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Steelers vs. Broncos: 5 Winners and 5 Losers after the Steelers’ 24-17 loss to the Broncos

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After a game, we take note of certain players who performed well and others who didn’t. This is where the Winners and Losers column comes in.

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos took part in a big prime time game in Colorado in Week 12, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base their first loss in the last seven games after a 24-17 loss to the Broncos.

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!

Winners

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stat Line: 13 receptions on 17 targets, 189 yards, 1 TD, 14.5 average

There will be a trend here in the winner column after the team’s loss in Week 12. Unbelievable plays/performances which were spoiled by the outcome. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 189 yard outing, capped by a 97 yard touchdown reception, would have been the highlight of the game, but now it is just a footnote in a weird and strange loss.

Javon Hargrave
Stat Line: 4 Tackles, 1 Solo, .5 Sack, .5 TFL, 1 QB Hit

Hargrave has been playing like a man possessed the past few weeks, and he has been getting to the quarterback. A half sack doesn’t fully show how dominant he was rushing the passer from the interior. The question now remains when the team will start keeping Hargrave on the field, and keeping Daniel McCullers on the bench.

Chuks Okorafor
Stat Line: 2 Sacks Surrendered, 6 QB Hits

Sure, Okorafor received some help throughout the game when going against Von Miller, but Okorafor also held his own on occasion. He did more than enough to protect Ben Roethlisberger, and not only is this a huge feather in Mike Munchak’s cap, but also for the future of the tackle position for the Steelers. Will Okorafor remain the primary backup moving forward? Only time will tell, but he put some pretty good stuff on tape in Week 12.

Cameron Heyward
Stat Line: 3 Tackles, 2 Solo, .5 Sack, .5 TFL, 1 PD, 1 QB Hit

Similar to Hargrave, Heyward was wrecking the interior of the Broncos’ offensive line almost every time Case Keenum dropped back to pass. Between the two interior defensive linemen, you can’t ask much more from that group as a whole.

Chris Boswell/Alejandro Villanueva
Stat Line: Boswell 1/1 passing, 1 TD — Villanueva 1 reception, 1 TD, 1 target

Another great play, and great play call, spoiled by the outcome. Instead of Villanueva celebrating post-game with his offensive linemen, he was taking blame for the loss due to not protecting Ben Roethlisberger better. This was the play which should have turned the tide, but, like Smith-Schuster’s 97 yard touchdown, becomes a footnote in a dud of a game.

Losers

James Conner
Stat Line: 1 costly fumble

It felt a lot like Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble in Denver during the 2015 AFC Playoffs, and it had a similar effect on the team. Conner’s fumble came at a critical juncture in the game, and turned into 7 points for the Broncos. If you want to know the biggest difference between Conner and Le’Veon Bell at this point, ball security is the only thing which separates them.

Xavier Grimble
Stat Line: 1 costly mistake/fumble

I was celebrating the touchdown when suddenly I looked up to see the officials huddled around talking about something. As it turns out, my celebration was a bit premature as Grimble was ruled to have fumbled the ball out of bounds, and into the endzone. The result? A turnover and touchback. The Steelers went from being up 7-3, to trailing for nearly the rest of the first half. I wasn’t mad at Grimble taking on the safety, but protect the ball!

3rd Down Offense/Red-Zone Offense
State Line: 3rd down Offense: 5-for-14 / Red-Zone Offense: 1-for-2

The conversion stats weren’t pretty for the Steelers. Any time a team is below .500 on 3rd down, and fails to convert on a 1st-and-goal in the waning minutes of the game deserves to find themselves on the loser list. Conversion downs/situations are huge, and the Steelers weren’t very good in this area in Week 12.

Turnovers/Takeaways
Stat Line: Team was -4 in this ration

The Steelers entered Week 12 with a -3 turnover/takeaway ratio, and that number will inflate to -7 heading into Week 13. If this defense isn’t capable of getting turnovers, and it looks like that might be the case, the offense has to be able to protect the ball better. Period. If not, their chances of winning it all are slim-to-none.

Penalties
Stat Line: 5 penalties for 34 yards

Sure, the total wasn’t bad, but the ill-timed penalties by the Steelers continue to haunt them throughout the season. The officiating was bad for both teams, but special teams in particular has been penalized entirely too much this season, and gives the offense horrific starting field position almost weekly.