WESA Talking Steelers: season on the line ahead of Ravens game; OMG, they slandered Kenny?
It's do or die for the Pittsburgh Steelers, or maybe more appropriately, "Do, and get some help from others, or die." The last game of the regular season pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens, and again, the Steelers must win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, barring a miraculous mathematical formula that would, in fact, get them into the playoffs even if they were to lose.
Jim Wexell writes for 247sports.com and has been a Steelers beat writer since 1995.
Jeremy Scott: Another year that comes down to needing to win the last game and then having another team win in order for the Steelers to get into the playoffs. Well, just to lay it out, the Steelers have to win. And then the Titans must beat the Jaguars at 1 p.m. Sunday, or the Dolphins must beat the Bills at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night. The Steelers play the Ravens at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Now, the NFL decided the schedule at the conclusion of last week's games. This is what's called flex scheduling. It used to be that the schedule was set in stone at the beginning of the regular season. Jim, my question to you is has flex scheduling been a success for the NFL?
Jim Wexell: Well, I'm sure it's been a success, but they better watch the attendance long-term because especially with Pittsburgh fans and games in Pittsburgh, there's a lot of travel plans being made and the NFL just throws the fans who are going to the stadium to the wind. I don't know if that's wise in the long run, but so far, so good. But yeah, it can't help but be good for TV ratings.
Scott: No controversy as to which quarterback is going to start for the Steelers this week. It will be Mason Rudolph getting his third start in a row after another victory, this one in Seattle last Sunday. It was a 30-23 victory, the first time the Steelers have won in Seattle since 1983. But even though there's no controversy as to who is starting this week, there was some controversy stirred by certain members of the media who said that Kenny Pickett was a healthy scratch last week in Seattle. He was healthy enough to play, but didn't play because he complained about not getting the start. Meanwhile, Pickett, after that, in response, said 'People attacked my character. There was never anything like that that happened. I'm 100% behind Mason and I'm here to do whatever the team needs me to do to help and be successful.' Where is the truth with all this, Jim? What happened in that quarterback room?
Wexell: What I'm hearing is that a colleague of mine clapped back on Twitter against that. Knowing Kenny's character, we all know Kenny is a good guy, and it just seemed out of character that description that he defied to be the second teamer. So he clapped back. And he gets a call from a blogger, uh, for — I'm just going to leave it out, but it's a national company. And the blogger told him that he got it from Jersey Jerry's buddy Jim back in Kenny's hometown, and that's the source of all three of these reports, so you should just get on board.
So my colleague told me that and we laughed about it. And then there is apparently a Jersey Jerry. And there is a buddy, one of Kenny so-called friends is the one that said this; threw him under the bus. So it just all sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me because it doesn't fit Kenny's character at all. And Kenny gave a great explanation that it's a process involved for him to play. And of course, when the trainer tells the coach at the beginning of the week that he's going to be clear to play, the coach is going to say he's fine. He's 100%, he's ready to go. They don't give you variations of how hobbled they are. They just say they're ready to go. 'We expect them to play, there we go.' And also that was right after Mason's first good game, right?
And so, as the momentum of Mason in the locker room picked up, I believe, in the week, and the fact that Kenny would have to go through what he called a process which sounded to me like taking a shot, to be able to play. Then it became determined that, you know, we are rushing things a little because it's a four week recovery. Very few times people have done it in three weeks. So he was attempting to be three, at least three and a half weeks. So he didn't tell them. They told him that since you're not going to be the starter, we're not going to go through this process. We're not going to shoot you up. Although nobody uses those terms. We're not going to do this. And so therefore, you're not a backup or a third string. And they haven't been using an emergency quarterback since Kenny was injured.
So, this is nothing new. It's not like they could have called up Trace McSorley. They would have had to deactivate somebody else or release somebody else off their 53-man roster. Because McSorley is on the practice squad. So I thought Kenny answered it well, and Kenny stood there and answered all questions. And he's firm about this. I see nothing but strong character with them. I see nothing but teamwork in that. For those three quarterbacks, they get along great. Mitch Trubisky isn't the most outgoing guy, but he gets along well, too. And Mason's more outgoing now that he's the rightful leader. He is the oldest of the three, the most tenured of the three, and his leadership is working. He is friends with T.J. [Watt]. He's legitimately friends with T.J. They came in about the same time. He's grown up with these guys. He hasn't been the Pro Bowler T.J. has. But he's been there with them and he's respected. And he kept coming to work every day, putting his head down, not saying anything, but also being friendly with everybody and not sulking. Everything he has done is right and now he puts two great games together.
So, he has to be the starter this week. The first week, okay. Was that a fluke? I don't know, but let's ride the momentum. Now they have to ride the momentum. The locker room would have a revolution if he was yanked from the starting lineup.
Scott: We're not going to go through all of the potential offseason storylines just yet. We are going to have this time to talk again next week, regardless of whether the Steelers win or lose. So I'm just going to ask this. The Ravens are going to be resting all of their starters. They have nothing to play for. They have the number one seed in the AFC all wrapped up. The Steelers have their playoff lives basically to play for. Who wins Saturday in Baltimore?
Wexell: I'm going to figure on the Steelers winning. They're giving three and a half, and that's a little much because this is always a three point game. The Ravens may be a JV team, but the Steelers have lost to two JV teams back-to-back at home already this year. And so this one's on the road. Baltimore JV team will be fired up to win, to knock their hated rival out of the playoffs. They they have nothing to gain. Right. But they also have nothing to lose other than injuries. They have nothing to lose. From a performance standpoint, they can go out and play fast and loose and have fun. And Tyler Huntley is not a bad quarterback.
So, I think it's going to be tighter than maybe people are expecting. But I do expect the Steelers to pull it out, and I believe play in the playoffs because they have such a busy week next week that I have no doubt that they're going to make it in the playoffs.