Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Buffalo Bills 56 Miami Dolphins 26
The Bills locked up the No. 2 seed in the AFC on Sunday with a thumping of the Dolphins, crushing Miami’s playoff hopes in the process.
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen continued his dominance of the Dolphins, completing 18 of 25 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Allen has now tossed 17 touchdowns and holds a 5-1 record in six career games against Miami. He finishes his 2020 campaign with 4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes, which is 17 more than he had in his first two seasons combined.
HOLY SMOKEs. 😤
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 3, 2021
Allen showed again why wide receiver Stefon Diggs may have been the acquisition of the season, catching seven passes for 76 yards on the day. Diggs led the league with 127 receptions, which are the sixth-most in a single season in NFL history.
Just as the Bills offense torched Miami, their defense puzzled and pummeled Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa all game. The rookie entered Sunday having only thrown two interceptions all season, but he was picked off three times by the Buffalo defense, one of which was taken back to the house by cornerback Josh Norman. Tagovailoa still did rack up some serious stats in the loss, throwing for a touchdown and a career-high 361 passing yards.
Buffalo will host Indianapolis at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday in next weekend’s Wildcard round, while Miami will miss the postseason. The Dolphins still mounted a phenomenal season, and own the the No. 3 and 18 picks in Aprils’ draft.
Baltimore Ravens 38 Cincinnati Bengals 3
The NFL’s hottest team kept on rolling Sunday, as the Ravens smacked the Bengals and won their fifth-straight game.
The Baltimore has been red hot to close out the regular season, scoring at least 35 points in each game of their win streak. Their recent success can be attributed to the one-two punch of rookie running back J.K. Dobbins and quarterback Lamar Jackson, who have been dominant down the stretch. Dobbins terrorized the Bengals to the tune of 160 yards and two scores, and now has scored a rushing touchdown in six-straight games, the third-longest such streak by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. Jackson was excellent in his own right, adding 97 yards of his own. Baltimore’s 404 rushing yards as a team set a new franchise record, and are the fourth-most in a single game since 1950.
RAN IT BACK‼️
Tune in on CBS! pic.twitter.com/OaWei4x1M0
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 3, 2021
Jackson set a record of his own on the ground, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Still, he did it through the air as well, passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ravens’ defense appears to be peaking for the postseason as well, as they held the Bengals to just 48 yards passing on Sunday. It was Cincinnati’s lowest passing yardage total since Week 17 of 2010, when they threw for just 31 yards on the Jets. The Ravens also picked off the Bengals’ Brandon Allen twice, one for Marcus Peters, the other by Chuck Clark.
Baltimore gets a rematch of last year’s Divisional round, as they will host Tennessee at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Cincinnati will look to keep rebuilding, and hope to head into the 2021 season with a healthy Joe Burrow under center.
Los Angeles Rams 18 Arizona Cardinals 7
A dominate defensive performance powered the Rams into the postseason, while the Cardinals struggled in the absence of quarterback Kyler Murray.
Murray was knocked out of the game early and missed the majority of the afternoon, an unfortunate circumstance for Arizona that Los Angeles fully took advantage of. Cardinals backup Chris Streveler stepped in for Murray, but was picked off by Rams cornerback Troy Hill, who took the interception back 84 yards for their fourth defensive touchdown of the season.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 3, 2021
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was relatively quiet in the win with four tackles and a pair of tackles-for-loss, all but confirming Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will win NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Still, Donald reminded every one why he is a human cheat code and first-ball Hall of Famer.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 4, 2021
Los Angeles defense also recorded a safety and blocked a kick on the afternoon, two cherries on the top of a smothering outing.
Quarterback John Wolford was effective stepping in for the injured Jared Goff on the Rams’ offense. Seeing the first action of his NFL career Sunday, Wolford passed for 231 yards with an interception, while consistently moving the chains with his 56 yards rushing. It is unknown what Goff’s status is for next week.
The Rams will have an opportunity to avenge their loss in Seattle two weeks ago, as they will make the trip North again to battle the Seahawks at 4:40 p.m. Saturday. The Cardinals head into the offseason seeking answers for their late season collapse, as they lost six of their last nine down the stretch.
Tennessee Titans 41 Houston Texans 38
Titans running back Derrick Henry eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards Sunday and set a number of records, as Tennessee burst their way into the postseason with a shootout win in Houston.
Henry bludgeoned the Texans for a career-high 250 rushing yards, and joined former Titan running back Chris Johnson as the only other player to reach the 2,000-yard mark in franchise history. He found the end zone twice as well and became first player in NFL history with five career games with at least 200 rushing yards and two rushing scores. Henry also finishes the season as the league’s rushing, becoming the first player to do so in consecutive seasons since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07.
But it was not all just the ground game for the Titans, as they showed the balanced offensive attack that has made them so dangerous over the last two seasons. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed for 216 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (one pass, two rush), while wide receiver A.J. Browns demonstrated his physical dominance once again in the passing game. Brown caught ten passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, including this 52-yarder that set up the game-winning field goal.
ARTHUR JUAN BROWN @Brown1arthur
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 4, 2021
For as difficult as this season has been for Houston, quarterback Deshaun Watson was not going to go out lightly, and he definitely did not. The star quarterback passed for 365 yards and three touchdown on the afternoon, and finishes the 2020 season with career-highs for passing yards (4,823), passing touchdowns (33) and completion percentage (70.2%), while tossing a career-low seven interceptions.
