Maggie’s Pre-Game Six Pack - 2023 Week 10

The 3-5 Packers travel to Pittsburgh this week, a place Green Bay hasn’t won since 1970, to take on the 5-3 Steelers. Here are six things to keep in mind when the two Super Bowl XLV opponents face off in Week 10. 

1. Watt’s Love Got To Do?

Jordan Love played his second-best game of the season (statistically) in Week 9 against the Los Angeles Rams, throwing for 228 yards and one touchdown for 8.8 yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 115.5. That brings his quarterback rating on the season to 81.9. The offensive line also played well despite lining up against All-Pro Aaron Donald all game. 

That doesn’t get any easier in Week 10 with T.J. Watt manning the opposing line. He’s tied for second in the league with 9.5 sacks so far this season. In Week 9 alone, Love was sacked four times and took five quarterback hits. 

Watt isn’t the only problem, either, as Alex Highsmith is quickly putting the league on notice when it comes to his pass rush ability. Against the Titans on Thursday Night Football in Week 9, Highsmith had 11 pressures and two sacks. Watt had six pressures and a sack of his own, and those 17 combined pressures were the most by any defensive duo in the league in Week 9. Unsurprisingly, Watt (91.2) and Highsmith (87.9) are the two highest-graded defenders on the Steelers per Pro Football Focus

Thankfully for the Packers, Green Bay’s highest-graded offensive lineman happens to be right tackle Zach Tom (79.6) who should see his fair share of Watt on Sunday. Yosh Nijman took some snaps at left tackle during Week 9 against the Rams but left with a back injury and hasn’t practiced yet this week. That means the spot likely belongs to Rasheed Walker who currently holds a 60.1 overall grade from PFF and is their 48th best tackle out of 77. It’s also worth noting that the entire interior of Green Bay's offensive line is on the injury report this week. 

2. Slim Pickens 

Flipping over to the Steelers offense, it was slim pickings for George Pickens last week with only five targets for two receptions and negative one yards of offense. That’s a far cry from his team-leading three touchdowns and 522 yards through the first seven games of the season. 

Receiver Diontae Johnson has been a favorite target of quarterback Kenny Pickett since he returned to action in mid-October. Against the Titans, Johnson had seven receptions on nine targets for 90 yards and a touchdown, his first score in 668 days (back when Ben Roethlisberger was still the quarterback). Johnson is the team’s highest graded player on offense with a grade of 81.0, ranking him 15th out of 118 eligible receivers. 

The Packers secondary seems up to the challenge, though, with an impressive Week 9 performance (yes, against Brett Rypien). The unit had 10 passes defensed against the Rams, and going into Week 9 they had 27 on the season. In 2023, Green Bay has held opposing quarterbacks to an average rating of 86.7 (13th in the league), averaging 6.7 yards per attempt (tied for ninth), and 196.1 passing yards per game (ninth). 

Safety Rudy Ford is back at practice, but both Jonathan Owens and seventh-round rookie Anthony Johnson Jr. looked good filling in on the backend. Owens led the team with eight total tackles and tallied Green Bay’s lone sack against Los Angeles, and Johnson Jr. snagged his first career interception on a deflection by Jaire Alexander. Alexander also looked the healthiest he has all season, by the way, though he’s back on the injury report with a shoulder injury this week and has yet to practice, so... 

3. Dropping the Hammer

The Steelers, in a similar vein to the Packers, have struggled running the football this season. In Pittsburgh’s first seven games of the season, the team averaged only 79.7 rushing yards per game. That changed in Week 9 against the Titans when the Steelers exploded for 166 yards on the ground, their highest total of the season. 

Najee Harris finished Week 9 with 16 attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown with a long of 25 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The real star of the show, though, was Jaylen Warren who had 11 attempts for 88 yards, giving him an average of 8.0 yards per carry with a long of 22 yards. Warren’s performance made him PFF’s highest-graded running back in Week 9 with an elite grade of 91.1. 

Even with that Week 9 performance, the Steelers are still 25th in the league in rushing averaging 90.5 yards on the ground per game. Green Bay’s run defense is tied for 11th in the NFL, holding opposing running backs to 3.8 yards per carry. The Packers have held opposing teams under 70 rushing yards the last two weeks. Having inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell back in the fold certainly helps, too, as he’s Green Bay’s highest-graded run defender (90.1) by a wide margin. 

