The Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons took part in a huge game at Heinz Field on Sunday, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base with their first home win of the regular season. The 41-17 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: 21 carries, 110, 2 TDs / 4 receptions, 75 yards, 4 targets
What else is there to say about James Conner’s day which hasn’t already been said? I haven’t seen a running back so hard to bring down since Jerome Bettis roamed the backfield for the Steelers. Conner, when given the opportunity, has proven he is up for the task at hand. Kudos to Conner for taking advantage of a game plan which had him as the focal point.
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 101 yards, 2 TDs
It wasn’t always pretty, and it started off rough, but the Ben to Brown connection caught fire at the right time. While essentially shut out in the first half, Brown exploded in the second for his first 100 yard receiving performance of the season. Hopefully this connection is just starting to heat up at just the right time.
Stat Line: 19/29, 250 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 112.7 Passer Rating
Roethlisberger’s stat line is what Steelers fans should want to see. Nothing crazy, but efficient football. Take away his idiotic interception, more on that later, and Roethlisberger played a very good game. He took what the defense was giving him, and the Steelers offense dominated. 9 of 12 on 3rd downs was a very nice change in the right direction, and largely because of the play of No. 7.
Stat Line: Blocked punt, dominating lead blocking
When the Steelers gave Roosevelt Nix a new contract this offseason, some wondered why they would do that when they rarely use a fullback in the offense. Probably because he does so much more than lead blocking on this team. Nix’s special teams play has been phenomenal, and he proved this again when he blocked the Falcons’ punt in the later portion of the game. Throw in some great lead blocking and Nix deserves to be in the winner column today.
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 6 solo, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 QB hits
Everyone has said it, “When will T.J. Watt be showing up?” It seemed as if the second year linebacker’s only good performances came against the lowly Browns, but he changed this narrative with a dominating performance against the Falcons. Matt Ryan had been sacked 10 times coming into Week 5, and Watt added 3 more to that total by himself. Watt looked dynamic as ever, and the hope is he can continue this, and sustain it, for a full season.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 1 solo, 2 QB hits
Sometimes you don’t appreciate someone until they are gone. This was the case with Mike Hilton when the cornerback missed the Week 4 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens with an elbow injury. With Hilton back in the mix on Sunday vs. Atlanta, the defense had a completely different feel. Hilton was a presence on the edge blitzing from the slot, and when they had to account for him it left more one-on-one matchups for the defensive linemen — and the Steelers were winning those matchups. Hilton is a much more valuable piece to the Steelers’ puzzle than most probably think.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 5 solo, held Julio Jones to 5 rec. and 62 yards
During the game I wondered if the Steelers would have Haden follow Julio Jones, and it didn’t take long for the beat writers to say he was during the game. I became more and more impressed as the game went on and Jones was without a catch. In fact, it wasn’t until the second half when Jones recorded his first reception, and Haden is one of the main reasons why. Haden doesn’t just bring solid play to the field, but also is the glue which keeps the defense together. Haden might just be the defense’s MVP so far this season.
The Coaching Staff
Stat Line: Huge bounce back performance in a must-win game
I’ve always believed coaches get too much blame when they lose, and not enough credit when they win. Everyone loves to bash Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and Randy Fichtner when the team struggles, but what about when the team puts together a tremendous win in all phases of the game? Time to give the coaching staff some love. With their backs against the wall, desperate for a win, the team delivered.
Stat Line: 0 Sacks allowed / 131 rushing yards at 4.5 ypc
Talk about a dominant performance. When the Steelers were taking a balanced approach to the offense, the big guys up front did more than enough for Randy Fichtner’s plan to work to perfection. Not allowing a sack, and dominating in the run game is a huge lift for this veteran group.
Stat Line: 5/6 XP
On a day when he wasn’t called on to kick a field goal, missing an extra point is unacceptable. This points being left on the field are killers, just as the Green Bay Packers and Mason Crosby.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Horrid INT
Stat Line: That was awful
I know Roethlisberger was also a winner, but he falls in the loser category for just one play. His interception at the end of the half was more than horrendous. It was atrocious. It was any other adjective you want to use, I have to keep it clean here on the site, but it was bad. Those are the types of plays which can lose you a football game. I am left wondering how many points the Steelers could have scored if not for Roethlisberger’s bone-headed play.