Week 7 Blog: News and Notes

Friday, October 20

Getting after the QB: Linebacker T.J. Watt knows they have a tough test ahead of them on Sunday, going against the Los Angeles Rams, the NFL's seventh ranked offense.

While they are dealing with injuries at running back, they still have plenty of weapons that are going to test the defense.

"They have a lot of skill players," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "I know the running back situation is kind of up in the air. We don't know exactly who is going to be playing.

"When they don't run the ball, they have a lot of schematics to be able to lead the ball in different directions and get the ball in the hands of their playmakers. That's why they have been effective this year."

Starting running back Kyren Williams and backup Ronnie Rivers both suffered injuries in the Rams win over the Arizona Cardinals last week. Rivers was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and in regards to Williams, Coach Sean McVay said, 'It's safe to say he'll be out this week.' 

The injuries could force the Rams to rely on the passing game making them one-dimensional, but Watt knows you have to be ready for anything and it's up to the defense to create that issue.

"It's all if you make them one dimensional," said Watt. "I would like to think you can make a team one dimensional at times, but it doesn't matter if a team doesn't like to run the ball. If you don't stop the run, they're going to continue to do that. It's on us to do that and not on them."

And if they aren't able to run the ball, Watt and fellow linebacker Alex Highsmith will definitely be bringing the pressure.

"Hopefully we can get after the quarterback like we do every week," said Watt. "It's us putting them in a situation where we can get after the quarterback and hopefully, he is holding onto the ball a little bit and we can have some fun.

"We need to worry about stopping the run first and foremost."

Some inside knowledge: There likely isn't anyone on the Steelers roster that knows more about the Los Angeles Rams than receiver Allen Robinson II.

Robinson spent the 2022 season with the Rams, understanding what they do on offense, and defense, at the same time.

He said he has been fielding some questions from teammates throughout this week as they prepare to play the Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, sharing what he can.

"I do have those conversations from being able to go against that defense in practice," said Robinson. "They are much different than they were last year roster wise and schematics, but there is some carry over."

One thing he doesn't have to tell anyone is how great a player Rams defensive tackle, and Pittsburgh native, Aaron Donald is. Everyone on the Steelers roster is well aware of what the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year brings to the table.

"That dude, playing with him, seeing him every day, what he is capable of, he is a special player," said Robinson.

Rams Coach Sean McVay is the team's offensive play caller, and Robinson admits he did things differently than in his previous stops in the league.

"I think it's very innovative in a conceptual way," said Robinson. "At least from some of the offense I played in prior to that. How he mixes and matches. It has some uniqueness to it."

Robinson is hoping the Steelers can combat what the Rams bring in explosiveness with some of their own, especially with the potential return of a key weapon in receiver Diontae Johnson, who is still on the Reserve/Injured List, but has been designated for return.

"Whenever you get playmaker back like Diontae, those guys are premier playmakers," said Robinson. "Not only do defenses have to prepare for them, but they are big for our team, big for our culture, big all around."

Showing love for their heritage: Three Steelers players will be taking part in the NFL Heritage initiative to promote international diversity. The NFL is undertaking the initiative over the next two weeks, when players can wear a flag helmet decal of the country or territory that represents their nationality or culture.

The 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. Coaches are also able to participate as well with patches on their jackets.

"As we continue to prioritize the NFL's growth globally, we're proud to have our players and coaches honor their backgrounds through the NFL Heritage Program," said Peter O'Reilly, Executive Vice President Club Business, International and Events at the NFL. "This initiative allows us to celebrate the heritage, families and cultures that make up the fabric of the League, and truly showcases the growing global reach and impact of the sport of football and the NFL."

Over 330 players and coaches league-wide are involved, and among those taking part are Larry Ogunjobi (Nigeria), Chukwuma Okorafor (Nigeria) and Obinna Eze (Nigeria).

"I think it's amazing," said Ogunjobi. "My parents were immigrants. I'm a first generation Nigerian 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 Okorafor wearing the Nigerian flag, which will be worn by more players than any other flag.

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."

For Eze, he never imagined football would be his profession when he was growing up in Nigeria, and even when he came to the United States with dreams of playing basketball, he didn't know what football was.

Now, he is able to represent his home country in a way that makes him beam with pride.

"Now I see NFL Africia, but eight and a half years ago when I came to the United States, football wasn't existent. I hadn't seen a football until I got to the U.S.," said Eze. "To know that the sport has grown so much, my countrymen, there are a lot of us here now playing, people that were born here. I was born and raised in Nigeria, and I came here and started learning football. It's a good development. It's good to feel like you belong. A lot of times, in the early stages of football for me, it felt like it was something different I was doing. Up until now my parents didn't understand the game, my sisters don't understand the game. At least it feels good to know my country is getting the recognition it deserves. It's something I am proud of. It would be an honor to have that sticker on the back of my helmet.

