker Alex Highsmith doesn't see the Bengals switching up what they do best, but also knows they have to be prepared.

"I see them really sticking to their playbook," said Highsmith. "He really knows the system. He's played in it. I could see them coming out and doing what they usually do with a little bit of tweaks and stuff like that. No matter what they do, we've got to be prepared and be ready to stop them."

Like Highsmith said, Browning isn't a stranger to the Bengals system, spending the 2021 and 2022 seasons on the team's practice squad. He also spent two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

"The quarterback that they have in place has been there, in the system, has been in the NFL for quite some time," said Watt. "He's a smart guy. So, there's going to be a lot of challenges. He's still going to be able to throw the ball. Just like every other week they're going to want to establish the run. If we don't stop the run early in the game, he's going to continue to try to do it. That's always a challenge."

Business as usual: For receiver Calvin Austin III, the change at offensive coordinator has meant one thing.

Business as usual. 

"It's business as normal," said Austin of the change. "It's about our approach. No matter what the circumstances, control what you can control. 

"There is a little buzz and energy you can feel among the players. I am just excited to go out there and prove the people we have inside this building are all we need to be successful. 

"We just want to play for each other and the people in the building." 

Austin doesn't know think the players need to put any more pressure on themselves, knowing the coaches will do nothing but put them in the best positions necessary. 

"We trust in each other, and we trust the coaches are going to put us in the best position to succeed," said Austin. "I don't think anybody needs to do anything different, extra. Just be themselves. 

"We have the people and talent to win. It's just about focusing on their craft and detail and when we come together, we can all be on the same page."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 12 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals

Settling in: All last week, linebacker Mykal Walker talked about his excitement to get back on the field after not playing at all this season.

Walker was 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.

But he was unsigned this year, so when he finally got his opportunity to play against the Browns on Sunday, the feeling was exactly what he was waiting for.

"It was incredible," said Walker. "You never take this for granted. I never take this for granted. It was something. I am blessed to have this situation. It felt really good. Just knock the rust off and be out there with these guys, see how they play, what the energy is like."

Walker was originally signed to the Steelers practice squad on Oct. 30 and activated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Nov. 20, starting against the Browns.

"There were little butterflies, a little rust," said Walker. "As the game went on, I got the flow and was able to play better.

"It's the same butterflies you get when you are playing Pop Warner, high school football. It's all the excitement building up. It was incredible."

Walker wasted no time watching game film, going over it multiple times on Monday morning.

"I did my job a lot. Just little plays here and there I know that I can make that I didn't make," said Walker. "It's all about getting with the coaching staff and having them help me out and find more ways to get me involved.

"That is what it is. Just seeing how the other guys play and get a feel for the game. We held them to less than 100, so we played well. We didn't do enough to win, but it's something we can build on. Anytime you can hold a team like that, communication is good. But we have to eliminate the hiccups. We have a solid foundation."

Ready if needed: Safety Eric Rowe has played against the Steelers multiple times, but the nine-year veteran who was signed to the practice squad is now thrilled to be a part of the black and gold.

Rowe was signed to the practice squad on Monday with injuries mounting in the secondary, including safety Keanu Neal and defensive back Elijah Riley being placed on the Reserve/Injured List within a few days of each other.

When Rowe got the call to be signed, he was thrilled.

"This is a pretty historic program," said Rowe. "I played against the Steelers a couple of times in my career. One thing I always liked was the physicality, hard-nosed, tough team every year. That is the brand. Even growing up watching, that was always something in my mind.

"When I got the call from the Steelers, of course I wanted to play for them. What better program to go to a physical team that is hard-nosed football."

He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has since spent time with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and most recently the Carolina Panthers.

Rowe played in 16 games for the Eagles his rookie season, starting five. He finished that season with 31 tackles, five passes defensed and an interception.

He was traded to the Patriots the following season, spending three seasons in New England. He played in 21 games, starting 12, and had 50 tackles and an interception.

He signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and spent four seasons with them. He played in 62 games with 38 starts. He amassed 300 tackles, including six tackles for a loss, three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and two sacks.

It's that experience that could benefit the black and gold if he is called up at all.

"It's that time of the year when it's the playoff push," said Rowe. "When it comes to mid-November, after Thanksgiving, each game is doubled. However they want to plug me, if they want to bring me up, I know what this time of year means. Especially when it comes to the AFC North. It's really hot right now. Each game really counts.

"Just my experience on the ins and outs. I am going to pick up the defense. Just get all the knowledge."

Rowe was gripping his iPad as he talked about learning the defense, an iPad he is quickly becoming good friends with.  

"It's just me up here so I have nothing but time to look over the defense and get caught up as fast as I can," said Rowe.

Full speed ahead: Center Mason Cole reacted to the dismissal of offensive coordinator Matt Canada with regret and determination.

"The train will keep moving," Cole insisted. "I look forward to going to battle with these guys and just going out there and having fun. This train has to keep pushing forward with or without him. I appreciate him and his efforts. I wish we were better for him. At the same time, we have a divisional game to play.

"Look forward, not backwards."

The Steelers visit the Bengals on Sunday in Cincinnati.

"I don't think there's a whole lot of reaction," Cole continued. "In this business when you don't produce results things like this happen, and we hadn't produced the results that we all wished. And unfortunately, at that coaching position, it starts with him.

"Like I said, I appreciate all the work. I wish we were better for him but we're going to do everything we can to go to Cincinnati and win a game."

Head coach Mike Tomlin has announced running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will be responsible for organizing coaching staff responsibilities and meetings, game-planning, reviews of game tape and preparation for upcoming opponents. Faulkner's new title is interim offensive coordinator/running backs coach.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is the new play-caller, Tomlin said.

"I've had a pretty good relationship with 'Sully,' just being quarterbacks coach, and 'Faulk,'" Cole said. "It's good, it'll be good. I'm excited for 'Sully' to call plays and see what that can do for us. And just in one meeting with 'Faulk' as kind of the lead man, it was good to see the leadership, I'm looking forward to it.

"It'll just be different having someone else call plays. I don't know what that's like ever, to call plays in the National Football League, but I imagine it's different. Having 'Sully' back there and working close with (quarterback) Kenny (Pickett) will be good. Just excited for our group, our offensive group, to go out there and play hard."

Cole emphasized his belief in the Steelers' continued ability to handle whatever comes at them over the long grind of the season.

"Coach Tomlin always talks about, 'Smile in the face of adversity,'" Cole pointed out. "Well, we've done that a good bit and we look forward to doing it again this week."

-- 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 23

Physical football: The Steelers will play their second consecutive AFC North road game on Sunday when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. 

"It's like Georgia-Florida," said former Georgia tight end Darnell Washington in reference to the AFC North rivalries. "It's a tough deal, tough conference. Everyone wants to win. They want to win, we want to win. It's going to a hard, physical game."

And it will be the second week they will be playing in a hostile environment, where crowd noise will be a factor. 

"It's new to me," said Washington. "It was very loud. It's something I just have to pick up on, learn and grow in that aspect. 

"We have to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes we did last week when it comes to that part."

Washington said he is settling in to what is asked of him in the Steelers offense, seeing continual growth as the season has progressed.  

"I feel like I have grown a lot with the time being here," said Washington. "It's more repetition, getting more comfortable, more snaps. The more you get, the more you sink into the offense. I am feeling at home. 

"Even just this past week, going against Cleveland for the second time. It's a good battle each week. It's what I thought. It's tough."

Washington doesn't know if, or how, his role will change this week with the change at offensive coordinator. He said it's just a wait and see approach. 

"I am not really sure yet," said Washington. "I feel like we have to wait and see this upcoming week."

Focused on football: A week ago, Myles Jack's mind was strictly focused on hockey. 

Now, football is front and center. 

No, the newly signed practice squad linebacker, who spent the 2022 season on the 53-man roster, didn't take up a new sport. 

