The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns took part in a big divisional game at Heinz Field on Sunday, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base with their first home division win of the regular season. The 33-18 victory might have been the team’s most complete performance 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: 24 carries, 146 yards, 6.1 ypc, 2 TDs / 5 rec, 6 targets, 66 yards
It has been a long time since I’ve enjoyed watching someone play football as much as I do enjoy watching Conner tote the rock. He runs with a reckless abandon, yet has the balance and burst to be a threat in every possible way. At this point in the game, I don’t think anyone is wondering about Le’Veon Bell anymore, just wondering if the team will trade him so Conner can keep rolling.
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 8 targets, 74 yards, 2 TDs
Not a ridiculous day for No. 84, but when you catch 6 of 8 targets and score twice, it isn’t a bad day at the office. Maybe, just maybe, Brown doesn’t care about his stats anymore. Perhaps he is more focused on wins, and scoring touchdowns. Brown leads the league in touchdown receptions, and I’m sure he would exchange his receptions and yardage statistics for a Super Bowl ring.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 1 solo, .5 TFL, 2 QB hits
Nick Farabaugh in his post-game reaction article put it best when talking about Dupree, maybe this is just who Dupree is?! If that is the case, he is far from a bust, but just an average pass rusher. Dupree did what he should have done. The Browns put all their attention on Watt, and he won his one-on-one matchup against a subpar left tackle. He isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he certainly isn’t Jarvis Jones either. This was one of Dupree’s best performances as a pro, in my opinion.
Stat Line: 7 tackls, 6 solo, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 1 QB hit
When Watt plays the Browns, expect him to at least continue to add to his sack total. Watt’s lone sack on Baker Mayfield gives him 7 on the season, and is just three off Aaron Donald for the league lead. Although I doubt he will break any records, sadly the Steelers don’t play the Browns again this year, Watt is having himself a banner year for such a young player. His play is improving weekly.
Stat Line: 24/36, 257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 sack, 94.3 Rating
This was the game I wanted to see from Roethlisberger, maybe except the first quarter. Take away the interception when he tried to force the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Roethlisberger had a very efficient day at the office. He was only sacked once, and the Browns’ defense registered just one QB hit.
Aggressive Mike Tomlin
Stat Line: 1/1 on 4th Down Conversions
I was waiting for Chris Boswell to trot onto the field for a chip shot field goal at the end of the second quarter, but Tomlin rolled the dice of 4th down, and it paid off with a first down completion to Smith-Schuster, and then a touchdown pass to Brown to put a dagger in the Browns. Loved the call.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, .5 TFL, 1 Pass Defense
You might look at the stat line above and wonder why Hilton found his way on the winners list. After all, he didn’t have an interception or a sack, but when he is on the field the entire defense is different. Hilton is a tremendous blitzer, and I would argue he is the best slot defender in the NFL. What a steal he was when Pittsburgh claimed him off the scrap heap.
Stat Line: 3 tackls, 3 solo, 2 TFL, 2 Pass Defenses, 1 INT
Some say Haden is too old. Some say Haden is injury prone. Some suggest Haden has lost a step. Well color me stupid, because what I saw on Sunday at Heinz Field was a dominant performance by Haden. The interception was nice, and resulted in a touchdown for the offense, but the play which stood out to me was the swing pass to Jarvis Landry. Landry caught the pass and turned up field only to be met by Haden. Haden didn’t rush and try to tackle Landry immediately, but broke down and was ready to make a play. Landry tried an inside move, and an outside move, but Haden didn’t budge. Landry just went out of bounds. Tremendous.
Stat Line: 168 total yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns, surrendered 1 sack, and only 1 QB hit
I always see these silly position rankings around the internet, and when talking about offensive lines, no one ever puts the Steelers’ unit at the top. Not sure why. In the past three games they have surrendered just one sack, and two QB hits. On top of that, James Conner has been running wild through gaping holes which you could drive a truck through. Oh, and this week Marcus Gilbert wasn’t in the lineup, but Matt Feiler. Anyone notice a difference? I sure didn’t. Mike Munchak for president!
Ryan Switzer/Roosevelt Nix/Danny Smith
Stat Line: Are you serious?
Against a different team this mistake would have been the straw which broke the camel’s back. In our post-game podcast, which can be heard above, we asked whether this was on the players or the coaches. My answer is both! After the safety Danny Smith had time to get his unit together and remind them this is a live ball after being kicked. Sure, Nix’s fair catch signal was strange, but Switzer, who is known as a return specialist, should know the rules and still have caught the football. Plenty of blame to go around...I’m just thankful it didn’t cost the team the game.
Stat Line: 8 penalties for 60 yards
The penalties weren’t as bad as it looked at the start of the game, but this team sure knows how to compound sloppy play with stupid penalties. Need to play a cleaner brand of football next week vs. the Ravens.
The 1st Quarter
Stat Line: Offense didn’t obtain a first down till the second quarter
The defense gave up 6 points, should have been more, and the offense didn’t get a first down the entire quarter. I know coming off the bye week can a slow adjustment, but this team needs to develop more consistency when starting games.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 6-for-13 on 3rd down conversions
Below .500 in 3rd down offense is not acceptable in the NFL. The teams who make it far are teams who know how to move the chains and create long, time consuming, drives. The Steelers got their act together in the second half, but the first half was rough. On the flip side, I should say how the Steelers’ defense did a tremendous job on third downs, holding the Browns to 3-for-13 on the key down.