The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they hosted the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 of the regular season. After the big time game, it is time to see who performed well, and who left a lot to be desired.
Improvement was evident in some ways, and hopefully will continue, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left plays on the field can be deemed ‘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 8...
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, 2 pass defenses, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 INT, 1 TD
I think it is safe to say there is no one in Steelers Nation who doesn’t like the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick. There was a lot of grumbling at first, but the man has done nothing but make big time plays in big time situations to help this team win football games. The team now has a pure superstar in their deep secondary, something that hasn’t been said since Troy Polamalu played.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 4 solo, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QB hits
What a monster T.J. Watt is becoming. Every game he seems to get better and better in every facet of his game. His 2 sacks on Sunday bring his total to 9.5 on the year, and he has only played 9 games so far. Remember when double-digit sacks was a big deal for a Steelers OLB? Watt is projected to have almost 17 sacks this year. Think about that...
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 7 targets, 90 yards, 1 TD, 1 Fumble
Many wondered if Washington’s game in Week 9 vs. the Colts was his coming out party. Well, if that game wasn’t, his performance against the Rams was. If not for a really bad fumble, Washington would have been considered a top winner for the game. Nonetheless, his performance could be just what the offense needs moving forward.
Stat Line: Successful challenge, gutsy call, righting the ship
There are, and always will be, Mike Tomlin haters in the Steelers fan base, but you have to give credit where credit is due. At 0-3, and 1-4, many thought the season was lost. The trade for Fitzpatrick didn’t make sense...at the time. Now, at 5-4, the Steelers are the 6th team in the AFC Playoff Picture. That is called controlling your own destiny. Tomlin won a challenge in Week 10, made an extremely gutsy call on the biggest drive of the game going for it on 4th down. If the Steelers make the playoffs, it will be one of his finest coaching performances of his career.
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 6 solo, 5 pass defenses, 1 INT
Many thought Haden was washed up. Too hold to really stick to receivers anymore. Well, think again. The Rams have an extremely deep receiving corps, and Haden played arguably is best game as a member of the black-and-gold. It was his pass defense on the final drive for the rams which resulted in the game-winning interception. Haden proved he can still play.
Defensive Pass Rush
Stat Line: 4 sacks, 9 QB Hits, 7.5 TFL
When Jared Goff was in obvious passing situations, the Steelers defensive front was able to impose their will on the Rams’ offensive line. They do this to a lot of teams, but the Steelers were winning on Sunday without sending a lot of exotic blitzes. They were winning with their front four, and that is what allowed their secondary to do their job in the back half. Outstanding game from Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Wattt, Bud Dupree and Tyson Alualu.
Stat Line: 4 more takeaways, 26 on the year
Is it safe to say fans can almost plan on having at least one turnover a game at this point? The team has 26 on the year, one behind the Patriots for the league lead, and 10 more than the third place team on the takeaway leaderboard. The defense is playing at such a high level they find unique ways to create turnovers every week. No one is complaining as long as they keep coming.
Wide Receiver Drops
Stat Line: 4 drops total
With a young quarterback like Mason Rudolph, you can’t waste opportunities, and you have to help out the young signal caller. The Steelers didn’t do that at all Sunday with 4 drops. Rudolph’s stat line, and the game itself, likely would have looked drastically different if those four passes had been hauled in.
Stat Line: 4 times the ball was on the ground
I believe the count is now 16 games in a row where the Steelers have some sort of turnover in a game, and it seems the trend is fumbling the football. The Steelers fumbled the ball four times Sunday, and were lucky to only lose two of them, Maurkice Pouncey’s snap is considered a fumble. If this team wants to go far, they can’t keep turning the football over.
Stat Line: 13 penalties for 107 yards
Some of these penalties were extremely ticky-tacky, but it is frustrating to watch the team shoot themselves in the foot over and over again. At least 5 of these penalties were on Special Teams alone, including Chris Boswell’s false start on a field goal attempt. Inexcusable all around.
Stat Line: 27 carries for 42 yards, 1.6 yards per carry
I was hesitant to put the Steelers’ running game in the losers category because I didn’t expect much going into the game. However, 1.6 yards per carry is embarrassing. The Rams’ defense is legit, but this hasn’t been a one game thing, in fact it is becoming a trend. James Conner’s return should help the running game, but it certainly won’t be a magic elixir. The Steelers need to get creative and find new ways to run the football more efficiently to take pressure off Mason Rudolph.