After each game, there are some players who impress and others who disappoint. This is where our weekly Winners and Losers column was born. Sometimes being labeled a loser is a bit harsh, but invariably there are players in each game who simply don’t measure up to “the standard”.
Time to diagnose who falls into which category for the Pittsburgh Steelers after the Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns.
It is JuJu’s world, and we just live in it. Smith-Schuster continues to impress with Antonio Brown out of the lineup, but he diversified his portfolio with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first kickoff return since Antonio Brown did just that against the Titans in 2010. His attitude is infectious, and he has become a legitimate threat in the Steelers’ offense — as a 21-year-old rookie.
The newly acquired running back looked good in his first featured action. He finished the day with 17 carries for 80 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and his first touchdown in a Steelers uniform. A combination of Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint looked more than capable of filling in as the backups behind Le’Veon Bell. This was all behind a primarily backup offensive line too.
PIT Pass Rush
The Steelers defense set a new regular season record for most sacks in a season with 56. The team was dominant when getting after DeShone Kizer, but after the game Bud Dupree said the team was sort of “free-lancing” to try and get the sack record. They did just that, but also left the rest of the defense out to dry on more than one occasion. Still, a momentous occasion for a new “Blitzburgh” in the Pittsburgh.
Bryant may not be the big play threat he was before his year-long suspension, but he is slowly carving out his own niche in this offense. He finished the day with 6 receptions for 65-yards, not mind-blowing statistics, but how he got those 65-yards were impressive to me. Not just deep routes , but really working those routes which made Bryant so effective prior to that suspension. Certainly a good sign for Bryant, and the Steelers offense, heading into the playoffs.
3rd Down Defense
It is tough for me to be hyper critical of the Steelers. They rested almost all of their starters on offense, and their defense looked more interested in getting the sack record than playing good, sound defense. However, the team’s third down defense was troubling. Too many third-and-long conversions have become the norm, and with a bye week upcoming, you have to wonder if the team might shake up things like inserting Cameron Sutton over William Gay.