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Steelers Looking for Answers in Short Yardage Situations

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One of the most legendary moments in football movie history is in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday, when coach Tony D’Amato, played by Al Pacino, delivers a passionate speech to his team before a playoff game.

“Life is this game of inches,” D’Amato says. “So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. One half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half-second too slow or too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.”

The full speech, which contains some profanity, is below.

The Steelers could have used some of those inches on Monday evening against Washington. Two critical short-yardage situations did not go Pittsburgh’s way in what became a six-point upset loss.


The Steelers had five tries from the Washington 1-yard line in the second quarter, with Benny Snell stuffed on three rush attempts and Ben Roethlisberger passes to Snell and eligible tackle Jerald Hawkins falling incomplete.

Later in the game, the Steelers needed one yard to continue what could have been a game-winning drive with less than five minutes to play and the game tied with the football at the Washington 28-yard line.

Roethlisberger attempted a short pass to the right that was out of the reach of JuJu Smith-Schuster on third down and his fourth-down pass to rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was slightly off the mark, going off one of McFarland’s hands before it hit the turf.


That’s seven plays where the Steelers needed at most one yard. Any one conversion would have been the difference between a win and loss to Washington, but the Steelers couldn’t come up with one.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin might not be delivering D’Amato’s “inches” speech in the Pittsburgh locker room this week, but he made it clear that he ascribes to a similar philosophy.

“I live by the coaching creed that if you can’t get a yard, you don’t deserve to win,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “That was the case for us in this game. We had several sequences where we had an opportunity if we gained a yard it was significant in terms of the development of the outcome of the game, but we were unsuccessful. …

“If you can’t get a yard in our game, you don’t deserve to win. That’s the nuts and bolts elements of football, the physicality element of football. We didn’t meet that challenge, so we have some work to do in that area.”

The Steelers have had some success in short-yardage situations this season, but have been a mixed bag as of late.

Against the Ravens in Week 12, the Steelers were 2 for 3 on 1-yard-to-go scenarios with Roethlisberger intercepted in the end zone by Baltimore linebacker Tyus Battle, but completing a one-yard touchdown pass to Smith-Schuster later in the game. Snell was able to convert a 3rd and 1 on the ground to provide a game-winning first down late.

At Jacksonville in Week 11, Pittsburgh was 4 for 4. Snell scored a 1-yard touchdown, ran for 2 yards on a 3rd and 1, James Conner ran for 17 on a 4th and 1 and Roethlisberger hit Eric Ebron for nine yards on a 3rd and 1.

In the two weeks before that, the Steelers were 1 for 5. Against the Bengals, Roethlisberger unable to connect with Ebron on a 3rd and 1. At Dallas, Conner ran for 2 yards on a 3rd and 1, but McFarland and Snell were both stopped on back-to-back rush attempts and Conner lost 4 yards on a 4th and 1 that would have secured the win, instead forcing the defense to make a last-second stop.

“The big thing for us is to examine why and get back to the lab and recapture some of the rhythm that we’ve had in those situational moments throughout the year,” Tomlin said. “There have been times during the year where we haven’t run the ball as good as we would like, but even in the midst of those in situational moments, we have been solid. We weren’t in our last performance, and we have to own that.”

Steelers

Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game

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The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.

The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.

Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.

None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.

The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Mike Tomlin: Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Incomplete without Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get a vote when it comes to who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he made his opinions known on who he thinks should be a part of the Hall’s Class of 2021, making a public plea on Monday for former Steelers scout Bill Nunn to be included.

“There is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it,” Tomlin wrote.

Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected as the lone finalist recommended by the nine-member contributor committee in August. He, senior committee finalist Drew Pearson, coaches committee finalist Tom Flores and 15 modern-era finalists, including former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, will all be on the ballot when the voters meet before the Super Bowl.

Nunn, a Homewood native and Westinghouse alum, was a key figure in the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and helped revolutionize the scouting process for players at historically black colleges and universities, that had been previously underrepresented in the NFL after having worked as a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Courier.

“Bill’s contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release in August. “He was a special person that was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work. 

“I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction next year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the contributor committee as a finalist.”

Tomlin also wished luck to three players that he coached: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber and John Lynch and Faneca.

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Steelers

Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt Named to PFWA All-NFL Team

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For the second season in a row, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and outside linebacker T.J. Watt have been named to the Pro Football Writers of American All-AFC and All-NFL teams for the second consecutive season.

Fitzpatrick was also named an Associated Press All-Pro this season for the second straight year. In 2020, Fitzpatrick had 79 total tackles, eleven passes defended and a team-high four interceptions, one of which he returned for a 37-yard touchdown.

The other All-NFL and All-AFC safety was Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.

during a regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, PA. (192119000006#1 / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Watt was also named a first-team AP All-Pro after leading the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. His 15 sacks were one off a franchise record and he racked them up while playing in only 15 games.

Watt was named the FOX Sports NFL Defensive Player of the Year and remains the favorite to win the prestigious AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award at the postseason NFL Honors banquet.

Watt was also named the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season after finishing with 53 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 41 quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.

The other All-NFL outside linebacker was Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, while Bradley Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was the other All-AFC outside linebacker.

Both players were also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl team. The Pro Bowl will not be played. Instead, the Pro Bowl events will be led virtually and the game will be streamed via Madden NFL 21.

Only the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams had two All-NFL players on defense, tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Green Bay Packers had the most players selected with three, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackle David Bakhitiari and wide receiver Davante Adams.

Full All-NFL team:

2020 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
Offense
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans*
WR – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts#
T – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers; Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns

Defense
DE – Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
DT – DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams^
OLB – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*
MLB – Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB – Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
S – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Special Teams
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens#
P – Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears*
PR – Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots
ST – George Odum, Indianapolis Colts

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