4. Offensive Enigma 

Even with an emerging run game and a dynamic receiving duo, the Pittsburgh offense is, well, not good. The Steelers rank 30th in the league in points per game (16.6) and 29th in yards. In fact, somehow, the Steelers are the only team since 1933 to be above .500 but be outgained in every game so far this season. 

Turnovers certainly play a factor, as Pittsburgh is plus-eight in turnover differential. The Steelers defense has at least one takeaway in every game but one this season, and they have four games with three or more turnovers. Pittsburgh’s defense is also second in the league on fourth down conversions, allowing conversions only 30% of the time. 

Pickett has looked average, throwing for 1,490 yards and six touchdowns this season with four picks, giving him a quarterback rating of 81.6. But he also took zero sacks in 30 dropbacks in Week 9 and only has 17 sacks on the season. Somehow, this Steelers team finds ways to win football games, despite not scoring a lot of points or putting up a ton of yardage. 

5. Finding the Point(s)

The Packers are 20th in the NFL in points for, averaging exactly 20.0 points per game this season. Coincidentally, Green Bay has yet to score more than 20 points since Week 2 against the Falcons. Per the dope sheet, the Packers have scored at least 27 points in each of the last five matchups against Pittsburgh. This isn’t even a jinx, I just, logically, don’t think that happens this week (although I’d love to be wrong!). 

That said, the offense was able to score points in the first half of Week 9’s game against the Rams, which was a promising development. Kicker Anders Carlson missed a field goal that would’ve given Green Bay 23 points on the day, and two 4th-and-1 conversions that would have kept drives alive stalled out due to penalties. While we can’t play the what-if game after the fact, it’s worth wondering if Green Bay would’ve been able to capitalize on either drive the way the offense had been moving the ball. 

Hopefully, the offense’s performance against the Rams gives the team plenty to build off of against the Steelers and in the coming weeks of the season. For starters, the Packers had a balanced offensive attack in Week 9 with 10 first downs through the air and 10 first downs on the ground. Green Bay also won the time of possession battle by almost 10 minutes. 

Additionally, the Packers had their highest rushing total of the season, going for 184 yards on the ground. Aaron Jones was the bellcow in the backfield with 20 attempts (goodbye, pitch count!) for 73 yards and a touchdown, and he added another four receptions for 26 yards in the receiving game. Rookie tight end Luke Musgrave had Green Bay’s second touchdown (the first of his career), and hauled in three passes for 51 yards. 

6. Uncommon Opponent

Per the dope sheet, the Packers are 12-8 against AFC teams under Head Coach Matt LaFleur, which is tied for No. 2 in the NFC and tied for No. 4 in the NFL since 2019 when LaFleur took over coaching duties. 

The Packers are 0-2 this season against AFC opponents and will face off against another AFC team in Week 11 when the Los Angeles Chargers come to Lambeau Field. It will be the fourth of five AFC matchups for Green Bay this season, with the Chiefs rounding out the schedule in December. 

In LaFleur’s first season as head coach, the Packers went 3-1 against the AFC West. In 2020, Green Bay went 3-1 against the AFC South. In 2021, the Packers swept the AFC North going 4-0 and lost to the Chiefs in the first expanded 17-game season, giving them a 4-1 record on the year. Last year, of course, was Green Bay’s worst showing against AFC teams, going 2-3 against the AFC East and Tennessee Titans. 

Looking way too far ahead, the Packers will play the entire AFC South in 2024 and then whichever AFC East team finishes in the same position as Green Bay, so a potential Aaron Rodgers return to Lambeau Field with the Jets is a real possibility. That won’t be the talk of the offseason or anything. But enough about that. It’s Week 10 of the 2023 season, and the Packers are heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers! 

What I’ll be drinking for the game:

It gets dark out so early now and I’m entering hibernation mode. Squirrels don’t hibernate, but I’m still drinking a Fat Squirrel from New Glarus this week. I’m ready for all of the winter flavors to start hitting the shelves (and thus hitting my fridge). Cheers, and Go Pack Go!




Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.


