Week 4 Blog: News and Notes

Handling their business: Sunday's Steelers-Texans game is going to feature two players who have gotten out of the gates strong in Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt and Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, while Stroud won the AFC Rookie of the Month for September.

"It's always nice to be recognized but it's so early in this whole process," said Watt. "At the end of the day, I am just trying to win. Those things all kind of handle themselves if you play hard, trust in your teammates and just go out each and every week like you have something to prove."

Watt is leading the NFL with six sacks through three games. And it doesn't stop there. 

His total for the month includes the six sacks, as well as 11 tackles, nine of them solo stops, 12 quarterback hits, five tackles for a loss, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 16 yards for a touchdown. And, to top it off, he became the Steelers all-time sack leader in September.

Watt recorded three sacks in the Steelers home opener against the San Francisco 49ers and added a sack against the Cleveland Browns, which broke the Steelers all-time sack record, which was held by James Harrison, with 81.5 career sacks at the time.

Against the Raiders, Watt added two more sacks for his second multiple sack game of the season.

"T.J., you can't think of another guy that impacts the game more," said Houston Texans Coach DeMeco Ryans, whose team has to try and find a way to contain Watt this week. "He is probably the most impactful defensive player in the league right now. Leading the league in sacks and pressures.

"When you have one guy who can pressure and disrupt the quarterback, it just changes the entire scheme of things defensively. You don't have to blitz as much because you have a guy like T.J. Watt."

Stroud has gotten off to an equally impressive start for the Texans. He has thrown for 906 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. 

"He's strong, hard to get down, a guy that is going to take care of the football," said Watt. "At the same time, he is going to let it fly. It seems like he progresses through his reads like a veteran. There are going to be a lot of challenging things for us, but I look forward to it.

"At this point we already have three games on him, so it's not like there is a lot of unknown. He is still growing each and every week. We have a little bit of a resume for him. We are going to just handle our business."

Keep on stacking: The Steelers were able to stack wins the last two weeks, with Sunday night their best offensive performance of the season.

The key now is keeping the momentum going.

"It's just keeping our foot on the gas," said receiver Allen Robinson II.

That, and staying locked in. While the offense struggled out of the gate, things are on the upswing and it's because everyone has stuck to the plan.

"The main thing is, everyone in this building has stayed the course, being locked in, practicing hard," said Robinson. "In a season like this, that is what you have to do. We have to continue to do what we have been doing, that has helped us to get better. You have to have the same approach each and every week.

"The biggest thing is understanding what caused some things. What you want to do is continue to polish some of the things you are doing well and improve on the things you aren't doing well."

Always there for each other: The Steelers have always had a family atmosphere, but in one corner of the locker room it's more like a family reunion.

Linebacker T.J. Watt's locker is next to rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr., two players who have known each other well before Porter Jr. was drafted by the Steelers this year.

Watt was coached by Joey Porter Sr. when he was the team's linebackers coach, getting to know Joey Jr. when he was still in high school.

"I don't think it really fully hit me yet," said Watt. "I mean, I just remember seeing Joey after practice in Latrobe when he was in school, and we always knew that he was incredibly talented. It's awesome to see the growth that he's had in such a short amount of time. To be able to have him on our team is special."

Porter remembers getting to know Watt and others, who even came to see him play on Friday nights at North Allegheny High School.  

"It's crazy because him and Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo used to come to my high school games when my dad was coaching them, being there and showing support," said Porter Jr. "The fact that he used to come to my games in high school and now I am right here in the locker next to him. They would come to my house for dinner, things like that. It's a crazy 180. It's dope."

Alone at the top: Cornerback Patrick Peterson's interception in Las Vegas was significant for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was it was his first with the Steelers.

"Finally got one," Peterson said. "It felt pretty good. It's always awesome when you have an opportunity to get your hands on Mr. Wilson. And with that, adding to my long list of interceptions, put me in the lead as an active player.

"It was very, very joyful to finally get the leg up on Harrison Smith."

Peterson's 35 career interceptions are one more than Minnesota's Smith has managed (34).
The Raiders' Marcus Peters and the 49ers' Tashaun Gipson are tied for third among active players with 32 INTs.