"Football is an American game, played mostly in America. You would expect most of the people playing to be American. Anytime you can share the game with people from the same country as you, who carry the same flag as you, that is always a big deal. I respect that. I care about that."


Welcome back: Among the offensive reinforcements the Steelers anticipate having back against the Rams are left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and right guard James Daniels.

Moore hasn't played since being injured on Oct. 1 at Houston.

Regrettably, he missed the Steelers' victory on Oct. 8 over the Ravens.

"Being away wasn't fun," he acknowledged. "Not being a part of that win a couple weeks ago, definitely missed out on a lot of fun, it looked like. Happy to be back this week, get rolling,"

Moore helped keep elite edge rushers Nick Bosa of San Francisco, Myles Garrett of Cleveland and Maxx Crosby of Las Vegas in check in succession during the first three games of the season. That fearsome threesome combined for three solo tackles, four quarterback hits and one sack (Crosby).

The Steelers went 2-1 through that stretch, beating the Browns and Raiders after losing to the 49ers, for openers.

"I just like to look at it like I went out there and did what I was asked to do," Moore said. "There's definitely guys each week that you have to respect."

Moore anticipates "some good things," now that the offense is getting key components back.

"We just gotta get our rhythm," he said.

Daniels started the first three games but has missed the last two. He remembers how efficiently the offense performed during training camp. He also understands that was then, and this is now.

"Camp is camp," Daniels said. "At the end of the day we have to start doing it in the season. It's been a good week of practice so far. We just have to keep it going and bring it into Sunday."

The presence of former Steelers guard Kevin Dotson on the Rams' offensive line provides a potential complication toward that end, Daniels suggested.

"If we had someone on our D-line who was with the Rams during camp I'd definitely be in his ear," Daniels insisted. "I'd be in his ear all week.

"I definitely can see (Rams defensive linemen) asking 'Dot,' 'Hey, what are they looking at here? What do they do here?' If the roles were reversed I'd be asking someone on our defense the same thing."

-- 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, October 19

Getting in attack mode: The Rams are likely down two running backs this week after starter Kyren Williams and backup Ronnie Rivers both suffered injuries in the team's win over the Arizona Cardinals last week.

Rivers was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and in regards to Williams, Coach Sean McVay said, 'It's safe to say he'll be out this week.' 

The Rams are already a pass-happy team, with quarterback Matthew Stafford completing 139 of 227 passes for 1,677 yards and six touchdowns, and there is no doubt they will continue to rely heavily on the passing attack with the injuries.

"We have a tough task this week," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "They have a great offense, a great quarterback and a great surrounding cast with him. We know we've got to be able to get after him. They do pass a lot. We have to be able to get them off the spot and cause a lot of pressure this week."

The Rams offense is ranked second for using motion according to data from ESPN Stats Info., something that is going to keep the defense on their toes.

"We have to be on our Ps and Qs," said Highsmith. "We see there is a lot of motion that has gotten certain defenses they have already played, miscommunication, they have had open guys and they have exploited it.

"If we are not communicating, it can lead to disaster. We have to first and foremost get lined up and communicate well. That will be able to set us up to have a good place."

While Highsmith, and almost everyone, expects the pass to be the focus, he doesn't think they completely abandon the run.

"I think they are still going to," said Highsmith. "They do a good job of staying on schedule, on rhythm when they do run the ball well. It sets them up in third and manageable situations. It's always the saying we have to be able to stop the run to get to Stafford."

And getting to Stafford is of course something that excites a pass rusher like Highsmith. 

"Any game where it's a team that you know passes a lot, we're going to have our chances," said Highsmith. "Just going out there in attack mode from the first snap is going to be huge.

"Being aggressive, pin our ears back and rushing hard the whole game is going to be a winning edge for us."

Welcoming the challenge: Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. could see more playing time this week against the Los Angeles Rams, similar to the way he was used in Week 5 in the second half against the Baltimore Ravens.

Porter himself didn't give any indication of his playing time when he spoke on Thursday before practice, saying he wasn't sure what the rotation would be.

"I really don't know," said Porter. "Like I always do, I just come to work and prepare like a starter and let the chips unfold.
"I don't know. It's always up to the coaches and stuff. I just have to stay prepared."

Porter said he was informed at halftime of the Ravens game that he would see more snaps in the second half, allowing him to get his mind prepared during the half.

"It wasn't planned. It just happened," said Porter. "Coach told me right before going into halftime it was going to happen to get my mind right, get prepared. But I was already prepared."

Porter played 40% of the defensive snaps against the Ravens, the most playing time he has seen all season. According to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, more of the same is expected this week with the Rams who play 11 personnel.