Jack owns a hockey team, the Allen Americans of the ECHL, something he has been interested in for a while after being a minority owner of other teams. 

Why did he purchase a hockey team?

"You ever been to a hockey game?" asked Jack. "There is nothing like it. Especially when they take the gloves off."

Oh, and on the side, he was working on becoming a pilot. 

"I was flying a Cessna 172," said Jack. "I started my rookie year (in Jacksonville). Paul Posluszny, he got me into that. I was about to finish it. I did my solo and was about to do my cross country and I got a call here."

Jack, who was most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles before informing them he was going to retire before the start of the season, is no stranger to the Steelers, originally signing with the team as an unrestricted free agent in the 2022 offseason.

So when he got the call to come back to the practice squad, he was excited for the opportunity. 

"God blessed me with the opportunity to play for the Steelers and I couldn't say no," said Jack. "It was like why not. I have been taking care of myself, playing basketball, eating right. If I feel good, why not. I am excited to be here.

"I am at the same weight. Same everything. It's good to be back in the locker room."

Welcome to the party: Inside Linebacker Elandon Roberts added his signature to the Steelers-Browns rivalry in last Sunday's rematch, his second Steelers-Browns encounter.
Roberts' 15 tackles were the most by a Steelers' player in the history of the series. 

"I've always looked at myself as a leader, a guy that's dependable," Roberts said. "Wherever you need me to step up at, I answer the call. I prepare hard, man, I practice hard. I have good coaches and good teammates around me.

"In that game there was just a lot of opportunities for me to make plays for the team and I was able to."

Roberts finished with 11 solo tackles, four assisted tackles and two tackles for a loss on the way to a career-high 15 stops, the most by a Steelers' defender since inside linebacker Lawrence 
Timmons had 17 against Baltimore in 2013.

The only other Steelers to register double-digit tackles in a game this season are free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (11 at Las Vegas, at Houston and at Los Angeles) and inside linebacker Cole Holcomb (10 against Jacksonville).

Roberts' contributions in the Steelers' 13-10 loss to the Browns included limiting tight end David Njoku to a gain of 3 yards and dropping running back Kareem Hunt for a loss of 3 while Roberts was in pass coverage.

"I go into every game and I'm like, 'I know what I can bring to the table,'" Roberts said. "In that game I was able to display some things that, I guess, a lot of people didn't know I had in my game.

"They could have just asked me, 'Can you cover?' And I would have just told them 'yes.' I guess I was able to display some things that you guys (in the media) didn't know."

Roberts' all-over-the-field effort while playing all 75 defensive snaps was timely given the Steelers were without Holcomb and inside linebacker Kwon Alexander (both lost for the season due to injury).

Safety Damontae Kazee was the only other Steelers player to play 100 percent of the defensive snaps (defensive back Patrick Peterson played 99 percent and outside linebacker T.J. Watt played 97 percent).

The Steelers were also without Fitzpatrick (hamstring) and safety Keanu Neal (reserve/injured list, ribs) and lost safety Elijah Riley (early) early in the Cleveland game.

"I think guys understand it's the league, injuries happen," Roberts said. "When your number is called on your teammates and your coaches have the confidence in you to step up in roles that are needed. I think that's all it is, just guys stepping up.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to make the big plays, make the necessary plays and what not. But I'm happier that I'm making them for my teammates."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

A time to give back: During a time that is all about being thankful and counting your blessings, Steelers players are making sure they are bestowing blessings upon others.

Over the past week players have been out in the community, providing warm Thanksgiving meals for individuals as well as providing turkeys and all the fixings for others to have their own holiday dinner.

The Steelers have partnered with multiple agencies to give back this year for Thanksgiving, making sure the most vulnerable have food on their table or a warm meal this holiday season.

The Steelers partnered with the Pirates and Penguins once again for a #BurghProud Thanksgiving Meal Distribution, with players, coaches and staff from all three teams joining forces to distribute turkeys and all the fixings to hundreds in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Giant Eagle.

