CLEVELAND — The Steelers offense may not have had its best game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, but it was still enough for a somewhat ugly win.
Indeed, it was not the veteran players that were the main crux of the victory. Instead, it was the young rookies who scored two touchdowns in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth. Not only that, but Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. continued to show strides in their level of play.
For Ben Roethlisberger, it was Moore’s performance against a premier pass rusher in Myles Garrett that drew such praise for the rookie left tackle out of Texas A&M.
“Myles is a special talent,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought Dan did a great job. I think he allowed one sack, maybe two, but I don’t even know. You know, on the one, it’s tough. You ask a rookie to go against that guy and what he did today was pretty special. I can’t say enough about the line. Running game, pass pro, they are the heart of this group.”
While the offensive line is part of the young players that are coalescing into their own, Harris and Freiermuth are improving as well. Roethlisberger continues to see consistent improvement across the board with all of those players and how they play at a high level.
“You know, KG (Kendrick Green), at the end of the game, they know we are going to run the ball, we are under center, they’re teeing off on him, and every snap was perfect,” Roethlisberger said. “You can’t say enough about how those guys stepped. The passing touchdown was spectacular. I didn’t get to see it, I can’t wait to watch it. From what I saw, it was pretty special.”
For a rookie himself in Najee Harris, he continues to feel that not only is he improving, but he can see the improvement in the rookies around him.
“You know, you saw Pat make a play,” Harris said. “Dan and KG on the o-line are improving. I mean, Dan went against Myles Garrett who is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. To what he did, you can see the strides, and all of them are making strides, me too, forward. That’s what we need going forward. The more experience we get, the better we will be. I couldn’t be more proud of them, the O-Line, and how good they’re doing and improving.”
Mike Tomlin is echoing most of those sentiments and with four rookies on offense all in significant roles, Tomlin knows that they will have to continue to play at a high level.
“We’ve all talked quite a bit about their maturation throughout this process,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got four rookies playing significant roles on our offense. It wasn’t smooth sledding early on. We have seen consistent signs of improvement. Maybe you guys will start to believe us.”
At 4-3, the Steelers are now comfortably in the thick of the AFC North race, especially after a Bengals loss to the Jets. There is nothing certain going forward, but the Steelers will need their talented rookies to come up big if they want to make a legitimate run down the stretch.