The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Thursday when they played the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 of regular season action. The Steelers were losers in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good or 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: 20 carries, 94 yards, 4.7 average, 1 TD / 3 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets
There is not one ounce of quit in Najee Harris. That young man came to play, and was running his tail off when the team was trailing by 23+ points. It was fitting he got the team’s first touchdown, and he was the spark which ignited the Steelers’ turnaround. There is a lot to complain about when it comes to this Steelers team, but Harris isn’t one of them.
Stat Line: 28/40, 308 yards, 7.7 average, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 5 sacks for 39 yards, 107.1 Rating
Roethlisberger was harassed almost the entire first half, but once the offensive line settled down in the second half Roethlisberger started to do work. There are some who have questioned whether Roethlisberger can still make all the throws, and I think he answered a lot of those questions Thursday. Is his arm what is used to be? No, but he is also 39. Roethlisberger didn’t kill this team vs. Minnesota, but he did help it climb out of their hole.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 4 solo, 3 pass defense, 2 INTs
The Steelers’ secondary came out looking like absolute garbage, but Akhello Witherspoon has suddenly found himself a place in this defensive secondary. In my opinion, if/when Joe Haden returns to the lineup, the Steelers will have to figure out if they want to keep Witherspoon in the lineup opposite Haden, or move Cam Sutton back inside. Not sure how you take Witherspoon out of the lineup after a two interception performance.
Never Quit Attitude
Stat Line: Can’t say this team folded
You can say what you want about the Steelers and their ability to fall behind in games, but this team also didn’t quit in Week 14. Trailing that many points it would be easy to fold it up and say we’ll see you in Week 15. But they didn’t. Credit is due for that simple feat.
Stat Line: Surrendered 5 sacks, 7 QB Hits
Ben Roethlisberger was hit early and often on Thursday night, and the offensive line certainly didn’t do him any favors. There were a couple occasions where Roethlisberger held onto the ball too long, but there were also plenty of free rushers who were running unabated to the quarterback. Not the best outing for this young, and inexperienced offensive line.
Stat Line: Dalvin Cook: 27 carries, 205 yards, 7.6 average, 2 TDs, 30 yard long
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before...the Steelers rush defense was so bad. :::STOP::: Yes, we’ve all heard that story before, but Cook’s stat line is just so glaringly awful. Can’t remember a Steelers run defense this bad.
Stat Line: 8 receptions, 93 yards, 9 targets / Moronic and boneheaded plays
On paper, Claypool had himself a night, but on the field he had himself another type of night. His personal foul penalty was just idiotic, whiffing on a block was bad, but like an infomercial...wait, there’s more! Claypool pointing first down instead of getting the ball back to the ref in the waning minutes of the game seals the deal. It’s a shame, because Claypool actually played a decent game in Minneapolis.
Stat Line: INT celebration down 29 points
Witherspoon’s first interception was nice, but going and celebrating in the end-zone when you trail by 20+ points just looks awful.
Anyone guarding Justin Jefferson
Stat Line: Jefferson: 7 catches for 79 yards, 1 TD
Jefferson was pretty quiet in the second half of this game, but in the first half he was almost untouched. Wherever Jefferson went, the Steelers almost forgot to cover him. At one point it seemed as if he was wearing a billboard which said, “I’m open.” and no one on the Steelers’ defense noticed.
Stat Line: Everyone deserves blame
People want to blame someone, and rightfully so, and the head coach is one of those people who deserves blame. When you become a head coach you absorb that responsibility and know you will be heavily criticized if your team doesn’t play up to par. The Steelers aren’t, and Tomlin shouldn’t be immune to the criticism going around.
Pressley Harvin III
Stat Line: 6 punts, 43 yard average, 1 inside 20
I am a Big Press fan, but I think it’s time we retire that name, at least for now. Pressley is as inconsistent as Jordan Berry and Dustin Colquitt before him. The Steelers just signed a punter to the practice squad, and Harvin III might want to start worrying about his staying power with the team who drafted him in the 7th round.
Entire Coaching Staff
Stat Line: Just not good enough
The coaching issues go well beyond Mike Tomlin. Matt Canada, Keith Butler and on down to the assistants. It just isn’t good enough, and hasn’t been for some time. When you see other teams taking backups and winning games, it makes you realize where the deficiencies might lie within the Steelers organization.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 4-for-13
Another game the Steelers’ offense fails to be over .500 on third downs offensively. Their third down conversion rate is just awful.
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!