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-15 game against the New England Patriots.
In a big game against Tom Brady, Roethlisberger arguably was equal to, if not better, than the player everyone loves to call the GOAT. The last play, which resulted in an interception, might stain Roethlisberger’s overall performance, but his 110.6 Passer Rating and 91.7 QBR are certainly noteworthy. We are seeing Roethlisberger at his best down the stretch.
Bell had a tremendous game, rushing for 117 yards on 24 carries, and added 5 receptions for 48 yards. When Antonio Brown left the game with a leg injury, Bell stepped up and was everything the team needed him to be. Bell is every bit the playmaker the team needs to withstand the loss of Brown in the short-term.
Brown leaves, and fans were wondering who was going to step up. The answer was Martavis Bryant. Bryant had 4 receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown, on six targets. His performance was a huge step in the right direction, and his overall abilities will be necessary not just to help replace Brown, but also to make the Steelers’ offense even more dynamic down the stretch.
While Bryant may have stepped up, Smith-Schuster is the reliable target for Roethlisberger whenever Brown isn’t in the lineup. Smith-Schuster had six catches for 119 yards, and that was on six targets. Sixty-nine of those yards came on the tremendous fourth quarter catch-and-run, but when the team needed a huge reception, Smith-Schuster was Ben’s main target.
Heyward had a sack of Tom Brady, and it marked his 10th of the season. This was the first Steelers defender to reach double-digit sacks since the Woodley/Harrison days. He also had a tackle for loss, a pass defense and two quarterback hits. A good night for a player who deserves recognition.
I hate putting Davis in the loser column when he led the team in tackles, but it was mainly because he was given an impossible task (see more about this below). When you play the Patriots, you have to take advantage of their mistakes, and when that tipped pass hit Davis’ hands, although not an easy interception, you can’t let those opportunities slip through your fingers — literally.
Rob Gronkowski owns the Steelers. You know it, I know it and Keith Butler certainly should know it. The lack of adjustments made by the Steelers, especially to double-team Gronkowski, or even just chuck him off of the line of scrimmage, were maddening. Sean Davis will be the scapegoat, but his not getting much help also played a role.
This goes back to the NFL and no one knowing what a catch actually is. It’s frustrating for fans, players and coaches, but the league only further complicates things with their terms like “surviving the ground”. The NFL should be embarrassed considering how big of a game this was regarding the AFC Playoff Picture. When the Steelers should have all but locked up the No. 1 seed, they’re now going to have to fight down to the wire for a first-round bye.