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Week 4 Blog: A recap of the news

Friday, September 30

Defending the o-line: Najee Harris is like almost everyone else reading this.

He pays attention to what's on social media.

And on Friday he was very frank about what he has been reading lately and he delivered a straight-forward message.

Stop putting the blame on the Steelers offensive line for any struggles the team is having in the run game.

"It's how much I need to improve, rather than how much we're talking bad about the o-line everywhere," said Harris. "It's not the o-line. I think the o-line did a really good job last week. Really starting from the Patriots game, they did a really good job of controlling what they can control. It just comes down to me. Really just me doing more and trusting them.

"I just need to trust them more. We've got some really good guys. They've done a really good job of getting better and they are good. We do have a good o-line. Too much of what I see on social media is how bad they talk about our line. But it's not. It's me. We just need to stop focusing on them and focus on me. That is one thing I do what to address and put it out there."

Harris, one of the team's offensive captains, said they are comfortable with what they are doing on offense and a key is the players sticking together despite outside noise.

"Play calling and all of that is fine," said Harris. "It's just about us executing. You guys keep blaming other people. It's us in this locker room. We all need to come together and focus on what we need to improve on. Every week, every day we go out and practice. It's not going to be perfect. As long as the trajectory is going forward, that is all that matters.

"This is the NFL so outside distractions are a part of it. It's a part of the game we are in. We just need to find a way to control what we can control and keep everything together. When we come together and focus on a certain goal, that is how we get better."

Time to smash the run: It's the most talked about subject in the locker room with Steelers defenders this week, and it's understandable.

The Steelers are ranked 28th in the NFL in run defense, so stopping the run against the New York Jets on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium is definitely a primary focus.

"It's huge. And it comes back to us," said defensive back Tre Norwood. "We know as a defense we have to go out there and do better. We talked, and our biggest focus is attention to detail, making sure we do the little things right. Everybody doing their job. Not trying to do too much. Doing your assignment and playing sound team football.

"We know every week we have to stop the run, but not just stop the run, we say smash the run. That is the main thing we want to do and make their offense one dimensional and then play ball from there."

While Norwood said not doing too much is a key, it's sometimes easier said than done, especially after two straight losses.

"I think that goes to any player who plays ball, just the competitive nature in us guys," said Norwood. "But that is the key thing, always making sure you have the mindset that you are not trying to do too much because then bad things can happen. It's trusting in one another, doing our job and playing sound football. Trusting in the man next to you to do his job."

Celebrating international diversity: Four Steelers players will be taking part in a special initiative to celebrate international diversity the NFL is undertaking the next two weeks, when they wear a flag helmet decal of the country or territory that represents their nationality or culture.

The player-led initiative showcases the global influence of the NFL, with over 50 nations and territories represented. Players are able to wear, alongside the American flag, the flag of a country they lived in for two years or more or have a parent or grandparent who were born there.

Among those taking part are David Anenih (Nigeria), Chase Claypool (Canada), Larry Ogunjobi (Nigeria), and Chukwuma Okorafor (Nigeria).

"I think it's amazing," said Ogunjobi. "My parents were immigrants. I'm first generation here in the States. I think there are more than 80 players who are Nigerian playing in the NFL. It means a lot to me and my countrymen to wear that flag and represent our country. We don't come from much, but it's exciting to do these things and represent our country in the right way and be a part of something special."

Ogunjobi's parents, Larry and Mercy Ogunjobi, moved to the United States in 1993, the year before he was born. He has committed himself to continually striving for more to honor the sacrifices they made.

"We come from humble beginnings, and I think about it every day, what they went through to get me here and get me a better life, better opportunity," said Ogunjobi. "I try to repay them every day with my work and how I attack every day."

He will be joined by Anenih and Okorafor wearing the Nigerian flag, which will be worn by more players than any other flag.

"It's means a lot, especially for me because my parents, my mom and dad, still live in Nigeria," said Anenih. "Without my parents, without their upbringing of me, I wouldn't be where I am today. It means a lot for me to represent my country.

