The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 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 game...
Stat Line: 8 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs, 11 targets, 29 yard long
After being one of the few winners last week, Diontae Johnson is rapidly turning into the No. 1 wide receiver many fans didn’t think the Steelers had on their current roster. Sure, the dropped touchdown was a downer, but he more than made up for it with huge receptions in the second half of the game. Johnson has turned himself into a stellar receiver for the black and gold.
Stat Line: 21/31, 236 yards, 7.6 average, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 111.8 Rating
The Steelers’ offense wasn’t always great. Throughout the majority of the first half the team ran six total plays and failed to have a first down. Nonetheless, when the rubber met the road it was Roethlisbeger who was delivering when it mattered. Roethlisberger didn’t have to throw the ball 50+ times in this game to win, and the most impressive fact of his stat line was that he didn’t turn the ball over. If Roethlisberger can continue to play like this, and avoid games like last Sunday, he will have the Steelers in every game the rest of the way.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QB Hits
Mike Tomlin said after the game how when there is a trade within the division it says what the former employer thinks about the player they are willing to ship to a rival. Tomlin hoped Wormley always remembered that when he played against the Ravens, and he sure did play like that on Sunday at Heinz Field. Wormley was all over the field, and his improved play didn’t just help in the pass rush, but also in run support.
Stat Line: 6 tackles, 5 solo, 3.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 6 QB Hits
T.J. Watt can do it all. His 3.5 sacks tie James Harrison’s all-time Steelers record, and it has only taken 12 games to do it. Well, 10 games, considering Watt missed two games due to injury. I said this when the news hit of Watt being back on the roster after being lifted off the Reserve/COVID-19 List, and that is how the week off might actually help the banged up Watt. Watt looked energized, and said as much after the game. Maybe Mike Tomlin won’t let T.J. Watt practice ever again, I’m kidding...sort of.
Stat Line: Huge contributions
The contributions of guard John Leglue and nose tackle Montravius Adams were more than just noteworthy. Leglue played almost the entire game after B.J. Finney left with a back injury, and played well above the line. Whether this was a flash in the pan, or not, has yet to be determined, but on Sunday Leglue was a bright spot on the Steelers’ offensive line. As for Adams, the fact he played at all after just being signed off the New Orleans Saints practice squad is remarkable. The fact he played well and contributed was tremendous.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 5 solo, 1 pass defense
I have bashed the Steelers’ trade for Akhello Witherspoon since the day it happened, but I can finally see what others have said about Witherspoon. He has the physical traits which every team would love, but his consistency has been the issue since he entered the league. He played well vs. the Ravens, but can he finally kick the consistency to the curb? Only time will tell...
Stat Line: 9 tackles, 7 solo, 1 pass defense, 1 INT
Minkah Fitzpatrick had his second interception in as many games, and the hope is the Steelers safety is finding those Minkah Magic moments fans grew to love. On top of the interception, Fitzpatrick led the team in tackles, again. You don’t want your safety to lead the team in tackles, but Fitzpatrick has proven he is an all-around tremendous safety.
Stat Line: 21 carries, 71 yards, 3.4 ypc / 5 receptions, 36 yards, 5 targets
I almost didn’t have Najee Harris on the winners list, but when I saw his stat line I noticed just how he impacted the game. He didn’t hit pay dirt, but he was a force in this game, especially in the second half. Harris’ 71 yards on the ground were hard earned, and he showed he is more than willing, and able, to get the tough yards. Harris took a big step forward in his development Sunday, and it is more than just playing the Ravens for the first time.
Stat Line: Changes were made
When the Steelers lose, the coaches get blamed the most. When they win, the coaches rarely get any credit. Fans wanted change, and the Steelers provided that change. Whether it was signing Adams, inserting Witherspoon or just a padded practice, it was something. On top of that, the Steelers’ defense threw everything they had at Lamar Jackson, and they needed every play to win. The Steelers’ offense made just enough plays to win, but at this point beggars can’t be choosers. Kudos to the Steelers coaching staff this week.
Winning the Turnover Battle
Stat Line: NO TURNOVERS
The Steelers won the turnover battle thanks to Fitzpatrick’s interception, but the fact the Steelers didn’t turn it over once was the biggest factor. The Steelers are a fragile team, this victory doesn’t change that, and they are going to struggle if they turn it over. A huge win for this team was the fact they protected the football.
3rd Down Defense
Stat Line: Ravens went 8-for-16
It wasn’t just how the Steelers’ defense struggled on third downs, it was how they struggled on third-and-longs. It didn’t matter if it was 3rd and 6, or 3rd and 14, the Steelers defense didn’t discriminate when it came to giving up first downs. If this team wants to do any damage down the stretch and make the postseason, getting off the field, especially on third and longs, has to be a priority.
Stat Line: Where do I begin?
The Steelers weren’t highly penalized, but the officiating went well beyond that. Whether it was the non-call on Diontae Johnson getting hit high and late on the sideline, T.J. Watt getting flagged for taunting or the phantom holding call on Montravius Adams. Then there was the overturned Ray-Ray McCloud reception, which never looked like there was an angle which had clear evidence of an overturned call. The officiating in the NFL has been bad, but this game certainly made you question it even further. Not a good look.
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!