The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Green Bay Packers in Week 4 of regular season action. The Steelers were losers 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: 9 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD, 13 targets
There are some frustrating facets of Diontae Johnson’s game, but he is the most consistent playmaker the Steelers have at wide receiver right now. On top of that, he is Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target. Johnson, who missed Week 3 due to injury, looked back and better than ever for the Steelers. The touchdown to Johnson was a thing of beauty, and Johnson proved, again, how dynamic he is for the Steelers’ offense.
Najee Harris/Run Game
Stat Line: 15 carries, 62 yards, 4.1 average / 6 receptions, 7 targets, 29 yards
The overall numbers aren’t great, but I felt the run game took a big step forward Sunday. It has been a long time since the Steelers had a running back average over 4.0 yards per carry. Harris did that, albeit on just 15 carries, but also combined for 91 yards. There haven’t been many bright spots on offense, but Harris has been just that.
Stat Line: 26/40, 232 yards, 5.8 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks for 12 yards, 78.3 Rating
It is time we start to look at the Steelers offense with a clear lens. Not a black and gold one. The offensive line is still a struggle, but Roethlisberger saw more clean pockets on Sunday than he has in several weeks. On top of that, before they abandoned the run the team was able to gain some traction on the ground. So, what’s holding this offense back? It seems to be Roethlisberger at this juncture. The missed throws, mainly to JuJu Smith-Schuster, were as bad as we’ve seen in many years.
4th Down Offense
Stat Line: 0-for-2 with more behind the line of gain passes
Another week, another 4th down play, another play off a timeout and another swing pass to Najee Harris. At this point, who is to blame? Roethlisberger? Matt Canada? Someone else? Whatever the reason, this offense comes up short, in a big way, when the situation matters the most.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 4-for-11
All I want to see from the Steelers’ 3rd down offense is .500 or better. Another week, now four in a row, where the offense hasn’t hit that mark. The 3rd down offense continues to be an issue for this Steelers offense, and until it proves it can sustain drives, expect a gassed defense by the second half.
Stat Line: 131 yards surrendered
Speaking of the defense, I know fatigue set it, but if you have any prayer of slowing down Aaron Rodgers, you have to make the Packers one-dimensional. It is tough enough stopping Rodgers in general, but when they are rattling off runs at 4.0 yards a clip 33 times a game, the task is almost impossible. This isn’t the first game the Steelers’ rush defense has been an issue, and likely will continue to the point if/when Stephon Tuitt returns. Tyson Alualu has been, and will be, missed in a big way.
Stat Line: 40 passes to 15 runs
You could go back 5 years and listen to my podcasts, and all I ever say is how I want the Steelers offense to be balanced. 50-50 isn’t a reasonable goal in today’s NFL, but a 65-35 split is certainly something the team could shoot for on a weekly basis. 40 passes to 15 runs just isn’t going to cut it, not when your quarterback is a giant question mark.
Time of Possession/Overall Plays
Stat Line: GB 9+ min of possession, 14 more plays PIT
How in the world did the Steelers’ defense get so tired, you ask? How about trying to defend Aaron Rodgers and company for over 9 minutes longer than what your offense had the ball. In fact, Green Bay ran 14 more plays than Pittsburgh on Sunday, and that would be a large reason why the defense seemed out of gas at the end of the game.
Whoever is responsible for Randall Cobb
Stat Line: 5 receptions, 69 yards, 2 TDs
Every NFL team has a big-time offensive player to prepare for. In Week 1 it was Stefon Diggs, Week 2 Darren Waller, Week 3 Tyler Boyd and in Week 4 it was Davante Adams. The teams who do damage are the ones who have secondary weapons who win their one-on-one matchups. Henry Ruggs did it in Week 2, Ja’Marr Chase did it in Week 3 and Randall Cobb did it in Week 4. The Steelers had no answer for Cobbs, and it showed.
Stat Line: Game-changing play turned into a 10-point swing
This was such a critical moment of the game. The Steelers could have been heading into halftime with a huge swing of momentum, and instead they were faced with a deflating penalty. There are a million things you can say about this call, but when Gene Steratore says the official missed the call, I’ll go with what he said. Check out the article about Steratore’s comments below:
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!