The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Thursday night when they traveled to play the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 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 total tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 1 Pass Defense, 2 QB Hits
I had to think long and hard about a player who could potentially be considered a winner for the team after such a dismal performance on Thursday night, and T.J. Watt was the only player who came to mind. Watt registered the only Steelers’ sack, was all over the field, and was clearly playing injured after he was seen grimacing while leaving the field in the first quarter. Watt’s sack gives him double-digit sacks for the season, and they have only played 10 games.
Stat Line: 23/34, 221 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
I have been a person who sticks up for Rudolph on most occasions. I have set the bar so low, regarding expectations for him in my mind, that Rudolph has usually been playing at a mediocre level. Not on the winners list, but not on the losers list either. However, Rudolph’s play Thursday was inexcusable. He was pressured early and often, but had a lot of throws which were just downright awful. If this trend continues the Devlin Hodges will get their wish before too long.
State Line: 3 tackles, 3 solo, 1 TFL
Barron played arguably his best game as a member of the Steelers in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, but the warm, fuzzy feeling didn’t last long. Barron missed several tackles, gave up an ugly reception to Kareem Hunt on third down and when you thought that was as ugly as it gets, Barron allowed a touchdown to occur right next to him as he had his back to the play when the Browns scored their third touchdown of the game. Barron’s play has been as inconsistent as anyone’s through the first 10 games.
Stat Line: 1 reception, 18 yards, 7 targets
The Steelers seem downright determined to continue to throw deep to Holton. This trend goes back to Ben Roethlisberger’s time at quarterback, and until Holton’s 4th quarter reception, he had yet to register a catch during the season. He is never double covered because he has yet to catch the football. The Steelers had no other options at the time, but there have to be free agents available who can provide more than what Holton does.
Stat Line: 4 sacks surrendered, 11 QB Hits surrendered, 58 yards rushing
It seems the offensive line has found their way on this list more than they have in years past, and it is certainly not a good thing. How little confidence to Randy Fichtner have in the offensive line? How about multiple 3rd and short, and 4th and short, situations where they were in the shotgun and even once an empty set. I don’t to hear about the lack of Roosevelt Nix, a group as highly touted as Pittsburgh’s should be able to get the surge necessary for a single yard. On top of that, Alejandro Villanueva was abused all night. Not a good night for the Steelers’ line.
Stat Line: Multiple starters injured
There was a point in this game where it resembled a body bag game. You saw JuJu Smith-Schuster leave with a concussion, Diontae Johnson left with a concussion after being ear-holed to the point blood was coming out of his ear. James Conner re-injured his shoulder and Artie Burns is now dealing with a knee injury. Not a good situation for a Steelers team who is struggling on offense, to lose more starters than they’ve already lost to date. Expect some roster moves sooner rather than later.
Stat Line: Myles Garrett and Maurkice Pouncey both likely to be suspended
What is there to say that hasn’t been said already? The ending of this game will dominate headlines, as it should. But let’s not just forget the absurdity of the moment. With 8 seconds left in the game Garrett felt the need to unnecessarily hit Rudolph. Notice I said unnecessarily, which isn’t the same as an egregious late hit. There was no need for him to even take him to the ground, and if he didn’t the talk would be about the abysmal Steelers offense, and not this. Yet here we are, and the NFL needs to take their next step swiftly to ensure players know actions like that won’t be tolerated, ever. Expect suspensions for Garrett and Pouncey, with fines all around.