The three teams came together as one in an effort to fight food insecurity in the city. Among the Steelers players on hand were center Mason Cole, receivers Miles Boykin and Allen Robinson II, running back Godwin Igwebuike and defensive back Luq Barcoo.

"It feels good being able to come together in the community with three of the teams in the city," said Robinson. "Around the holiday season you want to try to take as much of a burden off of families and hard-working people. To be able to come out to pass out turkeys, pies and things like that to help ease the burden for people is pretty special."

The group wasn't hampered by continuous rain and cold temperatures as they greeted recipients with smiles and boundless energy.

"I think it has a strong impact," said Robinson. "When we go out there on Sundays and see all the hard-working people coming out and supporting us, rain, snow, sleet or hail. To be able to come out here to support our community as well, it goes two-fold."

Approximately 300 families were able to receive their Thanksgiving meal at the drive-up distribution held outside of PNC Park, with an assist from Steely McBeam, the Pirate Parrott and Iceburgh as well as the players and staff.

"It's not often that all three professional teams here in Pittsburgh get to get together and do something like this. It's a real special day for everyone involved," said Jacque Showvron, Executive Director of Pirates Charities. "We're all very happy that we are able to serve 300 families a Thanksgiving dinner. We're able to do something for the community that's going to allow families to put a meal on the table and enjoy a holiday with those they love."

Take a look at photos from Thanksgiving distributions held by the Pittsburgh Steelers

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 22

For the second straight week the Steelers will face a quarterback they didn't expect to see when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. 

With starter Joe Burrow out, first-year quarterback Jake Browning will make his first NFL start and play in only his third NFL game. 

Browning was thrown into the action last week against the Baltimore Ravens when Burrow was injured, completing eight of 15 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. 

"He got bounced in there pretty quickly in the Ravens game," said defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. "It's tough because there isn't a lot of film. You've got to think they will be way more comfortable this time around than in a middle of a game.

"But they have their whole playbook available. It's not like they are missing multiple guys like Cleveland was. I think you look and say we have to get the ball to our wide receivers, gotta get the ball in our running backs hands. 

"Might have to have some quick passes and things to supplement it. But you have to start with your strong running game and settle the game down."

Joe Mixon has been a mainstay for the Bengals rushing attack, with 605 yards on the season on 153 carries and four touchdowns. 

And he isn't the only weapon the Bengals offense has. 

The Bengals have a trio of receivers in Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury that Coach Zac Taylor said is progressing well.  

"There is always a challenge in that," said Heyward of the weapons the Bengals have. "You are foolish to think otherwise. They are a capable team with or without Joe Burrow. 

"It's not like the Cincinnati Bengals are going to feel sorry for themselves. They are going to go out there and try to make plays. It's up to us to stop them."

One aspect the defense will have to stop is the quick passing game and combatting it with be a combination of things.  

"It's a mixture of things," said Heyward. "The front has to get their hands up a little bit. We have to get some batted balls. If we get into a situation where we can pin our ears and they have to throw the ball, then you have a better chance of having a successful pass rush. When they are in the situation where they can still dink and dunk up the field, it takes away from the pass rush. Gotta stop the run like we did last week."

Pushing forward: Steelers players talked for the first time on Wednesday after the team relieved offensive coordinator Matt Canada the day before, and there was a mixture of surprise, sadness and resolve to move forward strong from tight end Pat Freiermuth.

Freiermuth, who said he learned of the news from social media, has compassion toward the situation but understands the players have a job to do.

"Obviously, I am not going to cheer for it," said Freiermuth. "He's a great guy. We had a great relationship. It's definitely sad.

"We have to keep pushing forward and keep going forward with a big division game coming up. We have to keep doing what we need to do. I am going to put all of my focus into Cincinnati this week."

The move took Freiermuth by surprise, saying he didn't have an indication that it was in the works.

"I didn't think so," said Freiermuth. "I didn't feel that something was going to happen."

One thing he does know, though, is as players they just need to go out and produce.