Peterson's theft came when the Steelers were in their base defense and he was positioned as an outside cornerback. He's also played an inside position in the six-defensive backs "dime" sub-package, but not much has come his way when he's been so aligned.

"I'm inside, I'm just not getting much action when I'm inside," Peterson said. "I can't force the issue. I have to continue being where I'm supposed to be in order for the defense to be successful.

"I can't go out chasing plays and doing things out of the ordinary. I have to do my job and do it at the best of my ability."

The word from the offensive players this week was that progress had been made in Vegas.
Peterson endorsed that assessment.

"That's what it's all about, finding ways to be better than your last performance," Peterson said. "I believe that those guys went out there and showcased that. They wanted to be better than what we were against the Cleveland Browns. And there was a point of emphasis of coming out and starting faster on the offensive side of the ball, on the defensive side, as well.

"Those guys were able to mount up first downs, mount up points, some significant drives to take some time off the clock. I feel like they're definitely moving in the right direction."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Road Warriors: The Steelers, Tower 12 and Baja Sharkeez welcome Steelers Nation to Los Angeles and
Hermosa Beach Pier on Sat., Oct. 21 for the first Road Warrior Block Party since 2019.

The Steelers' Road Warrior Block Partyis open to fans of all ages, and admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tickets and/or registration is not required. Fans wearing Steelers gear will avoid cover fees and have access to exclusive activities and food and beverage
specials. The Hermosa Beach Pier is 25 minutes from SoFi Stadium and 20 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport.

Fans will have an opportunity to receive autographed Steelers' prizes, interact with Steelers' legends and enjoy music and entertainment, as well as participate in raffles to benefit the Breast Cancer Angels.

More information is available at Steelers Road Warriors.

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, September 28

Looking to create havoc: The Steelers defense will face a challenge on Sunday against Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, who won the AFC Rookie of the Month for September.

In the Texans first three games, Stroud has thrown for 906 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The rookie from Ohio State has been everything as advertised, and the Steelers know they have their work cut out for them.

"He has been efficient with the ball," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "He is a challenge for us. We're going to have to get after it, cause havoc up front and rattle him."

Some of his teammates have been asking cornerback Joey Porter Jr. for insight on Stroud, as the two faced each other in college when Porter was at Penn State. He said it's different in the NFL, but knows what Stroud brings.

"They asked me a little bit of stuff about him," said Porter. "I said he is a good quarterback, very accurate with the ball. He knows where he wants to go with it, we just gotta make our opportunities when they present themselves."

The defense has had success in the past against rookie quarterbacks and are hoping this week will be more of the same. But they know it won't be easy.

"For us, we always have to control what we can control," said Highsmith. "It's getting after him up front and being sound all throughout the defense.

"It starts up front, stopping the run and getting them in passing situations and get after them."

Where they should be: The Steelers offense continues to make strides, coming together against the Raiders this past week, clicking on multiple fronts.

Receiver Calvin Austin III likes that progress he has seen so far, and feels like the team is right where they need to be.

"I think we are exactly where we are supposed to be," said Austin. "Anything that we put out, is what we have done. We are right where we need to be. We are not behind, we are not ahead, we are right where we need to be.

"Once we execute, we continue to put good stuff on film. It just comes down to executing. We know we're going to get to where we want to be."

Austin, and others on offense, know what they are capable of. And execution is the key. They did that nicely on a six-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth. There were chunk plays throughout the drive, including passes of 17 yards to George Pickens, 16 yards to Jaylen Warren and 14 yards to Freiermuth. Najee Harris also rattled off a 17-yard run.

"It shows that once everybody is executing, we can put drives like that together," said Austin. "When we look back at all the games, that's all it came down to. A missed assignment here, somebody a little off here.

"We realize when everybody comes together, we are all on the same page, we can put drives like that together.

"You could feel it on the field that we were getting our rhythm and everything and we were flowing."

Making sure that flow continues is now the key. 

"Just go back to work and nobody focus on anybody but themselves," said Austin. "Receivers can't be worried about tight ends. Tight ends can't be worried about the O-line. Everybody has to know their own individual assignment and go out and execute it.

