The Steelers played about three and one-half quarters of bad football, at least offensively. It might be slightly more accurate to say that Ben Roethlisberger played three and one-half quarters of bad football but, against all odds, the Steelers pulled out a huge win. Jacksonville has been one of their “kryptonites,” and overcoming them in this fashion really bolsters a team.
So, what can we take away from this game? Here are seven takeaways from the Steelers’ win over the Jaguars:
Vance McDonald is worth it, and more
Goodness, I can’t believe some of us wanted to release this guy before the season started. They weren’t unjustified at the time, because he just couldn’t stay healthy, but McDonald’s been fantastic this season. Multiple times, Vance McDonald has been a huge difference maker, including the difference between winning and losing.
Boy, was he ever today.
That TD catch was insane and he’s one of the most complete TEs in the NFL. It isn’t just the blocking, the stiff arms, or the contested catches, it’s everything he brings to the table. He embodies what a Steeler is, and he’s been the key to really unlocking this offense as an unstoppable force.
Colbert turns out another fantastic trade.
Matt Feiler is good, but he isn’t Marcus Gilbert
Matt Feiler is a starting-level right tackle — I have no doubt about that. But today against Yannick Ngakoue, Feiler was hung out to dry. This was the toughest test he’s faced since he stepped in for Gilbert, and he have some ugly reps. It doesn’t reflect too badly on Feiler, but he’s just not an elite RT.
This is just an ugly rep from Feiler. His base is wide and his punch timing is off — thus Ngaukoue can chop, rip, and spin right through to the inside. Gilbert doesn’t do this and, while Feiler has done a great job filling in, Gilbert will make this line even better.
Stephon Tuitt makes a difference
The Steelers locked down the running game after the first half, but Tuitt’s absence was notable. The middle wasn’t as chaotic, although it certainly was due to a man I will get to in a second, and Tuitt’s run-stuffing abilities were missed today.
For however many times Tuitt has gone invisible, his gap discipline was nevertheless incredibly strong. The running game was shut down thanks to Tuitt, and his absence showed a good deal today.
Still, Hargrave is very good
I’d say Javon Hargrave isn’t a one-technique NT — he’s way too athletic for that. He’s much better suited as a 3- or 5-technique in this defense, but Heyward and Tuitt hold those positions down nicely. Now, you also see the value of Dan McCullers. With one of the two pro bowlers on the DL out, McCullers can fill Hargrave’s role quite nicely.
Hargrave had a great day. He was getting sacks, run stops, and all that you could want from a guy who was filling in for Stephon Tuitt. Hopefully Hargrave gets more snaps, because he’s quite underrated.
Crown him King JuJu
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a monster — and a clutch one at that. He really was kept quiet until the end of the game when he finally made two huge plays. His route-running and contested-catch skills are a sight to behold. JuJu likely won Pittsburgh the game to a large extent with his two huge catches. The guy continues to progress and show that he’s a genuine star.
Praise King JuJu!
It’s time to give praise to Coty Sensabaugh
I only heard Sensabaugh’s name one time today, and that was when he made a tackle in run defense. Sensabaugh was certainly active in that role and, quite frankly, he shut down his side of the field today. He has really stabilized the CB2 slot with some solid play. He might never be great, but he certainly has been good enough.
Who would have thought the unsung hero of the secondary would have been Coty Sensabuagh? Not me, but I’m okay with it. Against better teams, he might be exposed, but Keith Butler’s scheming has really helped him out a ton.
Give a ton of credit to Mike Tomlin
This team has been through some drama, with Antonio Brown’s antics, and especially that unnamed RB. But Tomlin has kept this team sharply focused on the games and that’s enabled them to persevere through it all.
They’ve won some tough games and have really been spectacular since the Atlanta game. Tomlin’s adjustments and impact in the locker room cannot be shortchanged. He’s in the conversation for Coach of the Year honors, and rightfully so. Coach T is worth it for all of us, and boy did I ever overreact earlier in the year for thinking about maybe moving on from him.