"It heightens our sense to let's get going," said Freiermuth. "Everyone is going to have their eyes on our offense. We have to execute and do what we have to do.

"I am confident in everyone's ability on the offense to get this thing going."

And that includes, first and foremost, quarterback Kenny Pickett.

"I have full confidence in Kenny," said Freiermuth. "Full confidence in everyone on the offense to get this thing going."

Receiver Diontae Johnson said he has a lot of respect for Canada and hates to see anyone lose their job. 

The focus now, though, has to be on the Cincinnati Bengals. 

"I have great respect for him," said Johnson. "He is a great coach. I have nothing but respect for him. You don't want to ever see anybody lose their job. They put in the work just like everyone puts in the work. We just have to move forward and attack the game plan this week. Just keep working and get ready for Sunday.

"We just have to move on and move forward. Just control what we can control.

"I just come to work. Whatever the game plan is, that's what I go with. I attack it to my best. Whatever the game plan is, my job is to go out there and make them look good."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 12 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals

Locked in: Veteran receiver Allen Robinson II has seen a lot during his 10 seasons in the NFL and one thing he does know is regardless of what happens, you have to keep working, keep playing. 

Robinson talked about the change the Steelers made at offensive coordinator, relieving Matt Canada of his duties and Eddie Faulkner now serving as interim offensive coordinator/running backs coach. 

"Whatever's coming in play-wise and install-wise, for us as a group, we have to be locked into that, but at the same time the main thing for us as players is coming together, making sure we're doing our efforts and our part across the board to be able to clean up different things," said Robinson. "Communication stuff, over-communicating, being on the same page, just doing everything necessary we need to do before we get this train pushing in the right direction."

Robinson said change can challenge the players to take it up a notch, but it's always about accountability and that is something you always have. 

"It's always on us to take accountability as far as what is going on," said Robinson. "For us to be able to look in the mirror, figure out what we are doing, our efforts, how they can be better, how we can push things in the right direction and what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. I think it comes down to us executing, over communicating across the board.

"We're going to have to put in the same amount of work. It's not like it's just going to happen. We have to go out there as a collective group, practice hard, be locked in, being attentive to the details and execute each and every day. That's going to translate into something.

"One thing isn't going to change it. As a collective, as individuals, we are going to take every effort as an offensive group, in meetings, everything, and come together to push this thing forward."

Added to the mix: The Steelers signed linebacker Blake Martinez to the 53-man roster from the Carolina Panthers practice squad.

Martinez is in his eighth season in the NFL after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

When he got the call to sign with the Steelers, he was thrilled for the opportunity.

"A historic franchise like this, can't turn it down," said Martinez. "Once the opportunity came, couldn't turn it down. The opportunity to make the playoffs. The type of ability and chances I have here."

Martinez has seen action in 84 games, starting 78, and has 700 career tackles, 437 of them solo stops, 39 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, 22 passes defensed and four interceptions.

He spent four seasons with the Packers, playing in 61 games, while starting 57 of them. He had a career-high 155 tackles in 2019 and had a career-high 10 tackles for a loss in both 2017 and 2018.

Martinez spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the New York Giants, starting all 16 games in 2020 and finishing the season with 151 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, and three sacks.

In 2021 he started the first three games before suffering a torn ACL which ended his season.

He spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022, playing in four games, and on the Panthers practice squad in 2023.

Now, he just wants to help his new team.

"I am someone who is going to come here and work," said Martinez. "Whatever opportunities they put me in, I am going to play to the best of my ability and help the team win."

Humbled by the honor: Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi is the Steelers nominee for the 10th annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, presented to a player for their on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.

"It's extremely humbling, just to receive the nomination," said Ogunjobi after learning the news. "It's a testament to Mr. (Art) Rooney (Sr.), my teammates, the entire Steelers organization. I appreciate the opportunity to represent our team in that capacity. I don't take it lightly. I take it as a blessing and I am truly appreciative of them giving me the nomination."

