Week 3 Blog: A recap of the news

Tuesday, September 20

It just takes one: Rookie receiver George Pickens was the talk of training camp and the preseason, making circus catches, contested catches, basically catching anything that has come his way.

With two games under his belt, though, Pickens has only been targeted six times, and has just two receptions for 26 yards.

Following the loss to the Patriots on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium, quarterback Mitch Trubisky said he wants to get the young receiver more involved.

"Definitely get George more involved," said Trubisky. "We've just got to get on the same page. I think there was one where I threw out of bounds. He was going one way and I thought he was going another way. We've got to get George involved. He's super talented."

Pickens said it's all about timing, something that can be a chain reaction from the time the ball is snapped.

"I wouldn't say on the same page, I would say timing," said Pickens. "We don't have enough time to be on the same page. Everything is like a chain…you think about timing, play call. It's a whole team collective."

The good thing everyone on the team is stressing is it is still early in the season and there is time to turn things around. All it takes is one play to change the entire narrative.

"That is the good thing about football," said Pickens. "Every play is different. And it's based off plays. We can go out today and play and somebody can catch a 90-yard bomb, and everybody is excited again. It can happen at any time."

The one disadvantage the team has this week is time isn't on their hands. With a short week due to Thursday Night Football, time is definitely a factor.

"It's not hard," said Pickens of playing on a short week. "It's hard because you don't have time. Time is everything. It's not hard. You just don't have time. It's still going to be the same game. It's still going to be the same guys they drafted. The same team we play. It's just time. There is nothing really that hard about it."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

Downfield threat: On Tuesday morning, quarterback Mitch Trubisky said he wants to give "our playmakers more of a chance."

"I could take more opportunities down the field where we could get our playmakers the football," said Trubisky. "I think it's better decision making and just taking those opportunities for sure."

Receiver Chase Claypool, a proven deep threat, likes Trubisky's mindset and knows they have the weapons to make it work.

"I think we're a group that can do that," said Claypool. "I think defenses are going to be on the lookout, so were not going to be able to do it every time. Sprinkle it in here and there."

Claypool would like to see the deep ball be a part of the offense on Thursday night when they play the Browns. It would give them the splash everyone is searching for.

"I think you can take advantage of some things down the field," said Claypool. "It would be nice to have every scoring drive five plays. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way."

Whatever the plan is on offense, Claypool knows it has to be one to counteract a Browns' defense that is going to be coming at them hard as they are trying to rebound from a late loss to the New York Jets.

"I think they are a super aggressive defense that likes to disrupt plays, so they're going to give us a challenge in terms of getting those deep shots, or even running the ball," said Claypool. "They're going to rally to the ball."

Starting fast: The Steelers offense hasn't scored a first quarter touchdown yet this season, and getting a fast start is something receiver Diontae Johnson knows must happen.

"We just gotta start," said Johnson. "There isn't any explanation about it. We just have to start fast. That's the way we're going to win games and get in the motion that we want to get into. If we don't start fast, it's going to be like last year. It's going to be hard to get that momentum that we want and to put points on the board and get that field position."

Johnson said it all starts during the week leading up to the games, preparing the right way and being on point with everything.

"It has to start at practice. The reps, how you lock in," said Johnson. "That is really it. If we don't do that in practice, it shows in games. You practice how you play. I really believe in that. The results are going to show on Sunday."

A lethal tandem: The Browns run game is going to present a challenge to the Steelers on Thursday night, with the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb has 39 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns through two games, while Hunt has 24 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown.

"They have a good stable of backs," said linebacker Malik Reed. "We watch film on them. Even now they talk about playing against those guys, them being one of the best tandems in the league. I know we have to do a great job against them."

The Browns have had their share of success running the ball, and while it's Chubb and Hunt who get most of the credit, their offensive line has been solid providing them the holes they need.

"They have some athletic guys, smart guys," said Reed. "Know what they want to do in the run game. We have to do a good job of preparing and preparing quickly in the short week."

The defense wants to come out strong after not being able to get off the field on the final drive last week, when the Patriots got the ball with 6:33 to play on their own 30-yard line and were able to move the ball to the Steelers 15-yard line where they were able to just run out the clock.

"It's just being on top of the details," said Reed. "In those last few seconds, those critical moments, we have to be sharp on those things and execute when it comes down to it. When the game hangs in the balance, get another chance for the offense to go out there and make a play if we get off the field at that point. It's getting off the field in those critical moments."

Piggybacking off the vets: Rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal knows one of the most important things he can do this week, is just copy what the veterans on the defensive line are doing.

With a short week, preparation is a key. And Leal is making sure he keeps close tabs on the other linemen for guidance.

"Right now I am piggybacking off of what they are doing," said Leal. "If I see them going to get treatment, I am like it's time to go get treatment. I am mirroring their steps throughout the week."

Physical conditioning will be paramount on Thursday night with the lack of time for the body to recover, something Leal wants to continue to work on early in the season.

"It's conditioning," said Leal. "Go after practice and just run, run, run. Making sure when it comes down to that fourth quarter, 1:30 left, if they are running the ball, we are going to be able to stop them because we are in shape."

The rotation on the defensive line will also be a key on Thursday, with everyone needing to step up and do their part.

"It's definitely going to be big," said Leal. "Guys gotta stay healthy, guys gotta be 100 percent. I feel like these next couple of days are going to be big for conditioning, the mental part of the game and getting after it on Thursday."

