Who's the Guy?
T.J. Watt is arguably the best defensive player in the game and must be accounted for on every down. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has 10-plus sacks in each of his last four seasons, including 22.5 in 2021. Although injuries have disrupted his 2022 campaign, Watt has 2.5 sacks in the past two games and started to find his groove as the premier pass rusher in the league.
Know His Name…
Najee Harris is the straw that stirs the drink for the Steelers offense. The 6-foot-1, 232-pounder is a super-sized running back with RB1-WR2 capabilities out of the backfield. Given his impressive talents as an all-purpose threat, the Steelers will attempt to put the ball in No. 22's hands early and often to take advantage of favorable matchups inside and outside of the box.
Don't Sleep On…
Despite entering the twilight of his career, Cameron Heyward remains a destructive force at the point of attack. The 12th-year pro has notched 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss from his defensive tackle spot. As a heavy-handed, power player with some "twitch" and a couple of finesse maneuvers, Heyward overwhelms interior blockers with a diverse approach that perfectly meshes violence with ballerina-like movement.
After missing Week 15 following his second concussion in eight weeks, Kenny Pickett returns to the starting lineup against the Raiders. The rookie has suffered through some growing pains, but he has led the Steelers to three wins in the last four games he has started and finished. As a quick-rhythm passer with some athleticism and swagger, Pickett adds a dimension to a Steelers offense that utilizes a "connect the dots" approach to move the ball down the field.
Matchup To Watch: Minkah Fitzpatrick vs. Derek Carr
The wily safety is one of the best "centerfielders" in football. Fitzpatrick displays numbers-to-numbers range while also showcasing the instincts, awareness and ball skills to create problems for quarterbacks intent on pushing the ball down the field. With the veteran also adept at orchestrating creative pre-snap disguises, Derek Carr must be aware of No. 39's whereabouts to avoid a game-changing mistake that may flip the game's momentum.
The Steelers want to utilize a creative ball control approach to dictate the game's tempo. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada will feature a smorgasbord of formations and pre-snap motions to play with defenders' eyes before repeatedly running a handful of simple concepts for the quarterback and playmakers. With defenders distracted by the "circus," the Steelers will pound the ball between the tackles with Najee Harris to drain the clock and pelt the frontline with a flurry of body blows that lead to big gains in the fourth quarter. If the Steelers can play the game on their terms, they are content to win low-scoring games that leave opponents frustrated after the 60-minute affair.
The Steelers' organized chaos continues to create headaches for opposing quarterbacks and playcallers. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will utilize various stunts, games, blitzes and simulated pressures to disrupt the rhythm and flow of the offense. In addition, the Steelers will change the picture behind the pressures to confuse the quarterback and bait him into a throw into traffic. With the Steelers also intent on suffocating the run to force opponents into a one-dimensional approach, the subtle mix of "plus-one" defensive fronts and run blitzes can overwhelm opponents and disrupt the offense's rhythm.
View the best photos from practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center before the Silver and Black travel to Pittsburgh for their Week 16 matchup against the Steelers.