For Ogunjobi, who signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and was re-signed to a three-year contract his offseason, playing the game with respect is something that has been embedded in him by his parents.

They moved to the United States from Nigeria in 1993, a year before he was born. He started playing football in high school and over time developed a love for the game that he is passionate about now and has him playing it the right way every time he takes the field.

"I enjoy the sport," said Ogunjobi. "I should say, I love the sport. I love everything about it. Football has opened so many doors for me, allowed me to do so many things, helped so many people. I owe this game a lot, so I don't take it for granted."

The award was created in 2014 to honor Art Rooney Sr., the founder of the Steelers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One player from every team was nominated for the award, and eight finalists, four in each conference, will be selected by members of the NFL Legends Community.

"Sportsmanship is the core of the game, the vanguard of public confidence, the keeper of game integrity," said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations. "These Rooney Sportsmanship Award nominees exemplify the spirit of fair play and the values of respect, integrity, commitment to team and resiliency at the highest level of competition."

Current players will have the final say when the eight appear on their Pro Bowl Games ballot under NFL Sportsmanship Award. The winner is announced during the NFL Honors show the night before the Super Bowl.

The winner was named after Rooney because of the class he brought to the NFL and his approach that always had sportsmanship at the forefront.

Lines of communication open: Injuries have brought about changes to the Steelers roster over the past week, including the addition of linebacker Mykal Walker and safety Trenton Thompson. Both players were originally signed to the team's practice squad, but activated to the 53-man roster over the past five days. 

Walker was signed to the active roster prior to the Browns game, while Thompson was elevated for the Browns game, but signed to the active roster the following day. 

With the new additions to the defense, communication could have been an issue. 

But it wasn't. 

Coach Mike Tomlin was pleased with how both players responded. 

"I was really pleased with the level of communication and the quality of that communication," said Tomlin. "Particularly guys in the interior portions, communication portions of our defense. 

"Guys like Mykal Walker, guys like Trent I thought they did a really nice job. It's not easy, but I thought we, particularly after the first couple of series, we settled down and operated with really good fluidity from a communication perspective and I'm thankful for that."   

Linebacker Elandon Roberts was also a staple for the team's communication, something that attracted the team to him when he was signed in the offseason.

"Elandon is a great communicator," said Tomlin. "He's a veteran. That's one of the reasons why we were attracted to him in free agency. 

"He more than answered the call."

Practice squad update: The Steelers signed defensive back Henry Black to the practice squad and released linebacker Tyler Murray from the practice squad.

Black has played in a total of 25 NFL games and has 27 career tackles, 20 of them solo stops, as well as two passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble. He also has 19 special teams tackles.

Black was originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent part of his rookie season on the Packers practice squad, activated multiple times during the year and seeing action in eight games, finishing with three tackles and a forced fumble.

Black played in 17 games for the Packers in 2021, finishing with 24 tackles and one interception.

He spent the 2022 and part of the 2023 season with the Indianapolis Colts practice squad, not seeing any game action.

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 19

Time to bounce back: Center Mason Cole is no doubt disappointed with the outcome on Sunday, a 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in a key AFC North matchup. 

But there is one thing he knows. 

There is no time to dwell on it because another AFC North game is right around the corner. 

The Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paycor Stadium, and bouncing back fast is needed. 

"A really tough loss yesterday, but when you look at the big scheme of things, we're 6-4," said Cole. "We lost a tight game yesterday, but we have so much football ahead of us. 

"This race to get to the playoffs and win the division is still super tight. We have three more division games left. There are a lot of opportunities in front of us out there. 

"We have to make the corrections, learn from yesterday, move forward and focus on Cincinnati and get the win there."

Cole feels the key factor to getting a win on Sunday is simple.

Go out and execute the game plan.

"There have been times this year we have executed at a high level," said Cole. "We just have to do it more consistently. We know we have the guys, the talent to do it. Guys just have to come ready to work, have a full grasp of the game plan and go out and execute on Sunday. 

"It's not super complicated. It's just about winning football games. To do it you have to execute game plans, play good football and not have (mental errors).

