The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they traveled to the west cast to play the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 of the regular season. The Steelers were losers in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a poor performance.
It might be early, and improvement is hopefully going to come, 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 3...
(Editor’s Note: We realize the losers list could possible encompass a large portion of the team and coaching staff, but to keep it brief we selected just those listed here in this article.)
Stat Line: 5 total tackles, 4 solo, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble
With just three practices under his belt, Minkah Fitzpatrick made his presensce felt with authority on Sunday vs. San Francisco. Fitzpatrick was all over the field, and making plays. That is the sole difference between Fitzpatrick and Sean Davis. Davis is all over the field too, but he doesn’t necessarily come up with the plays Fitzpatrick made. After one game, I am still very comfortable with the trade that was made, Fitzpatrick is a player.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 Solo, 1 INT, 1 Fumble Recovery, 2 QB Hits
Watt might not have the sack numbers he had last year, but he is doing what he always does and is constantly around the football. Whether it was his interception on the opening drive of the game, or his fumble recovery late in the game. Watt has been a presence, and that is more than a lot of players can say on this Steelers defense.
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 6 solo, 1 sack, 1 QB Hits
Last year every bemoaned Tuitt for not playing up to his big contract he received during the offseason. I’d say he has made up for it through 3 games so far. Another sack, and dominant play along the defensive line, Tuitt has already registered 3.5 sacks through three games and looks every bit as dominant as fans hoped after he signed that long-term deal prior to the 2018 season.
Stat Line: 13 carries, 43 yards, 1 Fumble Lost
Conner ran hard, and I thought he played a good game up until the costly fumble. This was reminiscent of the Browns game last year when Conner’s fumble late in the game left the Steelers without a win. The Steelers had the ball, with the lead and under 5 minutes to play. I’m not going to say they are guaranteed to win, but they left the door wide open for the 49ers after Conner’s gaffe.
Stat Line: 1 solo tackle, 1 killer defensive holding penalty
Barron went from dynamic playmaker to just another guy pretty quick. Maybe he isn’t playing in a position where he should, but Barron is slowly being recognized more for his negative plays than positive ones. His defensive holding call on 3rd and long gave the 49ers a new set of downs and ultimately the go-ahead touchdown.
Stat Line: 79 rushing yards, 2 Sacks
There will be plenty of fans who want to see Mason Rudolph’s name among the losers, but you won’t see it here. I just can’t put a quarterback with his first start on the road against an undefeated team in the loser column, especially when the line barely gave him time to plant his back foot in the ground. Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler looked more like turnstiles than tackles, and the Steelers were never able to get anything going offensively except for a couple big plays.
Stat Line: Handcuffed game plan equated to slow start
When an offense wants to run the ball I’m not sure why the theory is to have a series which goes run, run, pass. This was the Steelers’ philosophy more times than not in Week 3, and it truly handcuffed what Rudolph does well, throw it deep. Once the Steelers started to open up the offense, it opened up everything else. Hopefully Fichtner learns from this and a more creative plan will be put in place on Monday Night Football in Week 4.
Stat Line: Another west coast loss
Tomlin tried mixing up the team’s travel arrangements this time around in hopes of having a better result on the west coast. Didn’t work. Another trip across country and another loss. Say what you want, but this 0-3 is square on the coaching staff’s shoulders, and by proxy, Mike Tomlin. Week 4 is a must-win game.