The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 of the regular season. After the AFC North game on Wednesday, 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 12...
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 4 solo, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 3 QB Hits
In a game where the Steelers lost Bud Dupree for the season with an ACL injury, it was Watt who stepped up his game in a big way. Watt was his usual disruptive self throughout the game, and made big plays when it mattered the most. I’ve said it a million times before, and I’ll say it again, Watt could be on this list every week. Why? Because he is that good.
Stat Line: 2 receptions, 19 yards, 3 targets
Sometimes a single play transcends a stat line. That was James Washington’s 3rd down reception in the fourth quarter which helped seal the win for the Steelers. Washington doesn’t get a ton of opportunities anymore, but when he does he needs to cash in on them. This was a huge catch for Washington on multiple levels. For Ben Roethlisberger to trust him in such a critical situation speaks volumes.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD
I remember when there were fans who didn’t like the Joe Haden signing. Most who criticized the move called him washed up, or too expensive. Haden has proven he is not washed up, and is worth every penny he has earned. His play has been superb this season, and his pick-six, his second interception of the season, was a game changer.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 3 solo, 2 pass defenses
Like Washington, Fitzpatrick didn’t have the big play which will make many highlight reels, but his pass break up on Luke Wilson at the end of the first half preserved a 12-7 Steelers lead heading into halftime. Without that play the Steelers would have trailed 14-12 heading into the break, and the outlook on the game would have changed dramatically. A huge play by a big time player at a critical time.
3rd Down Defense
Stat Line: Ravens went 3-for-13 on 3rd down
If it weren’t for a couple runs, the Steelers almost skunked the Ravens’ offense on third downs. Holding an NFL offense, even one led by Robert Griffin III, to just 3 for 13 attempts on third down is a tremendous feat. If 3rd down defense was a glaring weakness in the Steelers’ defense, it certainly isn’t as glaring as it once was. They have been solid the past few games in this critical area.
Stat Line: 5-7 drops in the game
There were a lot of aspects of this game were infuriating, but none were more infuriating than the dropped passes by receivers. According to our own Geoffrey Benedict, the Steelers had 5 passes which were deemed almost perfect that were dropped, and another 5 which would have been tough catches, but were catchable passes. If the Steelers are going to be a passing team, which seems to be the way they are trending, they cannot have a repeat of this game if they want to win a Super Bowl.
Stat Line: Steelers went 1-for-4 in the red area
The Steelers’ red-zone offense had been top notch heading into Week 12. However, after going 1-4 in the red area on Wednesday they numbers took a hit. The Steelers now carry 65% red-zone conversion rate in 2020, but what is more head-scratching is they are now 58% in red-zone conversion rate at Heinz Field this season. If you look back at history, at least in the Ben Roethlisberger era, the Steelers have always been the best when they continue to run the ball in the red-zone. They have gotten away from that, even in goal line situations. It’s back to the drawing board for the Steelers’ red-zone offense.
Special Teams Gaffes
Stat Line: McCloud fumble/Boswell missed PAT
Ray-Ray McCloud’s fumble and Chris Boswell’s 4th missed point after were the cherry on top of the special teams gaffe sundae. Boswell’s miss had the Steelers chasing points for the rest of the evening, and McCloud’s fumble gave the Ravens life when the Steelers looked to be running away with the contest, even early. Going into the game everyone knew the only way the Ravens could win was by not turning the ball over. They did so twice, and McCloud’s fumble was as bad as they come.
3rd down Offense
Stat Line: Steelers went 6-for-14 on 3rd down
For as great as the Steelers’ 3rd down defense has been, the 3rd down offense has been equally as bad. Before I go any further, it should be noted the Steelers’ pass catchers didn’t help. There were at least three passes which were dropped on third downs which would have improved these numbers, but it all boils down to the Steelers needing to do better on those key downs which can determine the outcome of the game. The good news? For as bad as the Steelers were in so many areas, they were still able to win the game.