"I think it's a good thing to allow people who are not from America to represent where they are from, where their parents were born, so it's really a positive thing."

Okorafor, who was born in Nigeria, also understands the sacrifices hat were made for them to have the lives they have now.

"It means a lot to do this," said Okorafor. "We all made it to the NFL, but you have to remember what your parents did for us to make it here. I look back on my life every day, what my mom and dad had to do for us to be here. It means a lot."

Claypool was born and raised in Canada and is happy to see more Canadians playing in the NFL every year.

"Wearing the flag is something I did in college on the back of my helmet, so I think it's cool I will be able to do it in the NFL as well," said Claypool. "I think it shows the diversity. There's not too many of us from Canada, but there's more and more coming into the league. I think it will be cool to see the other Canadian players too, and even other countries. It will be a talking point and makes us more of a family."


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, September 29

Not even at Top 5 catch: It was the catch seen around the world, one that had everyone's eyes popping and social media accounts going crazy talking about Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens.

But in Pickens eyes, it wasn't his best catch ever.

Not even in the top five.

"That's probably like seven," said Pickens after practice on Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.


For real.

What about one through six?

"UGA, practice for real," said Pickens, referring to catches he made while at the University of Georgia. "One is on YouTube, you will probably see it. A lot of them are undiscovered.

"I made even crazier catches in college. When I caught the ball, I made crazier catches before, so I knew I caught it. It was just a fact of what the world thought about it. I saw their input on the internet."

The catch was a sick one-handed grab out of the air while basically horizontal with the field against the Browns on Thursday Night Football. And yes, the internet reacted, including Odell Beckham Jr., who many quickly compared Pickens catch with an incredible one-handed touchdown catch by OBJ in 2014 with the New York Giants.

Even OBJ reacted to Pickens catch.

And Pickens saw the reaction.

"I have seen it," said Pickens of the comparison. "OBJ is one of my favorite players. Even if I do want to say it's better, I lowkey want to say it's not."

And what about getting the shoutout from OBJ.

"That meant a lot," said Pickens. "Stuff like that means more to me because that's my favorite player. One of my favorite players in terms of catching crazy stuff. He can catch anything."

Details matter: Cameron Heyward gets it.

He knows a season isn't determined in the first month.

He knows it's not always how you start, but how you finish.

But despite those things, there isn't anything he wants more right now than to have a winning record.

"Just take it one game at a time," said Heyward. "You don't win a Super Bowl in September, but it would be nice to have a winning record right now. We just have to continue to improve. We have to get better at our craft, get better at our technique. Sometimes you get an unlucky ball here or there. It's the details that matter. I look forward to cleaning those up."

Heyward, who is one of the Steelers team captains, said everyone has to take ownership of the team's 1-2 record to date and do their part to turn it around fast.

"Everybody has a sense of what are we doing, what do we need to do to get better, how do we win these games," said Heyward. "When Coach lays out the game plan, understanding the details, understanding more football to be played as well. And you just attack it. It's not sugar coating it or not being accountable for it. Everybody has to own their mistakes and go forward."

One disadvantage the defense has is they are still going forward without T.J. Watt, the reigning defensive player of the year who will miss at least two more games on the Reserve/Injured List. The team is 0-2 without him this season, but Heyward knows guys can step up to win without Watt on the field.

"Obviously we are still trying to win without him. I think we are 0-7 without him," said Heyward. "For me I look it as a step up. I have to be a better player on the field. It's not me replacing T.J., my technique just has to be better. I think every player should work like that. I think every player should work towards raising your level when you have guys out.

"T.J. Watt is going to playing football for a long time, but at one time he will retire, and we'll have to play football without him. I'll probably be gone by then. But there's going to be different players always playing. It's an opportunity for guys to step up. We have to be excited by those opportunities because if you can turn it into a positive and you get a guy like T.J. back, it only adds to your group."

