The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Monday night when they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 of the regular season on Monday Night Football. The Steelers were winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had an outstanding performance.
Improvement was evident in the win, and is hopefully going to continue, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.
Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 4...
Stat Line: 3/3 passing, 31 yards / 10 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD / 8 receptions, 8 targets, 57 yards
Jaylen Samuels didn’t touch the football in the Week 3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but he sure did it all in Week 4. The Steelers’ game plan was clearly to mix things up, and seeing Samuels receiving snaps as a wildcat quarterback, catching passes and running hard was the brightest of bright spots for me after the Steelers’ first win of the season.
Stat Line: 10 rushes, 42 yards / 8 receptions, 8 targets, 83 yards, 1 TD
On a day when many were questioning whether Conner still had “it”, he showed he is still very capable of getting the job done. What should also be noted is how Conner has turned into a very good receiver, and this is a skill set the Steelers clearly have been utilizing more and more with Rudoph under center. A good performance by Conner on a night they needed a good performance.
Stat Line: 24/28, 229 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 Sacks
You will hear a ton of talk about how far Rudolph is throwing the football down the field, but you won’t hear any criticism from me. You do what is working, and on Monday night what was working were the misdirection jet-sweep plays, and checking the ball down. It equated in time-consuming drives and resulted in points. Not going to complain when the result is working. His first career win gets him on the winners list.
Stat Line: 8 Sacks, 12 QB Hits
It was a sack party and the defense was meeting at Andy Dalton to get there. This game resembled some of those bloodbaths when the Steelers would register 6-8 sacks vs. the Cleveland Browns in years past. The Steelers were relentless in their pass rush, and get sacks from a variety of players. Bud Dupree’s strip sack was a huge game changer, and it was awesome to see Cameron Heyward finally show up on the stat sheet in a big way (2.5 sacks). If this defense can continue to pressure the quarterback, it will give them opportunities in the back end for more turnovers.
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD, 1 lost fumble
Johnson’s early fumble almost had him headed to the losers list, but on a night when Mike Tomlin and Randy Fichtner showed a tremendous amount of faith in the rookie wide receiver, he came back and played well the rest of the game. The highlight for Johnson was his 46 yard touchdown reception, his second TD in his second start. Johnson might just be the receiver the team needs to help free up JuJu Smith-Schuster more as the season progresses.
Stat Line: 5 total tackles, 4 solo, 1 TFL, 2 PBU
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back had been picked on for the majority of the 2018 season, and even the early portions of 2019, but Hilton stepped up in a big way vs. the Bengals and was all over the field. What might have been even more nice was the fact the defense didn’t predictably keep blitzing Hilton off the edge. Rather, they disguised the blitz and Hilton played well in coverage as the nickel cornerback.
Stat Line: Creative game plan which resulted in 27 points scored
We all said it. Fichtner needed a game plan that wasn’t like one we would see with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Well, ask and you shall receive. Fichtner’s game plan of misdirection and short passes was the perfect approach to attacking a very unstable Cincinnati defense. Fichtner will have to keep scheming well with Rudolph at quarterback, but Week 4 showed he is at least capable of getting the job done.
Stat Line: 25 rushes, 66 yards, 0 sacks
While the line didn’t dominate like many thought, they showed improvement in the running game, but especially in pass blocking. Rudolph didn’t have pass rushers breathing down his neck like he did in Week 3, and was delivering accurate passes when given the opportunity. Kudos to the line for showing up when the team needed them.
Stat Line: Lost another challenge
To be honest, there weren’t many individuals I would consider losers in this contest, although I’m sure those in the comment section will find plenty. In fact, I thought Tomlin’s challenge was a good one, just didn’t get it over turned. I could have added a few more winners to the list, and I’ll do so here:
Who were your winners and losers? Let us know in the comment section below! And be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5.