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9 Takeaways after the Steelers’ crushing defeat against the Broncos

The Steelers cost themselves a victory in Denver.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers came out and shot themselves in the foot a number of times in their loss to the Broncos. The Steelers clearly left about twenty points on the field, and that’s unacceptable. Is this game an anomaly? Yes, it very likely is, but the Steelers have to do everything they can to prevent this from happening again.

The Broncos were an opportunistic defense and they deserve credit for capitalizing on the Steelers’ miscues. The Black-and-gold have work to do, but at least we have positive things to reflect on before the Steelers face the Chargers next week at home, which I fully expect them to win.

Regardless, with this crushing defeat, here are my nine takeaways from this game:

Javon Hargrave is a monster

Hargrave had yet another fantastic game this week. He and Cam Heyward were the two best members of this defense today and, even when Stephon Tuitt returns, Hargrave deserves more reps.

The guy has had a fantastic last two games and, in his limited reps on the year, has six sacks. He’s becoming a top NT and truly is showing that he is breaking out. He might want a contract and, the more I watch, the more I’m inclined to give him that contract.

He keeps playing fantastic.

Terrell Edmunds is lost

Not lost in the sense that he’s a lost cause, but lost in terms of not knowing what’s going on. He’s constantly lost, and it wasn’t only in this game either. Edmunds has a real lack of awareness that makes me worry about how good he’ll turn out in the future. He looked rather abysmal today, and I would play Morgan Burnett more in the future.

I don’t know why he plays so far off here and then doesn’t even allow himself a way back in. This dude’s hips are tighter than a war drum. He changes direction so slowly and that trait really worries me overall. He’s progressed in his learning curve, there’s no doubt. But I don’t think he needs to be getting as much playing time as he is now.

He simply needs the game to be slowed down for him so he can read it better. That’s his main issue right now, processing.

Chukwuma Okorafor had himself a day

Did he have help? Yes, he did, but I was thoroughly impressed by our third-round rookie Chuks today. He faced a future Hall of Famer in Von Miller and held him in check for all but one play.

Lost in all of this frenzy will be the impressive showing by Chuks. Matt Feiler was active, but Okorafor sure handled the speed rush of Von Miller much better. I loved his footwork and hands, it looks like Munchak has honed those skills.

Okorafor has legitimate Pro Bowl potential and, as it stands now, it sure looks like he’s well on his way to possibly being the best member of the 2018 draft class.

I kinda wanna see him again, as crazy as that sounds.

Time to redshirt James Washington

Brutal. Just brutal.

That’s how I’d describe James Washington this season. Listen, Washington isn’t exactly a glove fit for the Steelers’ offense. His style of play doesn’t fit the quick, efficient routes that he needs to run in order to be great in the system. He lacks a wide route tree, and when coming into the NFL, only had about 4 routes.

He clearly has expanded that, and it takes time for a guy like him to learn it. The guy just needs to stop playing and learn. And no, I would not play Justin Hunter.

Still will never know why he dove, this should be a TD all day. Rookie mistake by Washington.

Eli Rogers has more value than you think, and so does Jaylen Samuels

Maybe I am crazy to say this, but I would get Rogers back as soon as possible so I can say deuces to Justin Hunter.

The Steelers are clearly best suited using AB, JuJu, and Switzer in 3 WR sets, but Rogers, and right now Samuels, give them more looks to do it out of. Eli Rogers would certainly be a great fourth receiver to have as a chain mover. Switzer can do that, but with no exclusive deep threat (meaning no Washington), having two slot guys is actually incredibly useful.

I would use Samuels more as a chain mover and in the red zone. He has made some plays recently, and I think his third down conversion is a case in point of how they should use him.

The versatility Rogers and Samuels could bring is far more than one might think. If you’re going to red-shirt Washington, bring Rogers back to provide a legitimate fourth receiving option.

The Steelers are their own worst enemies

I like to think of this game as the encapsulation of Artie Burns. The guy was great last year, but this year, had no confidence and has killed himself. I think that’s what the Steelers did today.

I’ve never seen a team hand the game away more than the Steelers did today. 25 first downs, over 500 yards of offense, and only 17 points because of 4 turnovers. The Grimble fumble was the worst of them all and really caused the team to tumble. Ben forcing passes was no better, and you have to question if these issues will recur.

This game cannot be repeated ever again. The Steelers have a lot to learn from and — maybe, just maybe — it was better to lose before the tough stretch of their season than at any other time. This can be the game you sulk about, or the game you use to propel your season to new heights.

James Conner is so valuable

56 passes. 56. 11 rushes. 11.

Friends, this might be a passing league, but for a team like the Steelers, you still have to run the ball. In their three losses this season, here’s James Conner’s stat line:

KC: Conner 8 carries. 17 yards.

BAL: Conner 9 carries. 19 yds.

DEN: Conner 11 carries. 53 yds.

Why didn’t they feed him more when he was running well this game? I don’t know the answer, but it was their game plan. When Ben has to throw too many times, it usually comes back to burn the Steelers. When Conner is going, this team plays much, much better.

He’s had critical mistakes the past two weeks, but make no mistake, this guy is about as valuable as they come. To win against the higher caliber of teams they’ll be facing, the Steelers are going to need to get Conner going. That’s a fact and a trend.

Coty Sensabaugh...gotta get better

A lot of you commented last week that I was preemptive to give Coty Sensabaugh praise, and I am starting to agree with you guys more on that. This is a terrible display by Sensabaugh. He gets burnt on the rushing TD, and he was bad in run defense all day, and he goes and has an attitude like that due to Watt calling him out?

That isn’t okay. He allowed the first Denver touchdown as well. When things are going wrong, you just gotta listen to your guys and go back to pick yourself up. It appears Sensabaugh wasn’t doing that.

Artie Burns might be bad, but at least he has supported his team. If this keeps up, I would give Sutton and Burns another chance. Sensabaugh can’t let this happen.

Don’t worry, they’ll be fine

This team will bounce back just fine. I’m telling you they will win next week, they’ll go to Oakland and win, and maybe they’ll even beat the Patriots.

This game is a learning experience that every good team needs. The Steelers learned from their loss against Baltimore, coming back to rattle off six straight wins.

Mike Tomlin uses these losses to make a statement and learn from it. The Steelers will bounce back and be stronger. The sky isn’t falling yet, trust me on that.