10 points

Comments (10)

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Packerpasty's picture

November 10, 2023 at 12:16 pm

After watching that debacle of a game last night, or at least 1/3 of it, switched to Hogans Hero's after too much bad football, im pretty sure there should be two more wins for the Pack at least...Panthers are terrible and so are the Bears, although they at least get their starting QB back soon...holy wah that was terrible football, so bad the announcers weren't even announcing the game they were yakking it up with Kelce and talking how great the Eagles were...

-1 points
Mr_Bill_H's picture

November 10, 2023 at 01:02 pm

They have the NYG on the schedule as well! They may even do was well (?) as last year

1 points
PeteK's picture

November 10, 2023 at 03:00 pm

I wish we had Patrick at C, he looked good last night, pancaked a DT on one play.

0 points
jont's picture

November 10, 2023 at 01:37 pm

If the Packers' offense plays as it has, GB will lose. I think we all can see this.

If they play as they did last week, it'll be close but Pittsburgh will probably come out on top in a low scoring game.

If, however, the offense builds on last week, even a little, this will be close and winnable.

After watching a couple Pittsburgh games, I see an offense much like GB's: very inconsistent and hurting themselves as often as not. Najee Harris is a good runner and is as important to the Steelers as Jones is to GB. Their passing game is weak; Kenny Pickett has a good arm but he's inaccurate and makes odd decisions too often.

Defensively, they are fast. I'd like to think their over-pursuit could be used against them. They have a good pass rush, but unless GB tries to block Watt with a TE I don't really think this will be decisive. The numbers show the Packer o-line gives Love enough time to throw. If he can just get the ball out on time f̶o̶r̶ G̶o̶d̶'̶s̶ s̶a̶k̶e̶ he should be ok.

0 points
mnbadger's picture

November 10, 2023 at 02:13 pm

Thanks Again Maggiie, I'm now ready for Sunday.
Maybe a little too optimistic though.
Pack 20 - tinners 16.

2 points
Since'75's picture

November 10, 2023 at 02:28 pm

Nice job Maggie!! 👍

All i had to do was read through #4 to be impressed.

I was all ready to write about the Steelers inept offense, but correlate that to a winning record largely due in part to their impressive high takeaway margin.
BTW....nice work on the stat about being over .500

I think the defense should have another good day against a struggling offense.
There are a lot of those scenario's this season with the Packers cushy easy schedule this season.

Why the Packers have a fair chance to win this game, besides the obvious.
I think Jones gets back to 18-20plus touches, when that happens the Packers usually have good results.

Is it just me, or is about time that Watson and Doubs start breaking out, being consistent producers?
I mean....where is the 2nd year leap i kept hearing about during the off season?

Now i don't know what else to write, thanks a lot Maggie!!!

JK Mags, keep up the good work!! 😎

2 points
Guam's picture

November 10, 2023 at 02:51 pm

"Is it just me, or is it about time that Watson and Doubs start breaking out, being consistent producers."

It's not just you. They are both overdue for big games. Last week it was the rookies (Reed, Wicks and Musgrave) that had big games. It is more than time for Watson and Doubs to show up and help the team. Watson showed some life last week, but Doubs had been invisible for several weeks. It. Is. Time.

3 points
Since'75's picture

November 10, 2023 at 05:56 pm

Yea, that's cool Quam.

I'm just not sure i'd classify them as 'Big' games by NFL standards with 19, 49,and 51 yards.
But it isn't worth quibbling about.

But i will note that they caught 10 passes from 11 attempts which is outstanding, especially with all the drops this season.

Watson had a nice 37 yard grab, and he had a 77 yard grab against the Raiders.

The way Watsons going, i view him as a cheap mans MVS, but more fragile.

He's on pace for maybe 500-600 yards and about 2 TD's. he better pick it up soon, because he's another player that Gute traded up for and history hasn't shown great results there.

0 points
Spock's picture

November 11, 2023 at 11:03 am

Don't know what Pickens the QB does on long bombs, but Slim Pickens stayed with his:

0 points
whatmurder's picture

November 16, 2023 at 01:17 am

After seeing a few Pittsburgh games, I see an offensive that is a lot like GB's: erratic and prone to self-inflicted injuries. Najee Harris is a valuable running back for the Steelers, much like Jones is for the Giants. Their passing game is poor; although Kenny Pickett has a strong arm, he frequently makes strange decisions and is imprecise.

0 points