The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11 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: 28/44, 273 yards, 6.1 yard average, 3 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, 103.7 Rating
Ben Roethlisberger, all things considered, had a tremendous game for the Steelers after not practicing all week due to being in the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. It wasn’t enough to get the win, but Roethlisberger was not the reason the Steelers lost this football game. Outside of the underthrown pass to Chase Claypool, I thought Roethlisberger played one of his best games of the season.
Stat Line: 7 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD, 14.4 average, 32 yard long, 13 targets
13 targets might be a bit much for my liking, but Diontae Johnson did a tremendous job in Los Angeles. Johnson’s back shoulder catch, while being interfered with, was a thing of beauty. The only thing which might have topped it was his touchdown reception. Johnson and Roethlisberger already have a connection, but it is getting into that scary good range at this point.
Stat Line: 3-for-3 for FG, 45-yard long, 4-for-4 extra points
Another week of Boswell perfection. He deserves praise for bring so steady.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 1 pass defense
Heyward was bottled up for most of the game, but when a play needed to be made, it was Heyward who delivered. His batted pass led to a Cam Sutton interception, and it turned the tide in the game. Heyward was the long All-Pro/Pro Bowler on the Steelers’ defense, and he continued to find ways to help contribute.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 8-for-17
No, it isn’t the .500 I desire, but the Steelers’ third down offense was much improved on the road in Week 11. If they can continue on this upward trajectory, and continue those time-consuming drives, they will be a tough team to beat. Pressley Harvin III only punted the ball one time. That shows how stellar the 3rd down offense was on Sunday night.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 4 solo
I’m not even sure what to pinpoint in Bush’s play which has him land on the loser list, but he looks like a shell of his former self. Maybe he doesn’t trust the knee as he should. Maybe his groin injury still plagues him. Whatever the reason, if he continues to play like he has, the Steelers should consider giving more of his reps to Robert Spillane.
Stat Line: 2 sacks, 5 QB Hits
Only getting home to Justin Herbert twice, and only five quarterback hits allowed Justin Herbert to feel right at home in the pocket. When things broke down, Herbert took to the ground and was able to do plenty of damage with his legs. The Steelers’ pass rush was awful without T.J. Watt, and we all should have expected this to happen.
Stat Line: 159 yards surrendered, 6.1 yards per carry average
Another day where the Steelers are unable to corral the opponent’s running attack. Some will say, “But if you take away Herbert’s 90 yards...” But you can’t. They happened, and the Steelers rush defense continues to be an eye sore for the once proud group.
Anyone Defending Justin Herbert
Stat Line: Herbert: 30/41, 382 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT / 9 rushes for 90 yards
Speaking of Herbert, just look at that stat line. The kid is good, and I mean really good, but the Steelers didn’t do much in form of a resistance. Herbert was able to pick apart the Steelers’ back up defense, and put himself on display in prime time for the nation to see. Good for him, bad for the Steelers.
Steelers Running Game
Stat Line: 18 carries, 55 yards, 3.1 yard average, 1 TD
55 yards going against the 32nd ranked rush defense. I know the Steelers were playing catch up in the second half, but they couldn’t establish the run well in the first half. This might have been one of the more disappointing stat lines after the game.
Overall Defensive Effort
Stat Line: 41 points surrendered, 533 total yards, 33 first downs
The “next man up” or “standard is the standard” slogans/mottos should be taken out and burned Monday. The Steelers’ defense was decimated by the vast majority of their talent, but the backups certainly didn’t step up, or uphold any standard. The Steelers better pray for good news this week for Watt/Haden/Fitzpatrick, or it could be lights out in Cincinnati.
Poorly Timed Pass Protection
Stat Line: 2 of 3 sacks surrendered on the final drive
A quick glance at the box score and you might think the Steelers’ offensive line did a good job protecting Ben Roethlisberger; however, it was about when they gave up the sacks as much as the quantity. Two of the three sacks came at the absolute worst possible time...the final drive. So, good job only giving up three, but when two of those three came at a critical juncture of the game, it is a bad look.
3rd Down Defense
Stat Line: 7-for-12 for LAC
The Chargers punted the ball twice, the second was blocked by Miles Killebrew, but it felt like every third down was going to be converted with ease. And that’s a sinking feeling. Somewhere there is someone who just keeps saying it’s because the Steelers’ had their backups playing. That’s nice and all, but the hope is the backups can still get the job done. In Week 11, they didn’t...especially on third down.
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!