Regardless of how it happened, the Steelers somehow came out, played their best game of the season, and obliterated the Panthers. With a huge 52-21 victory no one really expected, Pittsburgh cemented themselves as a legitimate team now in the AFC, and perhaps even in the Super Bowl picture. This win is huge and sends a big message, as this win was over a very good team in the Panthers.
Therefore, let’s see six takeaways from the big Thursday night victory:
Randy Fichtner is so, so good
7 touchdowns and perfect in the red zone.
That is the stat line of Fichtner’s coaching day today, and boy did he ever impress. His play calls of getting everyone involved in the red zone is truly amazing. He knows how to make this offense incredibly efficient. Rarely are they ever in 3rd and long and it keeps the drives chugging along. Fichtner has incredible play design and set up, too.
His play calling just lends this team to be an efficient offense, which they never were under Todd Haley. Ben Roethlisberger is taking less hits, the ball is being spread around, and this offense has a specific rhythm to it that makes it just keep going.
Fichtner could be playing himself out of Pittsburgh and into a head coaching gig if he keeps this up.
Bud Dupree really has turned a corner
Bud's growth as a pass rusher is real. Nice first step, plays low, uses his hands to get outside leverage and bend around the edge, and then a sack. Big season for Bud and he is finally coming along. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/XlY7cEBe5V— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) November 9, 2018
I want to show you this play because it shows that Bud Dupree now has the components of being a good pass rusher. Yes, he still has his issues. For one, his hips are stiff and inhibit his ability to bend, and no, he does not have that many pass rushing moves, but he is playing lower than ever, and especially, is using his hands.
We knew about that explosive first step that he has, but I never really thought he would capitalize on it. He does now. Look at him win the hand fight and get the outside leverage, which allows him to bend to get the sack on Newton.
Folks, Bud Dupree is progressing and is silencing the need on EDGE to a want for depth. I’m going to say the Steelers will not being drafting an EDGE Round 1, instead they certainly may be giving Dupree a little reward, in the form of an extension.
Welp, Artie Burns is still bad
I watched the last quarter of this blowout to hopefully see Artie Burns, and I did.
Well, guys, he was just as bad as he has ever been. He is playing timid and is allowing so much separation you would question how he is even rosterable at this point. His DPI penalty should have been an INT for him if he tracks the ball well enough, but he just looks done.
He even tripped over himself. I cannot say how bad he was out there and he has been bad this whole season. I don’t want to give up on Burns, but it is certainly trending towards bust land for Artie, unfortunately.
This defense is legit
Yes, the Steelers defense has un-athletic linebackers and it was exposed, also, yes, the Steelers do not have a good CB2, although Coty Sensabaugh has been playing much better as of recent.
However, the pressure these guys are generating is crazy right now. 16 hurries for Cam Newton tonight, 5 sacks, that is just crazy against a Panthers Offensive Line that was actually playing well and was 6th in the league in collective pass blocking efficiency, per ESPN.
The secondary has been okay. Terrell Edmunds is still learning, but Morgan Burnett returned to form today and Joe Haden locked down whoever he faced.
But the defensive line’s resurgence has allowed this team to really ascend. Getting that pressure from the middle has impacted this defense on a massive scale, and Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave all had good games today.
I like this Ryan Switzer guy
You know, I did not expect Ryan Switzer to be a huge part of this offense, but the Steelers converted three first downs on third-down today due to the play of Switzer.
For only a 5th round pick, the Steelers not only got an excellent return man, but also a fantastic slot receiver that can come through on third down when the Steelers need it. Switzer has been prominent in Fichtner’s third-down scheming and it has worked incredibly well.
Fichtner went back and saw what Switzer could do at North Carolina and is using him exactly in the way he was used there. That is what good OCs do. They shape the scheme to the players, and Switzer has never looked more comfortable.
Boz is back
Welcome back the Wizard of Boz.
Chris Boswell’s struggles have been at the very least concerning, but they certainly were not tonight. His 50 yard field goal was right down the middle and had to be a huge confidence booster for him. In addition to that, I did not see him pushing any kicks to the right. They are really starting to straighten out. And although the Steelers are not settling for as many field goals this year, having Boswell as sure-footed kicker in the back is huge.