The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Detroit Lions in Week 10 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: 3/3 on FGs, including a 51-yarder
Another week, another 50+ yard field goal for Chris Boswell. Boswell is money in the bank, and he is in a serious groove right now. The sad part of this game was how you knew if Boswell had a shot to win it, he would have nailed it. We’ll never know how that would play out, but Boswell is one of the few certainties on this 2021 Steelers team. Definitely a winner.
Stat Line: 26 carries, 105 yards, 4.0 average, 12 yard long / 4 receptions, 28 yards, 4 targets
I have long said there are players who could be on this list every week. I never thought the rookie running back would fall into this category just 10 games into his first professional season. But here we are. Harris has been as advertised and then some since he was the team’s 24th overall draft pick. I challenge anyone who has watched every snap of Harris’ brief professional career to tell me he wasn’t worth the first round pick. I’m sure there will be some, but I think the Steelers hit the pick out of the ballpark, and Harris continues to prove the organization right every week.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QB Hits
In a game where T.J. Watt was lost to injury, someone had to step up. It is no surprise it was Heyward. Heyward was the one who seemed to take the Lions running all over the Steelers personally, and at times he was the only defender who was making a play. Let’s also not forget Heyward was playing a bit banged up in this game too, missing some practice time due to an ankle injury. Heyward, a perennial winner.
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 5 solo, and a bunch of missed tackles
I honestly don’t know what to say about Bush anymore. Sure, he is coming off a serious knee injury, but at what point do the Steelers have to take a hard look at the player he is right now. That doesn’t mean he won’t be better in 2022, but right now his play is certainly below the line. Bush’s missed tackles, and overall timid play, are one of the main issues plaguing this Steelers’ defense currently.
Stat Line: Several high snaps
I thought Green played a good game overall, but when your job is to deliver quality snaps to the quarterback, sending three high ones, and one over Mason Rudolph’s head, lands you on the loser list. Green is still gaining experience, and maybe the elements had something to do with it, but in the NFL you need results...not excuses.
Stat Line: 50 passes to 31 runs in those conditions
On a day when the team was without their future Hall of Fame quarterback, down one of their top wide receivers, missing two starting offensive lineman and in horrible weather, the team decided it would be a great idea to chuck the ball 50 times. It still boggles my mind this was the approach, and it wasn’t as if the team was playing from behind and throwing the ball to win was a necessity. Instead, it almost seemed as if this was the design. Ray-Ray McCloud was the team’s top pass catcher with nine receptions. Someone tell me what planet I’m living on...because I want to go back.
Stat Line: 39 carries, 229 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 2 TDs
Where to start with the Steelers’ horrible rush defense. In the second and third quarters the Steelers surrendered over 90 yards on the ground a piece. Remember the first quarter when the Lions didn’t even gain a first down throughout 15 minutes of play? Yeah, those were the days. If the Steelers don’t fix their run defense, the remaining schedule will be brutal.
Stat Line: Too many to count
One of the main culprits for the Steelers rush defense being so bad has been the horrid tackling fans have seen this season. Whether it’s Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Minkah Fitzpatrick or a myriad of other players. There are too many who are guilty to list them all here, but if the tackling has to improve soon if this team has playoff aspirations.
Stat Line: -3 in turnover differential
When you turn the ball over three times in a game, and don’t take it away even once, you aren’t going to win many games. The biggest turnovers came in overtime when Diontae Johnson fumbled away a great opportunity to get into field goal range, and then Pat Freiermuth had to match Johnson’s fumble with on of his own on what could have been the final chance to avoid a tie. The Steelers can’t keep coughing the ball up, especially with the defensive takeaway well dry for the majority of the season.
Stat Line: 1st-and-goal from the 5 typified the idiocy
I haven’t been critical of Matt Canada’s play calling this season because I haven’t been upset with his play calling. However, it wasn’t just the run-pass ratio which had me scratching my head. There were a lot of situations which were odd, from a play calling standpoint, but none worse than the 1st-and-goal from the 5 yard line when the Steelers threw the ball three straight times before settling for a Chris Boswell field goal. I don’t want to hear about run-pass options, I want the ball in your best offensive player’s hands...and that’s the running back.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 7-for-17
Another week, another week the offense fell below the .500 Mendoza line for 3rd downs.
Stat Line: Flags nullified game-changing moments
Just look at some of these plays which nullified big plays
Defensive holding on Devin Bush which nullified Minkah Fitzpatrick’s INT
Running into the Punter
Tre Norwood roughing the passer
Holding on Moore Jr. on the Najee Harris TD run
There were more, and I’m not crying over spilled milk. I want more consistency. Every week you find yourself seeing a big play, like a sack, and waiting for the flags to fly. The league should be concerned, but I don’t think they really care.
Stat Line: Huge injuries to key positions/players
T.J. Watt: Hip and Knee
Joe Haden: Midfoot Sprain
Trai Turner: Ankle
Kevin Dotson: Ankle
Chase Claypool: Toe
Ben Roethlisberger: COVID
The list is growing, and the names get bigger. Hopefully the Steelers get some good news on the injury front, but otherwise this bad performance could get worse if they are without all of these players in Week 11.
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!