A helping hand: With the Florida area being hit so hard by Hurricane Ian, the NFL is working with the American Red Cross to help those impacted.

NFL fans across the country can also do their part to help through the NFL's American Red Cross Hurricane Ian relief effort.

To help support this affected by Hurricane Ian, please visit or text the word IAN to 90999 to make a $10 donation and help those in need.

He said it: Linebacker Devin Bush on what he sees from the Jets:

"I think they are a good group. I think they play a really good game as far as getting everybody the ball. They are going to run the ball against us because everybody is going to try to. That's going to be a good challenge for us."

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, September 28

One focus: Diontae Johnson isn't hitting any panic buttons with the team at 1-2 in the early stages of the season.

And he isn't the only one who feels that way. There is plenty of confidence in the Steelers locker room that the team will bounce back after two consecutive losses.

"We knew coming in it was a new team, new players, obviously a new quarterback," said Johnson. "It's going to take time. We're going to get there. I wouldn't count us out. It's early in the season. We still have a lot of football left, and I feel like we're going to be fine.

"I always have confidence in my teammates. We are out there playing with each other, and I always have confidence that the coaches are going to put us in the right position to have success on the field."

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky said when watching the film, the plays are there, it's now just a matter of it all coming together for the offense and making those plays. Johnson agrees.

"It's on us to make the plays and the coaches put us in the right spot to get us open and whatnot," said Johnson. "I feel like they have been doing that. We've just got to play. Just play and it's all going to come together.

"Just making those plays in those weighty moments, the ones we should come down with down the field. Those big moments we have to make plays, those third down conversions. We've got to help the defense and stay on the field longer and put points on the board. I've got full confidence in my guys that we're going to be good."

One thing that Coach Mike Tomlin has preached to the team is to not listen to the noise, not pay attention to the voices outside of the locker room.

"Just stay in your lane. Keep going," said Johnson. "You can't be drifting in other people's lane. That's when you're going to be messing up and worrying about the wrong stuff. That is not what we are doing.

"We've got one focus, and that's winning games, taking it each week at a time. We're going to continue to do that and help Mitch get prepared for this game."

Cleaning things up: Myles Jack smiled as he stood at his locker on Wednesday afternoon, hearing words that were shared about him a few weeks back from Coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin referred to Jack as a 'linebacker at all times, 24 hours a day,' during an early season press conference.

Jack liked the description, because it's something he prides himself on, something he strives for.

"That is a great compliment, coming from a great man, so I appreciate it," said Jack. "I just try to approach things head on. That is it. I look forward to things. I look forward when things are good. I look forward when things are bad."

And one thing Jack wants to make clear, despite a 1-2 start to the season, things aren't bad right now for the team.

"It's the first quarter in the NFL," said Jack. "You can't hoist up that trophy just yet. We're confident in this building. It's a long year. It's still September. We're just getting started. A lot of the things, the mistakes that's we made, we can easily clean them up."

Cleaning up those mistakes is something Jack truly believes will turn the table, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where getting the run defense on track is a goal.

"It's a mixture of a lot of things," said Jack. "We're giving teams things instead of them just straight up beating us. Maybe a missed gap here, a missed assignment there. It's easy fixes. It's nothing scientific. We're cleaning that up. We're working on it this week. It's going to be good."

The players had a few days off over the weekend after the Thursday night loss to the Browns, and it gave them the opportunity to look at what they can do individually, before coming together collectively, to correct the mistakes.

"I think everybody had time to look in the mirror, reflect, see what mistakes you made, see what could have been better," said Jack. "I think it's going to be good for us. It's early in the year, it's going to be fine. I think we'll be good."

Jack fully expects the Jets to come at them on the ground and challenge the run defense, especially with the Steelers ranking 28th overall in the NFL in that category.

"Absolutely. And I look forward to it," said Jack. "It's going to be a great challenge. Once we answer that challenge, we can simmer it down. Until then it's out there. We look forward to answering the call and making them pass the ball more than run."

