After a game there are players who impress and some who disappoint. This is where our weekly “Winners and Losers” column was born. Sometimes being labeled a loser is a bit harsh, but ultimately there are players in every game who simply don’t measure up to “the standard”.
Don’t look now, but the Steelers are watching Smith-Schuster become one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets. Smith-Schuster followed his huge Week-8 game vs. Detroit with a 5-catch, 97-yard, 1-touchdown performance. He was targeted seven times—tied with Antonio Brown in this category—and he’s quickly becoming a target the opposition has to account for.
Bryant’s 3 catches for 42-yards weren’t anything to write home about, but he came up with some big catches in big situations. His 2-point conversion catch evened the score at 17, and his 19-yard catch and run was vintage Bryant. If this is a stepping stone, fans might once again get used to seeing No. 10 running wild through opponents’ defenses.
There are a lot of fans who have been disappointed with Dupree’s production, or lack thereof, this season. But in Week 10, Dupree delivered in a lot of ways including four total tackles, one sack, three tackles for losses, and one quarterback hit. If the Steelers can continue to get this type of production from Dupree, the team’s defense will improve even more than it already has this season.
It was a great welcome-back game for Stephon Tuitt. His three tackles, one sack and three tackles for a loss were similar to Dupree, but Tuitt made his home next to (or on top of) Jacoby Brissett. Tuitt’s four quarterback hits led the team, and he should have had a second sack if William Gay hadn’t been called for defensive holding on a key third down. It’s hard to believe, but that was Tuitt’s first sack of the season.
Berry hasn’t been the best this season, but he brought his A-game on Sunday in Indianapolis. Averaging nearly 50-yards per punt was impressive, and helped flip the field on more than one occasion. Also, you can’t forget his and Jesse James’ hustle on the blocked point-after attempt which prevented the Colts from tacking on an extra two points.
Although the tackling improved in the second half, the first half was bad enough for an entire game. When I think about one player who illustrated just how bad the tackling was, it was the third down check-down pass to the running back Marlon Mack which should have been stopped, but a Ryan Shazier and William Gay swing-and-miss equated to a first down.
3rd Down Offense
Stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Steelers sucked on third downs. 5-for-13 is a horrible percentage, and the struggle in this area continues. If it makes anyone feel better, the Steelers were 2-for-4 in the red zone on Sunday. At least they have that going for them...
For as well as the Steelers’ offensive line played during the first half of the season, they weren’t that great vs. a very weak Colts defense. The Steelers averaged just 2.6 yards per carry and, despite allowing only one official sack, Ben Roethlisberger was harassed and hurried on more than on occasion.
All of this, in my opinion, showed a team which was still on its bye-week. Former players have talked about how, when you have an upcoming Thursday night game, you start preparing for the Thursday night game before the game on Sunday. It isn’t an excuse, but you can tell how the team started to turn it on during the second half. A large part of that is on the coaching staff in their preparation, but this quote from Ryan Shazier, from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, spoke volumes:
It seemed clear from Steelers locker room that players suffered a post-bye haze in the first half. "I'm not going to lie, before the game some people even told me it almost didn't feel like a game day," Shazier said. "The bye week throws you off a little bit."