"Once we do that, the only people that can stop us are ourselves."

Balancing it out: The Steelers got some balance going on offense against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, something they know is a must as they move forward.

"We were able to run the ball and open up the pass more," said tight end Pat Freiermuth. "We definitely want to be consistent. We had a strong performance on Sunday night, and we have to continue to build on that. We want to stack wins, that is our goal."

Freiermuth had three receptions for 41 yards against the Raiders, including a 14-yard touchdown catch. In the two previous games he had a total of two receptions for five yards.

Freiermuth said last week he isn't stressing over his numbers, it's just all about winning.

"Whoever is open, that is the person you want to have make the plays," said Freiermuth. "We had to feed off of that. At the end of the day, we just want to win. However we get there is cool."

One way they got there on Sunday night against the Raiders was by protecting the ball and moving it on the ground. 

"The biggest thing is we didn't turn the ball over, so we were able to stay on schedule," said Freiermuth. "We were able to run the ball successfully. Able to do all of the things we did in camp successfully, so we have to build on that. There are still some things we want to accomplish details wise. We want to build on the performance."

Family fun: This weekend linebacker T.J. Watt will have a family reunion of sorts, with the entire Watt family on hand at Sunday's game against the Texans.

And they won't just be there for T.J.

Watt's brother, former Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, is being inducted into the organization's Ring of Honor during the game.

It will be a special time for the Watt family, another opportunity to make memories and of course share some laughs, something that is the norm for the Watt brothers.

One of the biggest laughs came this offseason, and it was at the expense of T.J. And the laughs are still continuing.

It was all because of a video that went viral on social media during the offseason, one that made Steelers Nation stop breathing for a moment before everyone realized all was okay.

Watt was captured on his home security camera slipping and taking a nasty fall into his pool while cleaning it in May.

After sharing it with close friends and family, he posted it on his Instagram account with the disclaimer, 'I am completely ok.' But it caused panic inside and outside the Steelers locker room.

After everyone took a deep breath and realized he was fine, they of course got a good laugh out of it.

Especially his older brother who immediately wanted to get the video on a 24/7 loop in his house.

And big brother held to his word.

"It was fantastic. What a video," said J.J. Watt. "I literally have it on loop in a picture frame in my house. That is not a joke. He knows it too."

Watt just shook his head at his brother, who has since shared the 'infamous' picture frame with him.

"He has way too much time on his hands to be able to be making a video like that," said Watt. "But it is funny. It's in the kitchen of my house right now."

It wasn't just his brother who reacted to it, though.

"I saw it and texted him and was like are you okay," said Highsmith. "He said, yeah, I'm fine. It just looked like someone normally cleaning the pool and he fell in. It gave Steelers Nation a heart attack.

"I told him he needs to hire some to do that for him."

That was the general consensus from most, but Fitzpatrick looked at it differently.

"At first, I wanted to make sure he was all right. That wasn't a pretty fall," said Fitzpatrick. "Everyone thinks we are world class athletes. Sometimes we have some oopsies.

"I think it's admirable he cleans his own pool," said Fitzpatrick. "That is an example of the type of person he is. That is very honorable."

Watt admits that he has someone cleaning the pool while he and his wife, Dani, are in Pittsburgh for the season, but it's something he enjoys doing when he is back home in Wisconsin. It's just the norm for him.

"I am a normal person," said Watt. "Dani and I live such a normal life. We don't have fancy cars. My wife shops at Giant Eagle and is always coupon clipping. I'm always giving her a hard time at restaurants if she pulls a coupon out. But it's why I love her and it's why I love the life that we've created together. We have values that we were raised with, and we're not losing sight of those. Doing something as simple as cleaning the pool is part of that. I work out in the off season from 8 a.m. until noon, and then I don't really have anything the rest of my day. Why am I going to pay a guy to go back and clean my pool if I can just do it myself? And it's nice. It's relaxing."

A Cole award: Linebacker Cole Holcomb is the winner of the 2023 NFL Way to Play Award for Week 3.

