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: 3/3 FGs, 1/1 XP
It can’t be easy to just walk off the street and enter a team in Week 17 in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive. Nonetheless, this is exactly what Matt McCrane did on Sunday at Heinz Field. He may not have a big leg, but he got the job done, and did something Chris Boswell didn’t do at all this season — make 3 FGs in a game.
Stat Line: 3 receptions, 3 targets, 64 yards, long reception of 47 yards
Maybe a silver lining to the Steelers’ season ending abruptly was the late season push of rookie receiver James Washington. Without Antonio Brown in the lineup, the defense wanted to take JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the game. Someone needed to step up and win their matchup, and although it took a while James Washington stepped up in a big way for this team. I think it is safe to say Washington’s arrow is at least pointing up heading into the offseason.
Stat Line: 7 receptions, 9 targets, 57 yards
Since Rogers has returned to the lineup, the Steelers’ offense has had a new dynamic to it. Rogers doesn’t just provide a reliable slot receiver, but also a receiver who can be moved around the formations and gives the team a nice No. 3 and 4 receiving threat. There is a clear connection to the Steelers using a lot of 5 wide receivers set, and Rogers’ return. The Steelers would be smart to bring back Rogers next year before he hits free agency.
Stat Line: 14 carries, 64 yards, 4.6 yards per carry
James Conner didn’t have a ton of opportunities in this game, but it was good to see Conner back on the field after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury. What you saw was how different Conner is from Jaylen Samuels, when it comes to their styles. Conner’s north-and-south style is a perfect compliment to Samuels, and the future with these two backs looks to be very bright.
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit
When the Steelers selected Watt in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, many thought it was a reach. He was labeled a project, but even if he was a project, it seems safe to say the Steelers’ project is starting to become a finished product. Watt has developed into a tremendous pass rusher, and it will be fun to see what he can do in Year 3.
Stat Line: Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave equal 2.5 sacks, 9 tackles, 4 QB Hits, 1 PD
The rock of the Steelers’ defense resides in the team’s defensive front. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave are becoming a tremendous trio on the interior of the defense. With all three of these players set to return next season, and beyond, it will be good to see how much havoc they can cause on the opponent.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 5-for-15 on 3rd down conversions
You will see me write this repeatedly in the next three stanzas. Against the league’s worst defense, Steelers fans expected a much cleaner performance. The Steelers, who had been solid on third downs this season, were atrocious. Ben Roethlisberger talked about how the offense just couldn’t get going, and it was evident on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Stat Line: 0/0 receptions, 1 target
It might be harsh to put James on the losers list, but this is more cumulative, than just a one game designation. James has become replaceable, and he is set to hit free agency this offseason, and the Steelers very well could move on. James not bringing in the pass after Roethlisberger escaped the pass rush in the fourth quarter made me realize how James is nothing near what most expected.
Stat Line: 1-for-3 in Red-Zone trips
Entering Week 17, the Steelers were the NFL’s best red-zone offense, and going 1-for-3 in the red area against the league’s worst defense just left a very stale taste in fans’ mouths. This isn’t to suggest the red-zone offense was bad all year, but went out with a dud against the Bengals.