The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 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 14...
Stat Line: 3 catches, 29 yards, 9.7 average, 1 TD
Washington doesn’t get the targets of a JuJu Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson, and I’ve said this before, he makes the most of his opportunities. It was good to see Washington get more reps when Johnson was benched in the first half, but you have to wonder what the coaching staff is seeing the fans aren’t. Why? Because Washington deserves more playing time.
Stat Line: 70 games with a sack
The Steelers’ sack streak continues. They got to Josh Allen once in the Week 14 game, but this streak is extremely impressive. 70 regular season games with a sack might seem like a niche record, but you can’t ignore the Steelers’ ability to get after the quarterback.
Stat Line: 6 catches, 55 yards, 9.2 average, 1 TD
Smith-Schuster’s stats aren’t impressive. They aren’t mind-blowing, but I would say Smith-Schuster is having one of his best seasons to date. In a contract year, Smith-Schuster is showing he is capable of making the tough plays over the middle of the field and on third down which will make him a lot of money for someone in 2021. Whether Smith-Schuster stays in Pittsburgh next season has yet to be determined, but he is turning into the heart and soul of this Steelers offense.
Stat Line: 4 catches, 40 yards, 10.0, average, 7 targets, 2 drops
Diontae Johnson is a roller coaster ride, and there is no arguing this fact. Johnson will make a huge play, mainly a catch and run for a big first down, and the next series he will drop an easy reception putting the Steelers in a bad spot. The hope is the young receiver starts to provide more consistency, because if he doesn’t I’m not sure if he will stay in Pittsburgh long after his rookie contract.
Stat Line: 21/37, 187 yards, 5.1 average, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 sack, 65.9 rating
Roethlisberger hasn’t found his way on the losers list much this season, but his performance on Sunday night moves him onto the wrong side of the ledger. The pick-six at the end of the first half was an absolute back breaker, and one which just cannot happen. When you think about the Steelers defense, who had dominated the first half, going into the locker room trailing, and no fault of their own, it had to be absolutely demoralizing. When the Steelers put all of their eggs in Roethlisberger’s basket, it required him to play almost perfect football every game. That’s a lot of pressure, and Roethlisberger will have to step up to the plate down the stretch and play mistake-free football.
Stat Line: It falls on the coach
I am not suggesting the Steelers move on from Mike Tomlin, or that they should consider him being on the “hot seat”. No, but when a team is struggling the coaching staff deserves blame too. This isn’t just Tomlin, but his staff, and it starts at the top. The inability to adjust and put together a game plan has been a glaring issue. If the Steelers are going to be anything other than one-and-done in the playoffs, they will need a better performance from their coaching staff. It starts with Tomlin.
Stat Line: Head-scratching moments
The game got off to a horrible start, and it all started with McCloud. McCloud took the opening kickoff about 3 yards deep in his own end zone and decided to bring the kick return out of the end zone. The result was being tackled around the 10 yard line. It started the drive deep in their own territory, and they never recovered. On top of this one decision, McCloud hasn’t been the same dynamic returner fans saw earlier this season. It almost seems as if the muffed punt two weeks ago has haunted McCloud, but the Steelers need a confident return man who is capable of setting the team up with good field position.
Stat Line: 17 carries, 47 yards, 2.8 average
I don’t know what else to say about the Steelers’ running game. The only time they looked as if they knew what they were doing was when Kevin Dotson replaced Matt Feiler, and then Dotson left the game with injury. Any positives the Steelers have in the running game is purely improvisation, never by design. I can’t remember a running game this bad, and I remember when Chris Rainey and Jonathan Dwyer were carrying the ball for the Steelers.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 1-for-10
I honestly didn’t think it was this bad until looking at the box score, but the 1-for-10 on third downs is an atrocious stat line. This isn’t a new trend either, and the Steelers’ offensive struggles can be typified by this one area. When the Steelers offense is clicking, they are converting on third downs, but when they struggle they are unable to put together drives and end up using Jordan Berry more than anyone with a pulse would like to see.