This is the sixth year for the award, which recognizes NFL players who exemplify proper technique to make impactful plays.

Holcomb is the recipient for his play in the third quarter of the win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Holcomb dropped back in coverage and broke up a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Davante Adams. Holcomb was able to read Garoppolo's eyes and came in to break up the pass, using just his shoulder to hit Adams. Holcomb had his head up for the play, knowing where he was hitting.

"This is an absolutely perfect play," said NFL Network's Jason McCourty when announcing the award. "This is how you go out there and make a big hit, impact the game, and keep everybody safe."

The award was implemented with the idea of player safety and showing big-time plays can be made in the right manner.

"Through the award, football players and fans from around the world can see real-time examples of excellent football fundamentals and skill development," said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

Holcomb will receive a $5,000 equipment grant through USA Football to be awarded to the local youth or high school football program of his choice.

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, September 27

Brotherly love: For T.J. Watt, the number one thing on his mind this week is defeating the Houston Texans and helping the Steelers stack their third win in a row.

But there will be a special sidebar to the game for Watt.

Watt's older brother, former Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, will be inducted into the Houston Texans Ring of Honor during the game. J.J. Watt was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and Walter Payton Man of the Year while with the Texans and is only the third person to be inducted into the Ring of Honor. The entire Watt family will be on hand for the game, and younger brother couldn't be happier the Texans chose the Steelers game to do it so he can be there as well.

"It's going to be huge," said Watt. "I was talking to a couple of guys about how much the city has meant to him and how much they care about him. It's a statement of who my brother is and what he represented, and what he still represents.

"I have a lot of special memories there watching him play. Visiting him there. Going to that Bills playoff game there. It's going to be different being back there without him playing. It's going to be awesome to see him received the way he deserves to be received. I know Houston is going to do it right for him.

"I am looking forward for me personally to have all of us in one area. We don't get together often anymore because we are so spread out. It's going to be pretty special.

"For me, it's about remembering there is a big game behind all of this. I am happy for my brother. I don't know who he is rooting for, but at the end of the day there is a game to be played."

Watt is six years younger than his older brother and loved watching him play when he first got in the NFL, but also learned a lot from him.

"My brother's whole career, he was making plays like crazy," said Watt. "Looking back, I definitely took it for granted how excellent and dominant he was. I just figured that is what happens. Then I got to the NFL and realized it's hard to make these plays he's been doing for so long. It's just a testament to who he is, how he prepares, and that hard work gets rewarded.

"To be able to have the blueprint of what it takes to be an NFL player, a Division I college football player, is something not a lot of people get. I understood at a young age what it takes to get to the next level, and to be successful at the next level, and the amount of sacrifice and commitment it takes."

Practicing patience: When he steps on the field, rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is making his presence felt, being in the right place, at the right times.

It's just that right now, Porter isn't seeing a ton of playing time.

Each week his snap count is increasing, with Porter playing 27 defensive snaps against the Raiders, and six on special teams. That's up from seven defensive snaps in Week 1 and 14 in Week 2.

Porter doesn't know when the number will increase even more as it's not his call.

"I don't know," said Porter. "I say it every week, we're going to see what the people upstairs say. I'm going to just keep working.

"Stacking days every time I get on the field with the guys, communication is going well, it's going pretty good."

Porter said he is mainly just seeing time in the dime defense, but feels he is showing he can do more.

"I showed I can hang with the best of them with my technique," said Porter. "I have to keep stacking days and making the plays that come to me."

While he is waiting his turn, he isn't getting frustrated, instead understanding patience is part of the job.

"It's not up to me," said Porter. "I have to keep showing them that I am ready and keep gaining confidence every time I step out there.

"I did it before at Penn State. I waited my turn. It's nothing new to me. Everybody wants to play. It's the scheme of things and how things run."

Detail oriented: It's all about the details.

At least that is what running back Najee Harris said the message was from Coach Mike Tomlin coming out of Sunday night's win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

"Just executing our game plan. Being more detailed," said Harris. "Looking at the film from Vegas wasn't as detailed. That is a big emphasis Mike T said. Being more detailed."