Obsessed with improving: The Steelers offense as a whole has gotten off to a slow start on the season, but on Monday when asked about the offensive line, Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged seeing improvement from a group that is relatively new to each other.

"It's improving," said Tomlin. "It's improving with each outing, and it's reasonable to expect that to continue."

Guard James Daniels, who signed with the team this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, said there is a reason the improvement is showing, and he too expects it to continue because the offensive line as a whole is fully committed to making that happen.

"I do think we are making improvement," said Daniels. "That's just because everyone, every day, they come in and try to get better. I am glad I am in a roomful of guys that are obsessed with getting better. Every day they focus on something that we practice, something to get better. I am glad I am with guys that are focused on getting better."

Hall of Fame nominees: Several former Steelers took the next step toward football immortality when the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the Modern-Era Nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

Among the former Steelers on the list of 129 players are kicker Gary Anderson, linebackers Chad Brown, James Farrior and James Harrison, nose tackle Casey Hampton and receiver Hines Ward.

Harrison is the only one of the players making the list for the first time.

The list of nominees includes 67 offensive players, 50 defensive players and 12 special teams players. The list of Modern-Era Nominees will be reduced to 25 Semifinalists in November and 15 Finalists who will be announced in January.

He said it: Linebacker Alex Highsmith is pumped to be playing on Thursday Night Football, especially in an AFC North Matchup on the road against the Cleveland Browns.

"I am excited for this," said Highsmith. "It's my first time being there for a primetime game. I have heard the atmosphere is crazy there for primetime games. I know it's going to be loud. I know it's going to be a challenge for us to go in there. I know it's going to be hostile. I am looking forward to going to that environment and cause some havoc. That's what we've got to do. We've got to cause havoc and take the crowd out of it."

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Monday, September 19

Moving forward: Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi felt the frustration on Sunday of losing to the Patriots, 17-14, in a game where the defense was unable to get ball back for their offense on the final drive.

Ogunjobi sat at his locker postgame, taking it in, but at the same time remembering you have to move on.

"Never let a win get to your head, never let a loss get to your heart," said Ogunjobi. "I was reflecting on how to be better, make more splash plays."

The Patriots got the ball with 6:33 to play on their own 30-yard line. They were able to move the ball to the Steelers 15-yard line with just 1:40 to play, at which point quarterback Mac Jones simply had to take a knee three times.

"We didn't find a way to stop the run," said Ogunjobi. "That was it."

While he reflected on things after the game, there isn't time to think about it now with a Thursday night game against the Cleveland Browns on the horizon.

"You move forward because we have a short week and have to get ready for the next challenge," said Ogunjobi. "You don't have a choice. You just don't have a choice. You play two games in four days. You have to shake it off or you're going to get beat again. I think the biggest thing is to look at the film, correct what needs to be corrected and move forward.

"You understand the task at hand. You understand how important division games are, they count for two. For me personally, I understand the challenge. I am looking forward to it. I can't wait."

Ogunjobi is familiar with the Browns, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He played four seasons in Cleveland, before going to the Bengals in 2021, and is ready to face another former team in just three weeks.

"It should be fun. I am excited for it," said Ogunjobi. "I'm excited for that game. I'm excited."

Watt's wisdom: Linebacker T.J. Watt isn't one to quietly stand on the sidelines and just watch, so you knew he would be in the ear of his teammates on Sunday, giving any tips he could as he deals with being on the Reserve/Injured list with a pectoral injury.

One of those reaping the benefits of Watt's wisdom was fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.

"He was helping us a lot," said Highsmith. "He said anything he sees out there he is going to be able to help us with. I am thankful he is willing to do that. It shows how engaged he is with the game because you know how much he wants to be out there. Helping us probably helped a lot. I know he will be willing to do that again this week. There were a couple of plays I had where I almost got there, and he was telling me little things I could have done to help me get there. I am just thankful for the help did provide for us on Sunday."

In Mitch they trust: Center Mason Cole spoke for himself and the organization in support of quarterback Mitch Trubisky today.

"There's not any doubt in Mitch," Cole insisted.

Cole let his thoughts on Trubisky be known while addressing a question about fans at Acrisure Stadium chanting backup quarterback and No. 1 pick Kenny Pickett's name during Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Patriots.

"We know the kind of player Mitch is, Mitch is a winner," Cole continued. "He's won in this league. He's won for this offense already. There's no doubt in Mitch. The fans, they can cheer all they want and it is what it is, they're gonna do what they're gonna do. But everyone in this locker room, everyone in this organization believes in Mitch.

"Mitch is awesome. He controls the huddle and he's always the same guy, which I appreciate.
The ups and downs of this league and this game, for him to be the same, consistent guy every day I think is huge. That's the kind of leadership we need from him."

Trubisky acknowledged chatter in the huddle regarding what pays are being called and where the ball has been going following Sunday's loss.

"Oh yeah, everybody wants the ball in their hands," Trubisky maintained.

Cole characterized such conversations as commonplace.

"We're all competitors in here, right?" Cole said. "Everyone wants the ball. Everyone wants to score a touchdown. It's always like that in this game and in competitive moments it's always going to be like that. You gotta like that from the guys. Guys want the ball, guys want to make plays and that's what the play-makers are there for. Everyone's talking but when Mitch is talking it's quiet in there, right? He's got command of the huddle."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

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.