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Flavell's Five Thoughts: Steelers Have Superstar Spark Plugs

The Pittsburgh Steelers got the help they needed from the stars they needed it from.

Time after time, the Baltimore Ravens had a chance to win the football game. Seven dropped passes, three of which likely would've resulted in touchdowns, cost them the victory. The Pittsburgh Steelers were given every chance in the world to take over the lead. They repeatedly made playing offense look painful.

It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Kenny Pickett found George Pickens deep on a 1-on-1 go-route to take the lead and the game. Steelers 17, Ravens 10.

Every Steelers-Ravens clash is an "ugly" game. John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin have faced each other 34 times, with Tomlin now owning a 19-15 record versus his AFC North rival. Coaches don't last as long as these guys do, so to have a long-standing coaching duel such as this one is rare. They know each other like the back of their hands. This game was no different.

George Pickens: A Star In The Making

If Pickens' rookie season wasn't enough to convince you that he's the real deal, maybe this game was. You talk about taking over a game and strapping an entire group of 11 men to your back? Pickens did that in this one.

The back-breaking 41-yard touchdown helped set a new career-high in receiving yards in a single game for Pickens with 130. He did it on six catches and ten targets for the Steelers. The kid is an athletic freak and could soon find himself in the conversation of best receivers in the entire league.

Out of Georgia, one could easily see the talent he had. He was coming off a big injury that ultimately tanked his draft stock a bit, and it happened much to the Steelers' benefit. Prior to his draft year, there was a chance Pickens could've been a top-15 pick. His draft bonus was much smaller, but his eventual payday is going to be a big one if he continues on this trend.

With Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson out, the Steelers leaned heavily on Pickens in the game. Allen Robinson II was targeted nine times but for much more intermediate routes. Pickett found Pickens deep on many occasions with back-shoulder balls, and the deep ball he dropped in the bucket to Pickens.

Considering Pickens had 58% of Pickett's passing output today in terms of yards, I'd say that he helped bail Pickett out on many occasions. The 22-year-old is going to be a star in the league. If his quarterback decides to develop and the offensive play-calling becomes less vanilla, Pickens could be even more highly regarded.

Joey Porter Jr.'s Role Must Expand

Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace are borderline unplayable. These are two guys who simply look overmatched. Chandon Sullivan got a beat a few times. Joey Porter Jr.? All he has done is ball out.

Porter made his defensive coordinator look like a fool this week. Teryl Austin came out and said he wasn't sure that the rookie was ready for a starting workload quite yet. Is there still a question to be answered there?

Gunner Olszewski inexplicably fumbled a punt return, a role he's already proven that he isn't going to succeed in. He's got four fumbles in 28 touches with the Steelers and the infamous toe-tap on the kickoff against the Browns in week 2. His fumble gave the Ravens the ball at the five-yard line, almost ensuring the Ravens would ice the game off of the fumble.

Instead, Porter Jr. locked down Odell Beckham Jr. and intercepted the Jackson pass on third down, the one singular thing the Ravens just could not do. The Steelers turned that interception into the deep bomb to Pickens that gave them the late lead.

He can't be on the sidelines in two weeks when the Steelers resume their season post-bye. He just can't be. Porter Jr. continues to play well and the next bad play he makes will seemingly be his first.

Everyone knows who Porter Jr.'s father is. The family-oriented Steelers love a good family storyline, but it isn't like Porter Jr. hasn't legitimately earned his keep as a guy in the Steelers' shaky secondary.

Can't Keep T.J. Watt Down for Long

You didn't think TJ Watt was going to keep his hands off the quarterback for a second straight game, did you?

Ever the difference maker, Watt generated two sacks, one to make up for the goose egg last week and one for his standard sack-a-game quota. He batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage and recovered the fumble that ended up sealing the football game for the Steelers.

Every time Watt steps on the field, football fans, in general, are witnessing Hall-of-Fame caliber talent on a weekly basis. He's almost assuredly already a lock for Canton down the road, and now he's just piling on to become a first-ballot guy. That kind of praise doesn't and shouldn't get thrown around lightly. Watt is someone who's earned it.

Just when you think he can't outdo himself, Watt packs two games worth of stats into one and does it on a frequent basis. It is no secret that the Steelers aren't even the same team when he isn't in the lineup. This guy is just a legitimately elite football player, and it's worth enjoying while you can.

The Spark Plug

You can't help but feel for Najee Harris. Almost every run, he's churning for 1-2 hard-fought yards. The porous offensive line doesn't give him a lot of room, and Harris isn't nimble enough or fast enough to bounce it outside or anything like that. He's trying, and he's frustrated because his skills are being questioned.

But are we sure Warren isn't slowly becoming this team's starter?

With the Steelers down 10-5 and getting the ball at their own 44, they featured Harris on the first two plays of the drive for a grand total of two yards. Now it's 3rd and 8, obvious passing down, and in comes Warren. With that came a spark.

Warren took a short pass from Pickett, evaded tacklers, and gained 23 yards. The next play resulted in ten hard-fought yards and a first down. Five more yards on the following play, and the Steelers had goal-to-go. Finally, the Ravens stopped Warren behind the line of scrimmage, and his run had been cooled.

It just seems the offense continues to go better when Warren touches the ball. I don't think Harris is Trent Richardson by any means, but if you're asking him to make something out of nothing, I don't know if he is going to be able to do that.

Warren was an undrafted rookie. Maybe he is just better off in a complementary role where he's fresh, and the Steelers don't want to expose that by giving him the lion's share of carries. Regardless, the Steelers offense uses Warren when it needs a spark, and more often than not, it is a tactic that works.

Shoutout Miles Killebrew

Everyone wants to discount the impact special teams can have on a game. Two special teams plays nearly changed the tide for the Steelers today. The Olszewski fumble almost ruined the game, but Miles Killebrew blocking his fourth punt in four NFL seasons changed things for the Steelers.

They ended up getting a safety on the play as the Steelers just barely missed recovering it in bounds for a touchdown. The next drive resulted in the "Warren Drive" that led to the field goal and then the Steelers ultimately won.

Killebrew is a captain for the Steelers. It is a role he's certainly earned. Some guys make a career out of being specialists. Devin Hester was the best kick returner ever. Matthew Slater has long been a pro bowler in New England. Miles Killebrew's name might not be synonymous with the likes of those guys, but ask people around Pittsburgh, and you won't find anyone that'll say a bad word about him.

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