"There's an opportunity for him to get more work on the field," said Austin. "He's been steadily progressing each week, he's gotten a little bit more and has done a good job with it, so we'll see how it goes this week.

"You can probably anticipate it."

Going against a Rams offense that loves to throw the ball, with a multitude of weapons in the passing game is something Porter knows will be a challenge. It's a challenge he is up for.

"They got a good wide receiver corps in general," said Porter. "It's going to be fun to stack up against those guys and see where we are. It hasn't always been the best with us. We get to challenge ourselves again this Sunday. We are prepared.

"I always welcome it. We're football players. That's what we like to do. I am definitely excited for it."

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, October 18

Back at it again: Receiver Diontae Johnson was back on the field on Wednesday, looking forward to what he hopes will be a return to action this week against the Rams, although that has yet to be determined.

"I am getting ready for practice today as we speak," said Johnson on Wednesday morning before hitting the field. "I am looking forward to getting out there, getting back in the offense, getting things going. It's been a long process. I took it one day at a time and I am looking forward to today.

"I am ready for today. I am ready to put it on film.

"I am very excited. It's been a long process, fighting to get back. I am looking forward to showing them I am ready for Sunday."

Johnson has been out since he injured his hamstring against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the season. He is still on the Reserve/Injured List, but his 21-day window to return was opened on Monday.

Coach Mike Tomlin said getting Johnson back provides the offense with someone who brings 'expert route running.'

And that is exactly what Johnson plans on doing.

"That spark from a route running standpoint," said Johnson. "Me being able to get open easily. Comfort for Kenny (Pickett) out there knowing he can rely on his guys, knowing who is going to be open each down and distance. We can play fast knowing Kenny is comfortable, he has his guys back. Just us playing as one and moving fast."

His return will also help fellow receiver George Pickens, who has been getting more attention with Johnson out of the lineup.

"It impacts him a lot. It takes a lot off his plate," said Johnson. "It allows us to get back to what we do best, which is playing football and making plays. We feed off each other. When he makes a play, I make a play. I love it."

What Johnson knows the offense has to do overall against the Rams on Sunday, is make those plays early.

"We just have to start fast. That has been our main focus," said Johnson. "If we don't come out and start fast, we are going to have to play behind the sticks and stuff like that. As long as we come out and start fast and be in front of everything, we will be fine."

No decision yet: The Steelers have a good problem on their hands right now with multiple players returning from injuries.

At left tackle, that means both Dan Moore Jr., who missed time with a knee injury, and rookie Broderick Jones, who stepped in and started against the Ravens in Moore's absence, are both options for this Sunday against the Rams.

Jones said the coaches haven't told them yet who will get the start this week.

"We still don't know yet to this point," said Jones.

Whether he knows or not, Jones will continue to prepare the way he has all season.

"It's the same way as always, prepare for the worst, always plan, just be ready whenever your name is called," said Jones.

The bye week fell at a time when the Steelers were dealing with injuries, allowing them to get some of their weapons back all across the board.

"It was getting a healthy squad back We got a lot of people back, which was great for us," said Jones. "I feel like that was the main focus with the offense and defense. We had injuries on both sides of the ball. Just being able to get those guys back is a big plus."

With Moore out, Jones stepped in and showed why the team selected him in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He had a solid performance, and feels like he has grown since he first arrived in Pittsburgh.

"I feel like I've grown a lot, in a lot of different areas," said Jones. "I feel like it's been a big plus for me being able to be with the Steelers and the coaching staff that we have and the players that I'm around like Dan, Chuks (Okorafor), Isaac (Seumalo), those guys.

"It helps me play at a different level because these guys have been in the league for so long. Playing next to Isaac, you know you can't be a slouch. When he was in Philly, it was always this way and that way, it was always set. Just being able to play next to him and seeing how he's able to go about his day is a big plus for me."

Welcome aboard: The Steelers signed cornerback Darius Rush from the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad to the 53-man roster on Wednesday, and Rush wasted no time hitting the practice field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

"It's been a blessing," said Rush. "A great opportunity with another organization that sees a lot of potential in me. I am grateful it's the Steelers that wanted to bring me in.

"I am sure they see potential in me being able to come in here and play some special teams and execute for those guys. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity and blessed to be in this position."

Rush was originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He was released prior to the start of the regular season and signed to the Chiefs practice squad.

He was on his way back to Kansas City from South Carolina after the team had a few days off following Thursday Night Football when he got a text from his agent.

"I found out something was going on Monday when I was on the plane coming back from South Carolina," said Rush. "My agent told me to be close to your phone. The next day I went into the meetings, and when I got out, I saw a text that said get ready, you are going to Pittsburgh. I was so excited."

Rush, who is 6-2, brings a big body to the secondary and can add size on special teams as well.