Tennessee will visit the Baltimore next Saturday. Houston enters the offseason with a number of questions, and their No. 3-overall pick in the hands of Miami.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
- Cleveland Browns 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 22
- Minnesota Vikings 37 Detroit Lions 35
- New England Patriots 28 New York Jets 14
- New York Giants 23 Dallas Cowboys 19
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44 Atlanta Falcons 27
- Green Bay Packers 35 Chicago Bears 16
- Las Vegas Raiders 32 Denver Broncos 31
- Indianapolis Colts 28 Jacksonville Jaguars 14
- Los Angeles Chargers 38 Kansas City Chiefs 21
- Seattle Seahawks 26 Arizona Cardinals 23
- New Orleans Saints 33 Carolina Panthers 7
- Washington at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Around the NFL: AFC Divisional Round Preview
Steelers Now’s Cale Berger previews this weekend’s Divisional Round playoff action in the AFC.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills, Saturday, 8:15 p.m., WPXI-TV
Both believed to be projects upon entering the league in 2018, the Bills’ Josh Allen and Ravens’ Lamar Jackson have each surpassed expectations and are ready to face off in the Divisional round Saturday night.
The two young passers have gone head-to-head twice previously, with Jackson taking both meetings and outplaying Allen in the process. Baltimore took last year’s Week 14 meeting 24-17, while Jackson tossed three touchdown passes. Allen was lackluster in the loss, throwing for 146 yards and a touchdown, completing less than half of his passes.
But that was last season’s Josh Allen. The new-and-improved version dominated the Indianapolis Colts a week ago to the tune of 324 passing yards and three total touchdowns, demonstrating once again why he was an MVP candidate this season.
Allen passed for over 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2020, seven more than he had in his first two seasons combined. Indianapolis’ defense was strong this season, but the Ravens’ was tremendous as the second-best scoring defense in football. Baltimore also forced 12 fumbles this season, so ball security from Allen and his supporting cast will be at a premium.
Expect Jackson to keep up his hot streak, both through the air and on the ground, as he will face a Buffalo defense that was shredded for 472 yards of total offense by Indianapolis in the Wildcard round. Jackson became the second quarterback in the Super Bowl era to eclipse 100 yards and score a rushing touchdown in a playoff game versus the Titans, joining only former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 3:05 p.m., KDKA-TV
Fresh off their drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, the Cleveland Browns will look to slay another giant Sunday when the visit the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland was ruthless in the trenches on both sides of the ball in Pittsburgh, presenting the Browns with the perfect recipe to upset the Chiefs and their high-powered offense.
Offensively, the Browns have the ability to dominate every possession, churning clock and keeping the football out of the dangerous hands of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Cleveland owned the league’s third-best rushing attack in 2020, converting for 133 first downs. They also burn clock when they score, averaging three minutes per scoring drive, which was also the third-best in the NFL.
On the defensive side, edge rusher Myles Garrett has the ability to corral Mahomes in the pocket, preventing him from extending plays and victimizing Cleveland’s porous pass defense from a week ago. Garrett had 12 sacks this season, and will have even more pressure placed on his broad shoulders with fellow pass rusher Olivier Vernon done for the year. He also forced four fumbles in 2020, which is one of the other few methods for keeping Mahomes off the field, by generating takeaways.
Cleveland will return starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson, who missed the Steeler game on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but they will still be hard pressed attempting to stop wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce through the air. Kelce’s 1,416 receiving yards are the most in a single season by a tight end in league history, while Hill has scored 17 total touchdowns in 2020.
The Browns can knock off the defending champs by controlling possession and forcing turnovers. If they are unsuccessful, expect the Chiefs to roll towards their third-straight AFC Championship game.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers, Saturday, 4:35 p.m., WPGH-TV
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, Sunday, 6:40 p.m., WPGH-TV
SN’s Mike Asti on Sports Central: Changes Happening for Steelers, Future in Doubt
When your seasons ends the way the Pittsburgh Steelers season ended, there are going to be changes, in fact some may even argue it be would be insane to not make changes.
Steelers Now’s Mike Asti appeared on the Sports Central Show with Cory Giger to discuss recent news concerning the coaching staff and how different the Steelers will look during the 2021 season.
Cory even responds to Mike’s latest show of his own about the Mike Tomlin-Ben Roethlisberger era and what the not too distant future may be like for one of the NFL’s marquee franchises.
“Sports Central” airs daily on WRTA 98.5 and 1240 AM.
Report: Lions Expected to Hire Rams Exec Brad Holmes, Ending Kevin Colbert Speculation
he Detroit Lions are expected to hire Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes as their next general manager, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN, effectively ending speculation that the organization was pursuing Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert for the role.
Lions expected to hire Los Angeles Rams' director of college scouting Brad Holmes as their new general manager, per source. They are finalizing a multi-year deal.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 14, 2021
Colbert had been linked to the Lions for weeks, with multiple reports claiming the organization was infatuated with the Steelers general manager and actively courting him for their vacancy.
Those rumblings culminated Wednesday when Mike Stone of 97.1-FM The Ticket in Detroit reported Colbert and the Lions were close to a deal.
Ensuing reporting by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac contradicted Stone’s claim, saying the Lions had never reached out to the Steelers with an official interview request.
Just a day later, it appears Detroit has found their man in Holmes, and Colbert will remain in Pittsburgh. His current one-year contract runs through April’s draft.
According to ESPN, the Lions and Holmes, 41, have agreed to a five-year deal to make him the franchise’s new general manager.
Holmes’ hiring also means the Rams will be the first organization to be beneficiaries of the NFL’s new hiring initiatives for developing minority general manager and coaching candidates.
Los Angeles will receive a pair of compensatory third-round draft picks for developing Holmes, who began with the Rams as a public relations intern in 2003 and spent his entire career with the franchise.
Lions get the general manager they wanted…and the Rams now will become the first team to receive two third-round compensatory draft picks as part of the NFL's new hiring initiatives. https://t.co/BTk1zsjRne— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 14, 2021