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.
This was such a strange game all around, the article is hardly as robust as it usually is, mainly because I found it difficult to pinpoint players who stood out as playing well and those who played poorly.
As always, feel free to comment on the list in the comment section below. Be part of the conversation!
Stat Line: 33/50, 380 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 108.8 Rating
This game was remarkable for a lot of reasons, but it was also telling. For anyone who thought Roethlisberger didn’t have “it” anymore — think again. Roethlisberger put together one of the more impressive performances of his career on the road in one of the most hostile environments, and without a running game. As long as No. 7 is on the field, the Steelers will always have a shot.
Stat Line: 14 rec., 19 targets, 185 yards, 2 TDs
For those who listen to our podcasts, I had been waiting for a Brown game like this. Double-digit receptions, double digit targets and going off both in yardage and touchdowns. Brown might not have the receptions and yardage he has had in the past, but is blazing a new trail regarding touchdowns scored. Brown showed he is till the best WR in the NFL today.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit
Not a stat line which screams a ‘Winner’, but Watt is slowly becoming an elite player at the position. When he was drafted, many projected Watt to be a project, and more of an athlete than a pass rusher. With 12 sacks, and counting, Watt is proving all those doubters wrong. Seems like the Steelers found a good one — for once.
Stat Line: Saints 4-for-4
The Steelers’ defense has never been the Steel Curtain, but they had prided themselves on being a bend-but-don’t-break bunch. This certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday in Week 16. Pittsburgh’s defense didn’t stop Drew Brees and company once when they hit the red-zone, and that simply isn’t the recipe for winning football.
Stat Line: 1 Fumble Lost
I could clearly put this on Randy Fichtner/Mike Tomlin, considering Ridley was inserted into the game at such an inopportune time, but Ridley also has to hold onto the football. After being benched earlier this season due to a fumble, Ridley won’t be seeing the field anytime in the near future. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him released, or a game day inactive, when James Conner returns to the lineup.
Stat Line: 11 rec., 15 targets, 115 yards, 1 Fumble Lost
It absolutely kills me to put JuJu in this category, after he had such a tremendous game. But the last stat in his stat line above ended the game. Period. Smith-Schuster has taken this loss tougher than any other player on the roster, and if not for the fumble I had no doubt the Steelers would be ending the game with a game-winning touchdown.
Stat Line: Just putrid
I have said it before in this space, and I’ll say it again. I understand if the Steelers get beat, and I’ve learned to accept this fate as I mature, but when the officials are a talking point after the game it leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. The pass interference call was horrible on Joe Haden to start the game, and this crew just screamed ineptitude throughout. It could have been the three flags which were thrown and picked up, the missed calls right in front of the official or even NFL headquarters not at least looking at the Stephon Tuitt potential tipped pass on 4th and 2. Just bad...and the NFL won’t do a thing about it.
Fake Punt Decision
Stat Line: Trying to stay neutral
I understand if the play works we aren’t talking about it the day after, but I didn’t like the situation it was called. Mike Tomlin’s reasoning isn’t completely unfounded, but even if the Steelers saw a look they liked, you have to make Brees drive the length of the field against a defense which had settled in as the game progressed. Call it on 4th and 2, but on 4th and 5 it just didn’t seem to be the right place and time for the call. It makes you wonder “What if the team punted the ball away...” and I hate that feeling.