The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Monday when they played the Washington Football Team in Week 13 of the regular season. After the inter-conference game on Monday, 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 13...
Stat Line: 6 total tackles, 5 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 FF, 4 QB Hits
There will be a lot of people who will scoff at Watt being atop this list due to two miscues. I get it, his holding on 4th and goal and not falling on the forced fumble were rough, but Watt proved in this game he doesn’t need Bud Dupree to be effective. I’m sure Watt has, and will continue, to take ownership for his mistakes, but you can’t use two plays to discredit the entire body of work. Watt was his usual dominant self, and deserves a spot on the winners list, in my opinion.
Stat Line: 2 receptions, 80 yards, 40.0 average, 1 TD, 4 targets
On a day when almost every receiver had a mental lapse which resulted in a dropped pass, Washington did the most with his opportunities. His 50 yard catch and run was a huge play, and should have been enough to get a 12th straight win for the team, but the Steelers simply didn’t find any type of rhythm offensively, even with Washington seeing increased reps over Chase Claypool. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Washington might not get a ton of opportunities, but the man takes advantage of them when he gets them.
Stat Line: 6 tackles, 5 solo, 2 TFL, 1 PD
Hilton is by no means a perfect player, and he made some mistakes Monday evening at Heinz Field, but he also flashed on the screen multiple times as a dominant, and disruptive defender. What has been interesting to watch is Hilton hasn’t been used as much to blitz, like he was prior to his shoulder injury. Not sure if that is by design, or if his shoulder is hindering him from being the same style of player. Either way, Hilton had a great game and deserves some recognition.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit
Welcome back Stephon Tuitt. After missing the Week 12 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens for being on the COVID-19/Reserve List, Tuitt made his presence felt in a variety of ways. Stopping the run was priority No. 1, and Tuitt then turned his attention to getting after Alex Smith. It was good to see Tuitt back on the field, and the defense will need him to be a big time playmaker with the injuries starting to pile up.
Pass Catchers Catching Passes
Stat Line: More, and more, drops
At this point, I don’t know what to say about the pass catchers who simply can’t hold onto the football. Monday evening it was Eric Ebron with multiple drops, Diontae Johnson with a couple and even JuJu Smith-Schuster dropping a big third down conversion. These aren’t issues with a bad pass, it is simple concentration. Period.
Most dropped passes since Week 12:— PFF (@PFF) December 8, 2020
1. Steelers - 13
2. Colts - 6 pic.twitter.com/tTAqmhEOlU
Short Yardage Offense
Stat Line: Another head-scratching game
The sequence for the Steelers at the goal line, where they ran six plays, might have been the best illustration of this offense’s struggles so far this season. They tried everything. Play action. I-Formation. Spread. Trick plays. Tried it all, failed at them all. The really bad part is it is just the latest game of many where the Steelers struggle to gain just a single yard.
3rd and Long Defense
Stat Line: 3rd and 16 in 3rd quarter changed the game
If the Steelers’ short yardage offense is bad, their third and long defense has been struggling as well. In my opinion, it was the 3rd and 16 the Steelers surrendered to star the 3rd quarter which changed everything. If you recall, Washington was flagged on consecutive plays, and the Steelers had them right where they wanted them...until they didn’t. I know injuries are an issue, but you just can’t give up these type of plays and expect to win many games.
Stat Line: 14 carries, 21 yards, 1.5 yards per rush
Just when you thought the Steelers’ running game couldn’t get any worse, the Week 13 version tells us, “Hold my beer.” The Steelers averaged just 1.5 yards per rush for a whopping 21 yards. Anthony McFarland had the longest run of the game for 9 yards. Read that again...there is no easy fix for this Steelers running game, but they better figure something out or this offense is heading south in a hurry.
Stat Line: 1-for-3 on the day
The Steelers’ red-zone offense was lights out just a few weeks ago, but my what a difference a few weeks makes. It isn’t about the overall attempts, but cashing in when you get there. I already spoke about the dreadful goal line series, but failure when it matters most is just the tip of the iceburg, as it pertains to their struggles, for the offense this season.
Stat Line: J.D. McKissic 10 receptions, 70 yards, 10 targets
The Steelers’ defense was short-handed, there is no way around that, but it is worth asking whether Keith Butler’s defense couldn’t adjust due to personnel, or just chose not to. The passes to McKissic were blatantly wide open, and nothing was done to stop it. As I said, maybe they couldn’t stop it, but that opens up a whole new can of worms this defense will have to address moving forward.
Stat Line: 2 more defenders go down
The Steelers’ defense continues to get banged up, and they lost Joe Haden and Robert Spillane in this game. It thrust Justin Layne into full time duty on the outside, opposite Cam Sutton. Avery Williamson played the most snaps since joining the Steelers, filling in for Spillane. Depending on the severity of these injuries, the Steelers defense is taking blow after blow, and you have to wonder how long they can stand this rash of injuries.
Stat Line: End of the half, etc.
This officiating crew was horrendous all game. Both teams. Awful. Nothing showcased this more than the crew stopping the clock for Washington when Alex Smith ran off the field with the football and they wanted to get a ball into play. There were so many examples of ineptitude in that game for this officiating crew...I’ll just leave it at that.