The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 of regular season action. The Steelers were winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a bad performance.
Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘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 the first game of the preseason...
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 6 solo, 2 sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 3 TFL, 3 Pass Defense, 2 QB Hits
Look at that stat line! Almost goes to its own page! That is the night Watt had, but when you think about it, it was in the critical moments when Watt stood the tallest. And that is exactly what you pay your top players for, to deliver when it matters the most. Watt earned his money Sunday night, and as Mike Tomlin said in his post-game press conference, they expect Watt to perform that way he did.
Stat Line: 24 carries, 81 yards, 3.4 average / 6 receptions, 46 yards, 1 TD, 7 targets
I am so happy to see Matt Canada starting to utilize Harris as an actual receiving weapon, and not just a decoy. Early in the season Harris would barely run routes, just taking his defender away from the play. Now, the Steelers have started to utilize Harris as a pass catcher, and it is paying huge dividends. Harris’ 46 yards receiving, and touchdown, were vintage Steelers football. When you have a playmaker like Harris, you feed him as early and as often as possible. Throw in Harris’ pass catching with his solid running, and the Steelers continue to prove they picked a great one in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 3 solo, 1 TFL, 1 Pass Defense
If it was a critical third down play, there was a good chance the Steelers’ stop was made by Norwood. When you watch him play, he doesn’t look like a 7th round draft pick. Instead, he looks like a seasoned veteran who knows his assignment like the back of his hand. This isn’t to suggest the rookie is perfect, he isn’t, but it also means the Steelers have found a very versatile tool who is making an impact in Year 1. Just wait to see what he can do when he actually has a full season under his belt. Norwood is making the Steelers look like geniuses.
Stat Line: 7 total tackles, 2 solo, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QB Hits
Finally! We all have been waiting to see Highsmith break out and have a tremendous game, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Highsmith was living in the backfield, but throughout his struggles as a pass rusher continues to be stout against the run. Highsmith registered not just his first sack of the season, but also his first QB Hit too. Let’s hope this is the start of something special for the second year pass rusher.
Stat Line: 9 tackles, 6 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QB Hit
Without Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt, the pressure is on Heyward to perform. He is being double teamed regularly, and continues to deliver. Heyward was the emotional leader of the defense on Sunday, and a large reason why the group, despite their shortcomings, never gave up. Heyward’s mentality, along with his play, is the reason he is the team’s defensive captain for 2021.
Stat Line: 5 sacks, 8 QB Hits
The Steelers didn’t get to rush the passer much, considering the Seahawks’ offense was able to run the ball, but when Geno Smith had to throw he was being harassed early and often. Watt and Highsmith had tremendous games, and Cam Heyward was a wrecking ball once again. A great bounce back game for the team’s pass rush.
Stat Line: 3/3 FGs, Long: 52, 2/2 XP, Game-Winning FG
While some NFL kickers get kicked to the curb after one bad game, the Steelers keeping Boswell after 2018 seems like one of the smartest decisions in recent years. Boswell has been money in the bank, and it couldn’t have come at a better time on Sunday night.
Stat Line: 7 catches, 58 yards, 7 targets
Don’t look now, but Pat Freiermuth is starting to heat up. The rookie has continued to be more and more involved in the offense, and that means good things for the Steelers. The more Friermuth gets involved, the more it means the Steelers are really starting to open up the offense. 7-for-7 for the rookie tight end, this kid doesn’t drop much which is in his catching radius.
Stat Line: SOOO many missed tackles
I honestly can’t remember a game where the tackling was this atrocious. Whether it was Terrell Edmunds’ front row seat of Alex Collins’ touchdown, Joe Haden’s many swings and misses or the numerous bad angles taken, the Steelers’ tackling was awful.
2nd Half Defense
Stat Line: 20 second half points surrendered
What can I say? The Steelers’ defense forgot to return to the field in the second half. Everything that was going good in the first half, a stifling rush defense, pressure on the quarterback and tight coverage, completely flipped in the second half. Maybe the Steelers were thinking they will cruise to a win, but Seattle made them earn it...and the second half defense didn’t help much at all.
Stat Line: 2 catches, 17 yards, 7 targets
Maybe my expectations for Claypool are too lofty, but I expect more from the second year wide receiver. Not only was Claypool not on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger on occasion Sunday night, but he also had some bone-headed penalties too. Not a good day for Claypool, but hopefully one he can learn from.
Stat Line: Surrendered 144 yards
When the Steelers took the field in the second half, they must have forgotten their rush defense in the locker room. Alex Collins and company completed gutted the Steelers’ rush defense. It didn’t matter who was running the football, they were breaking off runs at a ridiculous clip. At the end of the game, the Seahawks were averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Why Pete Carroll every dialed up a Geno Smith pass unless absolutely necessary, I have no idea.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 5-for-14
Last week the Steelers’ 3rd down offense was on the winners side of the ledger, but this week they fall back to the losers side. The offense was putrid on third downs for the majority of the game, and plenty of blame can be circulated for these issues.
Officiating at end of the game
Stat Line: What the heck was that?!
Mike Tomlin called it “embarrassing”, and I’d agree with the Steelers head coach. He went on to say he “hated it” from a coach’s perspective, and Tomlin has every right to be upset about how the game ended at Heinz Field. Luckily the Steelers won the game, but could you imagine if the Seahawks went on to win, and the chaotic scene at the end of regulation gave them the breathe of life they needed?! Let’s not think about that...
Steelers Defense on the final drive of regulation
Stat Line: Needed a stop, didn’t get it
Don’t let the officiating fiasco change your opinion on what happened at the end of the game. The Steelers’ defense could have put an end to the game well before the officials took over in botching the final 20 seconds of the game. They could have silenced some of the critics with a stop, and they didn’t get it. They allowed the game to go to overtime, and that was disheartening.
If you want a more detailed look at the above list, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast where I outline each Winner and Loser, and MORE!