The run game did get clicking this week after two weeks where it struggled to get rolling. Harris, who rushed for 31 and 43 yards, respectively, in the first two games, gained 65 yards on the ground against the Raiders. Jaylen Warren added 29 yards.

Not numbers that have them satisfied by any means, but it's going in the right direction.

"Just getting better at doing things," said Harris. "It just takes time. As long as we're trending upwards, that's all that matters. The run game is helping to open up a lot of stuff, play action, create those plays.

"The play action helps a lot because when you get the linebackers to step up, it creates the big shots down the field. If they start playing off, you can run the ball more. It all mirrors off each other."

Making moves: The Steelers made multiple practice squad moves on Wednesday, including signing receiver Jalen Camp and punter Brad Wing, and releasing cornerback Kalon Barnes.

Camp was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the 209th overall pick. He was released by the Jaguars prior to the season and signed to the Houston Texans practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster three times at the end of the 2021 season as a COVID-19 replacement.

Camp spent most of the 2022 season on the Texans practice squad, while being elevated for two games.

In two seasons he played in five games, starting one, and has one reception for seven yards.

Camp played college ball at Georgia Tech where he appeared in 49 games and had 48 receptions for 808 yards and five touchdowns.

Wing is no stranger to the Steelers, as he played one season for the black and gold. Wing appeared in each of the Steelers 16 regular-season games in 2014, punting 61 times for 2,668 yards while landing 20 attempts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Wing was traded to the New York Giants, spending three seasons there. In his first season with the Giants, he had a 44.5-yard gross average and a 38.9-yard net average. He had 33 punts inside the 20-yard line, which tied a Giants' single-season record.

In 2016 he had 93 times for a 46.2-yard gross average and a 40.9-yard net average, breaking a Jets single-season record with the net average. He hit 28 punts inside the 20-yard line. He also earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.

In 64 career games, Wing has a 44.7-yard gross average and a 38.8-yard net average. He has placed 100 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Wing, who played at LSU, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2013 NFL Draft.

The next best thing: The Steelers weren't able to close out the game after they took possession with a five-point lead and 2:22 left in regulation on Sunday night in Las Vegas, but the offense was still able to do what needed to be done.

A third-and-2 completion from quarterback Kenny Pickett to wide receiver Allen Robinson picked up 6 yards, moved the chains and helped ensure that the Raiders wouldn't get the ball back until just 12 seconds remained.

Pickett said in the immediate aftermath that the Steelers got the defensive look they were hoping to see from the Raiders on what turned out to be one of the critical plays in the Steelers' 23-18 victory, but Robinson maintained today he wasn't taking anything for granted.

"It's sometimes tough to see how it's actually going to play out based on a look pre-snap," Robinson said. "As we kind of got into the play and kind of felt how it was going I was able to break out.

"Initially, teams disguise, teams do different things. They aren't going to tip their hand off the get-go, especially late in the game like that. But we were able to execute on that play and convert."

After running the ball three more times, the Steelers punted with 23 seconds to play.
The Raiders ended up taking over at their 15.

Mission accomplished, and a moment the offense can potentially build upon.

"I think it means a lot," Robinson said. "Our defense had played well all game so for us to be able to put them out there, back out on the field, only 12 seconds left, that's huge. That's huge for any team. The main thing in those situations, from a four-minute offense standpoint, you want to finish the game with the ball. For us, being able to run it down all the way to 12 seconds, to put our defense back out there, having to defend the long field with 12 seconds, we were happy to be able to do that.

"Our defense had played lights out all game, stopped them on short fields, made them kick field goals and things like that. For us to be able to hold up our end, be able to put our defense in an advantageous position, that's complementary football."

Robinson is anticipating a determined effort from this Sunday's opponent first and foremost.
The Texans are led by DeMeco Ryans, who spent the previous two seasons as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco before becoming the head coach in Houston.

"They're a hard-playing team, that's the main thing," Robinson assessed. "They have a defensive-minded head coach. When you see defensive-minded head coaches come in on the defensive side of the ball, one thing that always pops off the film is the effort the guys are giving. That's up front, in the secondary, things like that.

"They have a hard-playing group."

-- 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.