Expecting the run: Until the Steelers run defense plays a shutdown game, players know what is going to happen.

Opponents are going to come at them and run the ball. 

"Whenever you put something on tape, somebody is going to look at it and try to attack it," said linebacker Devin Bush. "We're going to be ready for the challenge."

The Steelers rank 28th in the NFL in run defense, coming off a performance against the Cleveland Browns where they gave up 171 yards rushing, including 113 by Nick Chubb.

It's going to take a complete defensive performance to stop teams from hurting them on the ground, and they are up for the challenge. 

"It's definitely a challenge because when you run the ball it's basically saying who is going to out-physical who," said Bush. "I think when you get into those types of games, it's man vs. man, a man has to beat another man. I think the challenge is separately on all of us, but collectively we all have to work together to stop the run."

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.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 4 matchup against the New York Jets

Monday, September 26

Focus on the little things: It's been a recurring topic, and one defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is hoping to find the solution to this week.

The Steelers run defense continues to struggle, giving up 171 yards against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. Facing the lethal combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt didn't help, as Chubb rushed for 113 yards on 23 carries and Hunt added 47 yards on 12 carries.

Heyward said the key this week against the New York Jets is to stay focused on the task at hand, and that begins when they return to the practice field on Wednesday.

"Get ready for Wednesday. We have practice. Focus on the little things. Control what you can control," said Heyward. "Do your job. Get ready to play football again.

"The weekend was nice to get a quick reset. We have work to do. It was nice to get a couple extra hours of rest. Hopefully it benefits us. Now we get back to the task at hand."

The Browns won the time of possession battle, 36:09-23:51, and they had scoring drives of 11, 12 and 14 plays, which was one of several things that stood out when watching film.

"Not getting off the field enough," said Heyward. "Obviously not stopping the run good enough. It comes down to tackling, being responsible for gaps. Then when we do that, we can do what we want. We can get after the pass rusher. The last two games have not been indicative of that. If we are gong to have success around here, that's the blueprint to get it done."

The Browns game was the second one the Steelers played without linebacker T.J. Watt, the reigning defensive player of the year who is on the Reserve/Injured List with a pectoral injury. Heyward said while they miss him, it's time for others to step up.

"T.J. is a heck of a player," said Heyward. "I am not going to say he is our whole entire team. But it's nice to have a guy like that. This is a league built on guys stepping up when guys are hurt. Nobody is running away from it. We all have to be better.

"Let's be consistent in our work. Let's focus on what we can control. Last game happened, but I am not going to beat a dead horse and say the sky is falling. We just have to play football. Guys know how to do that. Guys know how to play better. Let's do it."

Looking for a complete game: The statistics show the Steelers are currently 31st in total offense and 19th in scoring offense.

But Steelers center Mason Cole said the team is close to putting everything together offensively.

"I think we're really close. I don't think it's as bad as a lot of people think it is," Cole said. "It's still not good enough, but it really comes down to 11 guys doing their job. That's football. If one guy is not doing his job, it's not going to look the way it's meant to be."

The key, according to Cole is playing a complete game. The Steelers have had some successful drives where the offense has looked good. They even had a strong first half last Thursday night in a 29-17 loss to the Browns, scoring a pair of first-half touchdowns and also getting into position for a field goal that was missed by Chris Boswell on a windy night in Cleveland.

But they didn't sustain that in the second half. The Steelers had 197 yards of total offense in the first half against the Browns and finished with 308.

"This league is tough. There are no excuses. We have to be better to win these games, these tight games, we're going to have to be better and play a complete game," Cole said. "So that's what we're striving to do, play a complete game on offense."

The Steelers did get their running game going some against Cleveland, rushing for 104 yards on 22 carries. But most of that came in the first half, when the Steelers rushed for 88 yards on 16 carries.

"I think our tempo helped us a little bit and kind of sticking to it in the first half kind of helped us," Cole said of the running game. "We've just got to keep getting better there and moving forward there."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

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.