"One thing I can bring here is a lot of great speed on special teams, executing whatever position they need me on special teams," said Rush. "I bring length. I bring great size to that defensive back room as well.

"You are going to get a guy who is coming in and ready to execute at whatever they need me to do and bring a championship. That is the goal at the end of the year."

Stay tuned: The Steelers will be taking the NFL's No. 25 pass defense with them to Los Angeles for Sunday's game against the Rams but Coach Mike Tomlin believes that situation is subject to change, and will.

"Keep watching," Tomlin advised reporters on Tuesday. "It'll get cleaned up with a bigger volume to study, with a bigger volume of tape in games."

Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson believes the secondary is well on the way to tightening things up.

"We're definitely on the same page as far as getting this thing figured out," he maintained after practice today. "Obviously, as a secondary, you don't want to be giving up as many explosive plays and yards as we have. We understand this, at the end of the day, is our first year really fully being together and we're still trying to work things out. But I truly feel we're working and moving in the right direction as far as minimizing explosive plays, minimizing touchdowns.

"Last week (Oct. 8 against Baltimore) I don't think we gave up a passing touchdown. And the weather is going to start to play an effect on some of these teams, as well, just not this week. Our guys up front do a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback. For us on the back end, we have to make sure we're tighter in coverage to be able to make those timely, splash plays sometime when we need it in the game."

The Ravens game was the first this season in which the Steelers didn't allow a passing touchdown.
The Baltimore game was also the first in which rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. played extended snaps in something other than the six-defensive backs "dime" defense.

Porter's interception of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson late in the fourth quarter helped turn the tide in what became a 17-10, come-from-behind Steelers' victory.

"I think he will get a good share of snap counts this week," Peterson said of Porter. "We just don't know how the work load will play out."

The Rams are No. 7 in the NFL in total offense and No. 6 in passing offense.

"These guys are a heavy passing team," Peterson said. "We want to put ourselves in the best position possible to make sure that we have the right people on the field to guard those skill positions."

-- 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.

Monday, October 16

Good to go: The bye week came at a perfect time for tight end Pat Freiermuth.

He missed the team's Week 6 game against the Houston Texans with a hamstring injury, but said he is back and ready to go this week when the team takes on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.

"I will be good to go this week," said Freiermuth. "I am excited to get back out there. I feel good."

While he said there was a chance he could have played this past week if the team had a game, the extra rest was invaluable. 

"It was awesome being able to get the extra week, not having to worry about rushing back for a game," said Freiermuth. "I probably would have been able to play if we were to play. Having that extra time, you know how hamstrings are, they can lag all year.

"Just being able to be 100 percent, it was awesome to have that extra week."

The Steelers offense could be at their healthiest point heading into the Rams game, with Freiermuth back in the loop, offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. also back to work, and receiver Diontae Johnson and running back Anthony McFarland Jr. having the 21-day window open for their return from the Reserve/Injured List.

"It's going to be awesome to get all of our people back," said Freiermuth. "Hopefully we can get back to the form we were in camp. We are all looking forward to it.

"It was a good little reset (having the bye). Hopefully we get all our guys back and ready to roll."

Freiermuth said the bye was a good time to take a look in the mirror at what everyone can do moving forward, but the key is just making plays.

"We have to continue to watch film, hone in on the little details," said Freiermuth. "The plays are there, we just have to continue to make them."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams

Thrilled to be back: Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. couldn't hide his smile when he first talked about being back at practice on Monday.

"It was amazing," said McFarland. "Earlier, before practice, I just put my helmet on before I walked out there because I haven't had it on in so long. It's good to be out there with my teammates."

McFarland returned to practice on Monday but remains on the Reserve/Injured List. The Steelers have a 21-day window to active him, otherwise he remains on the list for the remainder of the season.

From the sounds of things, though, he was feeling good.

"Mentally and physically, I feel good, ready to go," said McFarland. "It felt good. I am just glad to be back out with my teammates. It was good to get back.

"I am just excited to be back out there with the team. It's different to be on the side. To come back out and have a helmet on, interacting and being with the team. That is the most exciting thing to me right now.

McFarland said it wasn't easy being placed on the list just after the season opener, especially after battling to make it on the 53-man roster.

"It's tough," said McFarland. "Everything happens for a reason. Not just me, everybody in here. We all go through tests in our life. It's just how you respond.

"Adversity comes with this sport. At the end of the day, it's a man's game. I know I am going to have ups and downs; it's how I respond."

One thing that worked in his advantage with his return to practice was the bye week, getting extra time to heal while spending it in Pittsburgh getting treatment.

"It helped a lot just being able to heal," said McFarland. "Staying here during the bye week and rehabbing, getting back into things. I was watching film even when I was out. Getting into my playbook more. Just getting ready."

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.