The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals took part in a huge game at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base with their first division win of the regular season. The 28-21 victory was the most complete performance by the team to date, and there were some good, and bad, performances worthy of recognition.
During the game, some perform well, while others fall short of the standard. This is where the Winners and Losers column comes in. After the game, when the dust settles, we decipher who falls into which category.
As always, feel free to comment on the list in the comment section below. Be part of the conversation!
Stat Line: 32/46, 369 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 100.7 Rating
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have his signature stat line of multiple touchdowns, but the one number which stuck out to me were the zero interceptions. Roethlisberger has been haunted by the untimely interception this season, and in a game where he couldn’t turn it over — he didn’t. Roethlisberger’s stability, and the Steelers’ renewed effort to run the football, could be just what the doctor ordered for this offense moving forward.
Stat Line: 5 receptions, 105 yards, 6 targets, 1 TD
I said this in our post-game podcast, and I still believe it is true. Anyone old enough to remember watching Barry Sanders knows this analogy. The Roethlisberger to Brown connection is very much morphing into one similar to Sanders’ time with the league. Sanders was so good, a team would have him bottled up for 3 quarters, only to have him break off two 50 yard runs in the fourth quarter, and that was that. Brown was held to one catch for 9 yards in the first half, only to end up with 5 catches, the game-winning touchdown and over 100 yards. It is only a matter of time until they get you...
Stat Line: 7 receptions, 111 yards, 10 targets
Goodness JuJu, this kid is something else. After a very rough start to the game with two ‘gator arm’ drops, Smith-Schuster put together one whale of a performance on the same field, and in front of the same fans, who can’t stand him for his big hit on Vontaze Burfict last season. Validation? Nope, there is no need to validate anything...Smith-Schuster is putting together a tremendous season thus far.
Stat Line: 19 carries, 111 yards, 5.8 average, 2 TDs, 4 receptions, 18 yards, 7 targets
With news of Le’Veon Bell’s potential return constantly surrounding the team, you can tell it motivates Conner. To be honest, I can’t remember a player who runs the ball so hard, and is so difficult to bring down. When you watch this style of play, it inspires others, and you can see this being infectious throughout the locker room. Fans might forget, but before his college knee injury, and his cancer diagnosis, many thought Conner was a first round talent. He is showing the football world just what he can do since he has been given the chance.
Stat Line: 7 receptions, 68 yards, 8 targets
Talking about Conner’s physical presence is one thing, but talking about the ‘Vanimal’ is another. McDonald put together a tremendous game, mainly in the first half, but it is what he does with football in his hands which is so exciting. McDonald’s speed, combined with his size and strength are a deadly trio for opposing defenders. Whenever he has the ball in his hands he looks like a bull in a China shop, and boy is it fun to watch.
Stat Line: Conner’s huge day on the ground, allowed ZERO sacks of Big Ben
The past two games the Steelers’ offensive line hasn’t surrendered a sack, and have allowed James Conner to rush for 221 yards over this same time span. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stretch like this in the Roethlisberger era, and I hope it only continues after the bye week.
Stat Line: He walked onto Paul Brown Stadium
It had to be difficult for Ryan Shazier to go back to Paul Brown Stadium. Last December was when he remained motionless from the waste down on the football field, and the transition from elite athlete to re-learning how to walk cannot be an easy one. Seeing Shazier walk on the field shows how far he has come since that Monday night game, but also how far he has yet to go too.
Mike Tomlin Challenges
Stat Line: Not sure what he is seeing that we aren’t
There was a time when Mike Tomlin was one of the best coaches in the NFL regarding winning challenges, but he is on a nasty 0-for-8 streak which could have ended in multiple ways on Sunday. Tomlin’s challenge of the Ryan Switzer reception defied logic, considering how clear it was the spot was good, and his failure to challenge James Conner’s would-be touchdown proved both costly, and head-scratching.
Stat Line: The young man has some clear confidence issues right now
Burns had been improving on a nice steady pace heading into the 2018 season, but the first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has certainly taken some steps backwards. There are times when Burns isn’t noticed, because he is doing his job, but for whatever reason he is good for one, or two, huge gaffes a game. He has become not just a liability, but a target for the opposition — and that is a problem. Hopefully the bye week does him some good, and he comes back with a fresh mindset to improve.
Short Yardage Offense
Stat Line: 2/4 in red-zone, two stops were at, or inside, the 1 yard line
You can’t complain too much about an offense which put up 28 points, and is close to averaging 30 points per game, but their two failed red-zone trips were bad. 1st and goal from the one yard line, and the half yard line, should equate to 14 points. Instead, it allowed the Bengals to hang around.