The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Denver Broncos in Week 2 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 1...
Stat Line: 7 sacks / 19 QB Hits / 13 TFL
The Broncos quarterback situation changed quickly Sunday when Drew Lock was knocked out of the game, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered as it pertains to the pass rush. The Steelers’ pass rush is absolutely lethal, and they seem hell-bent on administering pain to the opposing quarterback every week. It makes me think of the scene in Rocky III when they ask Clubber Lange to predict the outcome of the upcoming fight. His response is one word, “Pain.” That describes the Steelers’ relentless pass rush.
Stat Line: 1st career start / 2nd career game / Game Ball
I am pretty sure if someone took a script to Disney and told them the following would happen, they wouldn’t believe it. Young offensive guard playing in Louisiana doesn’t get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Gets drafted in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Suffers knee injury causing him to miss two weeks in training camp, gets his first start in his second career game. Gets the game ball. That is the story of Dotson, and it is pretty amazing.
Stat Line: Was noticeable, in a good way
When Zach Banner was lost for the season I noted how there wasn’t going to be much of a drop off with Okorafor in the lineup. And I was right. You didn’t notice Okorafor in Week 2, and that is phenomenal news for a young tackle. If there were areas he was noticeable, it was in the running game. Okorafor looked like a very solid tackle, and handled the Broncos’ pass rush with relative ease.
Stat Line: All around great day
I can’t believe I am typing this, considering I am a founding member of the Danny Smith can’t coach special teams fan club, but the Steelers’ special teams units were great Sunday. Whether it be Ray-Ray McCloud’s kick return ability, Diontae Johnson’s punt return capabilities, Chris Boswell remains solid and Dustin Colquitt is solid and a tremendous holder. Oh, and the units haven’t been highly penalized, which is also nice. Don’t look now, but the Steelers’ special teams were outstanding Sunday.
Stat Line: 4 tackles / 3 solo / 2.5 sacks / 2.5 TFL / 4 QB Hits
It may sound redundant, but T.J. Watt could be a winner almost every game, but there are games when he is extremely disruptive. Sunday was one of those games, and if it weren’t for Lock being athletic enough to keep his feet in the first quarter, Watt could have had 3.5 sacks. With Watt and Bud Dupree, offenses have to pick which player they want to stop, and the other one takes over. This week Dupree was held in check, while Watt did damage.
Stat Line: 3 rec. / 88 yards / 1 TD / 3 tackles / 1 solo tackle
What can you say about Claypool which isn’t a glowing endorsement for more playing time? So far he has been a playmaker in every sense of the word. On top of that, he seems to be a team-first player who is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. The Steelers have a lot of weapons at their disposal, but I feel the time is coming for No. 11 to get more offensive snaps.
Stat Line: 8 tackles / 8 solo / 1 sack / 2 TFL / 1 Pass Defense / 2 QB Hits
Entering the regular season, the discussion was Mike Hilton or Cam Sutton? While some can still make a case for Sutton, Hilton is making his own case on the field. Keith Butler has been blitzing Hilton early and often, and his timing has been precise. Hilton plays the line of scrimmage possibly better than any other slot cornerback in the league. He is proving his value every game day.
Stat Line: 10 penalties for 89 yards
Yes, some of the flags were bogus, but there were plenty which were justified. If you want to beat legitimate teams in the NFL you can’t beat yourself, and the Steelers almost did just that in Week 2 with those 10 penalties.
Benny Snell Jr.
Stat Line: 3 carries / 5 yards / 1 fumble
After finding his way on the winner list in Week 1, Snell is now on the other side of the docket. His lone fumble, and second of the season, came at a costly time. Right after the safety and a Diontae Johnson fumble, Snell gets the ball and gives it right back to the Broncos. Inexcusable timing, but a bad trend for the second year back is developing.
Stat Line: Surrendered 256 yards / 2 TDs to Jeff Driskel
I am not about to suggest the Steelers’ secondary success in 2019 was a flash in the pan, but for the second week in a row it looks as if there have been some cracks in the armor. Joe Haden continues to be flagged for pass interference calls on critical third down plays, and Minkah Fitzpatrick and Mike Hilton added to those penalties in Week 2. The unit isn’t in dire straits right now, but things will need to improve quickly with stiffer competition on the horizon.
Not using Derek Watt as FB
Stat Line: Watt only 6 offensive snaps
When the Steelers signed Derek Watt fans knew what to expect. A full back who doubles as a special teams ace. Watt has lived up to the billing as a special teams ace, but the team simply isn’t using him as a fullback. And it isn’t as if they aren’t seeing success when Watt is in the backfield. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter when Watt was inserted into the offense, and it was when James Conner broke off a 59 yard run. It is time to infuse Watt, who can also be more than a blocker, into the offense more than just 6 plays.