The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 of regular season action. The Steelers were winners 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 latest game...
Stat Line: 4-for-5 FGs / 1-for-1 extra points
Boswell has been practically automatic for the Steelers this season, and he continues to be rock solid in the 4th quarter of games. In a game which would have been better off having him kick extra points, the team called on him for a whopping five field goals. He made all but one, and that singular miss was a 56-yard boot which came up just short. If not for some shoddy time management, more on that later, Boswell likely would have been in better position to make all five of his attempts.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 4 solo, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QB Hits, 1 fumble recovery
Watt is now the single-season sack king for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team needed every ounce of production Watt provided during the game at Heinz Field. While being held, and Tennessee doing whatever they could to take him out of the game, Watt still made game-impacting plays. Watt is outstanding and just a half sack away from being the unofficial sack leader for the Steelers from Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb with 17.5 sacks.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 1 fumble recovery, key tackle on 4th down
It had been since the Week 10 game vs. the Detroit Lions that Haden was in the lineup, and his presence makes a difference. Haden got lucky on a play where the Titans’ receiver got behind him, but made plenty of plays to make up for the snafu. Haden’s fumble recovery was Polamalu-esque, and his tackle on 4th down in the waning moments of the game was as textbook as they come. It was a good welcome back for Haden, and the Steelers needed him in a big way.
Stat Line: 14 total tackles, 12 solo, 1 fumble recovery
Fitzpatrick did have a fumble recovery, but he also had a ton of huge tackles in this game. Fitzpatrick has over 100 tackles for the first time in his young career, and he is likely to lead the team in tackles this season. It is never good when your safety is leading the team in tackles, but Fitzpatrick is making plays all over the field. Want to know why he isn’t making as many plays in the passing game? Probably because he is playing more of a linebacker role out of necessity.
Stat Line: 4 takeaways (3 fumble recoveries, 1 INT)
The Steelers had four takeaways, and they needed every single one of them. Those four turnovers turned into 12 points, and ultimately the victory. Experts always say takeaways come in bunches, and the Steelers couldn’t have asked for a better time for them to swing in their favor. On top of that, the team has created six takeaways in the last two weeks. That statistic is more reminiscent of the 2020 opportunistic defense, and hopefully this trend continues.
Stat Line: 4 sacks, 7 QB Hits
The Steelers had an early sack from Chris Wormley, and he left the game with a groin injury and didn’t return. It was Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and even Derrek Tuszca got in on the mix. The pass rush was a huge factor for the Steelers, and on a day when they still struggled vs. the run, their pass rush made plays when necessary.
Finding A Way To Win
Stat Line: 0 second half points, 4 takeaways = W
This game was absolutely insane. Another slow start, timely takeaways, a second half defensive shut out and a game essentially won by the kicker. It doesn’t matter, the Steelers found a way to win and keep their playoff dreams alive for at least another week. What a Christmas gift for the Steelers faithful everywhere.
Mike Tomlin’s Clock Management
Stat Line: Brutal end of the first half
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again. I like Mike Tomlin. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been critical of him at times. One of those times was his clock management at the end of the first half. Tomlin’s reasoning behind his decision was even more baffling. This is what Tomlin said after the game:
“I was more concerned with stopping them than I was with creating a drive opportunity for us. I wanted them to make decisions on going from second down to third down on time unless they burn one of their timeouts. They chose not to, so the clock ran. We can get excited about subsequent drives but you’ve got to get the stop first. And I didn’t take that for granted.”
Uh, yeah, about that. Sorry coach, not buying what you’re selling. The mismanaged clock resulted in Boswell’s field goal being a 56-yard kick instead of having time to get closer. Tomlin, as usual, should be thankful his team bailed him out.
Stat Line: 12 carries, 18 yards, 1.5 yard average / 2 receptions, 8 yards, 5 targets
This will be a first for the Steelers’ prized rookie running back. Harris hasn’t found himself on the losers list yet in his brief career, but this game he does. It wasn’t as if the Steelers’ running game/offensive line was clicking on all cylinders, but too many cut backs and trying to make something out of nothing has him on the bad side of the Winners and Losers list. Harris will learn sometimes you just have to take the three yards and a cloud of dust, just to stay on schedule.
Stat Line: Injuries at key positions
The Steelers lost Chris Wormley (groin) and Pat Freiermuth (concussion) during the game, and T.J. Watt was clearly dealing with some sort of injury to his midsection/ribs. All three of these positions, defensive line, tight end and pass rusher, are some of the thinnest on the Steelers’ roster. Hopefully they get some of these players back for Week 16.
Stat Line: 17 carries, 35 yards, 2.1 yards per carry, 1 TD
The lone touchdown you see above was Ben Roethlisberger’s quarterback sneak. The Steelers’ running game is broken, and you have to wonder if it can get fixed. Is it just the absence of Kevin Dotson? Maybe, considering the run game was showing signs of life before his high ankle sprain landed him on Injured Reserve (IR). Either way, the Steelers need to figure out a way to run the ball effectively in between the tackles, because these jet sweeps can’t be your staple week in and week out.
Stat Line: TEN 42 carries, 201 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 1 TD
The Steelers won, and the defense played better, but they still gave up over 200 yards on the ground. The stat line speaks for itself, but the takeaways will mask just how inept this unit looks at times. The loss of Wormley put players like Henry Mondeaux, Isaiahh Loudermilk and Carlos Davis on the field far longer than anyone would want. It showed.
Time of Possession
Stat Line: TEN: 39:08 / PIT: 20:52
Want to see a lop-sided stat line, look at time of possession. Yes, the Steelers’ takeaways resulted in short fields and short drives, but the Titans completely dominated the first half in every facet. The Steelers third down defense continues to struggle in key moments, allowing the opposition to continue these drives.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 2-for-11
I had to do a double check on this statistic. I couldn’t believe it was that bad. But it was. It was that bad.
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!