The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Tennessee Titans in Week 7 of the regular season. After the AFC game on Sunday, 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 7...
Stat Line: 9 receptions, 80 yards, 8.9 average, 2 TDs, 14 long, 15 targets
It was great to see Johnson back, and healthy, in the lineup. When he is playing, the offense has a different dynamic to it. This isn’t a cut on James Washington, but Johnson is a threat every time he touches the football. He can do things no other wide receiver can do on the Steelers’ roster. If he can stay healthy, and that might be a big if, this offense gets even more dynamic.
Stat Line: 9 receptions, 85 yards, 9.4 average, 0 TD, 28 long, 14 targets
I feel like JuJu Smith-Schuster is starting to become a difference maker for the Steelers’ offense. His role in the offense has changed drastically in the past three seasons. Smith-Schuster has gone from WR2 next to Antonio Brown, feasting on mismatches, to a WR1 and injury riddled season in 2019 and now finding his spot in a dynamic, and deep, wide receiver room in 2020. The job might look different, but it seems the Steelers and Smith-Schuster are starting to figure things out, and that is a great thing.
Stat Line: 3 punt returns, 83 yards, 27.7 average, 57 long
This kid is going to break a return for a touchdown soon, you just know it. In the meantime, it went rather unnoticed how McCloud supplanted Johnson as the primary punt returner. As he should. McCloud is equally as dynamic in the punt return game, and the risk of injury to Johnson isn’t worth it. What a find McCloud has been for the Steelers.
Stat Line: 20 carries, 82 yards, 4.1 average, 0 TD, 24 long
The past two weeks has been the best Conner has run the football since the 2018 season. He has been decisive with his cuts, followed his blockers and been more patient as a runner. Sure, Conner put the ball on the turf and had a dropped touchdown pass, but the Steelers have to be confident in the production they are getting from him in the ground game. Anytime a back is averaging over 4 yards a carry when you have 20 carries is a good day, in my opinion.
Stat Line: 10 total tackles, 9 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QB hit
This game felt personal to Williams, as big matchups usually do. The Derrick Henry vs. Vince Williams matchup was one I was looking forward to seeing, and Williams didn’t disappoint. He was all over the field and put together a tremendous performance. Don’t forget Williams’ huge, and legal, hit on Ryan Tannehill when he left the pocket and tried to elude a Steelers defender. Williams played above the line in Week 7.
State Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 legendary play
Spillane’s stat line isn’t overly impressive, but the hit he made on Henry in the hole certainly was. Spillane’s NFL career could end tomorrow, it isn’t, and he will always have this hit. He will always be able to hang his hat on this play. The man they call “Spilly” delivered, and kudos to him for this tremendous play.
Mr. Spillane,— Will Blackmon (@WillBlackmon) October 25, 2020
I know you got injured on this play
But I salute you for this type of collision against this running back.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 2 pass defenses
Edmunds has long been the whipping boy of the Steelers fan base, but in 2020 I have noticed Edmunds for doing positive things, compared to the alternative. He was great in run defense in Week 7, and had two key pass defenses as well. Does he still need to get around the football more? In an ideal world, yes, but in the meantime Edmunds is turning into a very reliable, and dependable, safety.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defense
Watt was a demon on the field vs. the Titans, and he lived in the Tennessee backfield. Henry will remember the day they played the Steelers and Watt, and his solid tackling and play making was on full display. To be honest, I didn’t think Watt had the game he had until I looked at the box score post-game. What a day for Watt, and he proved he is the difference maker for this elite defense.
Stat Line: 32/49, 268, 5.5 average, 2 TD, 3 INT, 67.4 Rating
Putting Roethlisberger in the losers list might be harsh, but in all reality the three interceptions were costly. Not all were his fault, but in a game where the plan was clearly to win throwing the ball, turning it over can’t happen. Roethlisberger’s first half ended in a bad, and strange, interception, and his “go for the jugular” throw to Smith-Schuster was a gamble, and he got burned. I would expect a more efficient Roethlisberger in Week 7, but don’t think he will stop taking chances. The fact is, if Roethlisberger only turns it over twice, this game isn’t as close as it was.
End of the 1st half
Stat Line: Roethlisberger’s first INT of the game
Think back to the sequence. The Titans’ punter muffs the snap and the Steelers have new life. On 1st and 10, with 14 seconds remaining, Eric Ebron jumps offsides. I feel this play threw everything off. The plan to settle for a field goal turned into trying to throw the ball into the end zone. Regardless, the Roethlisberger interception at the end of the half gave the Titans confidence. They turned the Steelers away with no points, and that momentum carried into the second half. Was it just one sequence? Yes, but it turned out to be so much more.
2nd half adjustments
Stat Line: Only 3 points scored in second half, 17 points surrendered
The Steelers made second half adjustments, but they certainly weren’t that effective. The NFL is a game of adjusting on the fly, and Pittsburgh didn’t do this well in Week 7. Whether you are talking about the offense or defense, the second half just wasn’t up to snuff. They are fortunate to escape with the win, but the coaching staff will have plenty to chew on preparing for Week 8.
Stat Line: Bad Bounces
Talk about a game of bounces, and it seemed like almost all of those bounces went the Titans’ way. The deflected pass equating to an interception at the line of scrimmage, the tipped pass intercepted in the end zone and even the tipped pass which looked like it might be a Steelers’ interception that ended up in the hands of a Tennessee receiver. This isn’t to think the Steelers didn’t get any breaks, but it sure was a game where the ball didn’t bounce their way. If you can have the bounces go against you, turn it over three times, not have any takeaways and find a way to win on the road...that is a special victory.