"I think guys do a really good job of grasping the game plan, they just have to do go out and do it."

Steelers making moves: The Steelers signed safety Trenton Thompson to the active roster from the practice squad and made other moves today, including placing defensive back Elijah Riley on the Reserve/Injured List.

Thompson was elevated for the Week 10 game against the Packers and the Week 11 game against the Browns.

Thompson was originally signed by the Steelers during training camp and added to the practice squad at the start of the regular season.

Thompson, who played at San Diego State, signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft.

He played in 57 games at San Diego State, starting 31, and finished with 191 tackles, 125 of them solo stops, 12 tackles for a loss, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack.

The team also signed two veterans to the practice squad, linebacker Myles Jack and safety Eric Rowe.

Jack, who was most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles before informing them he was going to retire before the start of the season, is no stranger to the Steelers, originally signing with the team as an unrestricted free agent in the 2022 offseason.

Jack spent one season with the Steelers before being released at the beginning of free agency in 2023. Jack played in 15 games in 2022, starting 13. He finished the season with a team-high 104 tackles, 61 of them solo stops. He had three tackles for a loss and three passes defensed.

Jack spent six seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, starting 83 of the 89 games he played in with the Jaguars. In his six seasons he recorded 511 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, three interceptions, 15 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.

Jack led the Jaguars in tackles in 2021 with 108, including 62 solo stops. He also had three tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries.

Rowe is an NFL veteran in his ninth season in the league.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has since spent time with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and most recently the Carolina Panthers.

Rowe played in 16 games for the Eagles his rookie season, starting five. He finished that season with 31 tackles, five passes defensed and an interception.

He was traded to the Patriots the following season, spending three seasons in New England. He played in 21 games, starting 12, and had 50 tackles and an interception.

He signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and spent four seasons with them. He played in 62 games with 38 starts. He amassed 300 tackles, including six tackles for a loss, three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and two sacks.

Not finishing: There was a nine-play stretch that included parts of three possessions on Sunday in Cleveland, from the middle stages of the third quarter until 6:29 remained in regulation, where the only direction the Browns' offense went was backwards.

"I really felt that we had a grasp on what those guys wanted to do," defensive back Patrick Peterson said.

Running back Kareem Hunt lost 2 yards on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 31-yard line with 3:02 left in the third. Then Hunt caught a pass for a loss of 3. Then quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was intercepted by cornerback Chandon Sullivan.

The Browns' next possession consisted of a loss of 4 on a run and two incompletions.

The possession after that began with a 10-yard hands-to-the-face infraction, a loss of 2 on a sack by outside linebacker T.J. Watt and an incompletion before Cleveland established some field position from which to punt via a 14-yard completion on third-and-22 from the Browns' 13.

But Cleveland was still able to eventually put together an eight-play, 48-yard drive in 1:16 for the game-winning field goal with two seconds left in the fourth quarter.

"In that last drive we just have to execute better as a defense, put ourselves in better position to make plays on those balls that were thrown because we understood that (Thompson-Robinson) wasn't throwing the ball downfield," Peterson said. "We just have to put ourselves in better position to make those plays and make those stops."

The Steelers played a six-defensive backs "Dime" defense that included Peterson, cornerbacks Joey Porter and James Pierre, and safeties Damontae Kazee, Miles Killebrew and Trenton Thompson in the second half in Cleveland.

Pierre, Killebrew and Thompson hadn't previously been regular contributors in such situations.

Backup safety Elijah Riley had also been getting work in sub-packages before exiting
the game with an ankle injury.

"I really felt we were successful in those packages we had," Peterson said. "The guys on the field were guys that have been in those situations with us throughout training camp and minicamp," Peterson said.

As big as the game in Cleveland was, the Steelers will play a bigger one this Sunday in Cincinnati, Peterson maintained.

"This is November," he noted. "And like 'Coach' (head coach Mike Tomlin) always talks about, this is a time where contenders and pretenders start to separate themselves."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

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