The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11 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 10...
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 2 solo, 2 pass defenses, 2 INTs
I’ll put this as simply as I can. Terrell Edmunds hasn’t found himself in my Winners column very often during his young career. In fact, I am pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times Edmunds has been a Winner in my opinion after a game. This isn’t to say he is constantly a Loser, but Edmunds stepped up in a big way for the defense in Week 11, and you got a glimpse of what this defense could look like if Edmunds turns into more of a playmaker. This was a huge step in the right direction for the former Virginia Tech safety, let’s see if he can build on this performance.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 2 pass defenses, 2 INTs
Don’t look now, but 2019 Minkah Fitzpatrick has entered the chat. Fitzpatrick is a tremendous player, and he has the ability to always be in the right place at the right time. We saw this in 2019, and while it took some time to get started in 2020, Fitzpatrick has the same look he did last season when the Steelers sent a first round pick to the Dolphins to acquire the safety. Fitzpatrick and Edmunds together were as dynamic as they come Sunday.
Stat Line: 32/46, 267 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 89.7 Rating
The interception to end the half was bad, but any time the Steelers can give Roethlisberger a rest in the fourth quarter is a good day. Roethlisberger, and the offense, had their struggles at times, but the distribution to his weapons was impressive. Five receivers had 4 receptions or more on the day, and he seems to have found a new favorite target...
Stat Line: 12 receptions, 111 yards, 9.3 average, 16 targets
Maybe it is Diontae Johnson’s route running which creates space, or his big play ability after the catch. Whatever the reason, Johnson has become Roethlisberger’s new favorite target as he racked up 100+ yards for the second game in a row. What has surprised me the most on this recent tear is Johnson is not just an underneath route runner. He has had explosive plays in back to back games down the left sideline, and this adds yet another wrinkle in the Steelers’ dynamic passing attack.
Stat Line: 13 carries, 89 yards, 6.8 average
Conner has long been the fan base’s whipping boy when the offense fails to run the ball effectively, but that wasn’t the case Sunday. I have long said the issues in the Steelers’ running game aren’t solely on Conner. Play calling, scheme and blocking play a huge part, if not more of a factor than just Conner alone, but Conner’s 6.8 average will certainly get the job done for the Steelers’ struggling ground game.
Stat Line: 4 receptions, 59 yards, 14.8 average, 1 TD
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I never saw this coming. I thought Claypool would come into the league and be a very nice niche player for the Steelers. Think red-zone threat, deep threat and eventually developing into a steady player by the second half of the season. In other words, I expected Martavis Bryant 2.0. What fans have seen is a receiver who is a more polished route runner than most expected, has impacted the offense as a runner and pass catcher and his ability for the big play has been huge. Claypool makes an impact every game. It might not show up on the stat sheet, like when he draws pass interference penalties, but absolutely has been a pleasant surprise.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 pass defense, 1 QB Hit
The Jaguars weren’t about to let T.J. Watt kill them in this game. When this happens, and they shift almost all of their protections to his side, it is Dupree’s job to win. And that he did. Dupree was dynamic and flashed on more than one occasion. Sacks were hard to come by with Jake Luton getting rid of the ball quickly, but Dupree was living in the backfield all game. A great performance for the former Kentucky product.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 7-for-17 on 3rd downs
Anyone who watched the game knows the 27-3 score was slightly deceiving. While the Steelers dominated on defense, it was far from dominating on offense. Jordan Berry was called on to punt too many times, and that was largely due to the team’s failures on third downs. For the Steelers to be a complete team, they have to avoid those lulls on the offensive side of the ball which result in short possessions.
Running Back By Committee (RBBC)
Stat Line: It isn’t working
For about the third game in a row, the Steelers’ offensive game plan seems to be focused on throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall just to see what will stick. That would include their decisions at running back. James Conner got the start, as he always does, then Benny Snell Jr. got a series and then Anthony McFarland. I am all for spelling Conner when he needs a break, but at what point does the coaching staff realize this philosophy, and practice, just isn’t working. Conner is the cow bell, and the team needs to ride him out. If the are fearing him getting injured, then they might want to re-think how they go about getting him some rest.