The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 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: 56-yard field goal, longest in Heinz Field history
I should have put Boswell on the winners list last week after his performance in Buffalo, but after nailing that 56-yard field goal, the longest field goal in Heinz Field history, he deserves a spot on the winners list this week. He’s been rock solid since the debacle that was his 2018 season.
Stat Line: 10 rushes, 38 yards / 5 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD
Harris’ stat line doesn’t scream “winner”, but at the same time I felt he took a huge step forward on Sunday. Harris’ 38 rushing yards were far from inspiring numbers, but how he got those 38 yards is downright unbelievable. Harris was repeatedly hit in the backfield, only to find himself fighting just to get back to the line of scrimmage, or gaining one or two yards. Makes you wonder what he could do if the offensive line could open up actual running lanes. Also, his stiff arm alone puts him on the winners list.
Stat Line: 9 receptions, 105 yards, 41 yard long, 12 targets
Johnson led the Steelers in both targets, receptions and yards, and continues to have the look of Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to receiver. The knee injury to finish the game was frustrating, but Johnson has the look of a legitimate threat on a weekly basis. Last year’s drops seem like years ago, and outside of Johnson and Roethlisberger not being on the same page once or twice a game Johnson has been tremendous this season.
Stat Line: 12 tackles, 8 solo, 1 TFL
Spillane didn’t play in Week 1 after a shin injury in the pre-game, but he played a big role on the defense vs. the Raiders. With Devin Bush out with a groin injury, the presence of Joe Schobert allowed Spillane to do what he does best — tackle. Spillane’s 12 total tackles led the team, and he was all over the field hitting Raiders. A nice rebound for Spillane after a rough preseason.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL
With T.J. Watt sidelined with a groin injury of his own, Ingram was thrust into playing more snaps than he had thus far. He was able to register a sack, and was disruptive in the pass rushing game. While Ingram didn’t make fans forget about Watt, he did more than enough to keep Derek Carr sliding protections his way.
Stat Line: Ejected after spitting on an opponent
As a father, and a teacher, I’ve said the following statement hundreds of times, “The one who retaliates almost always gets caught.” This isn’t justifying Turner retaliating if he was spit on first, but as a veteran you have to expect him to handle his business in a way which won’t jeopardize the team.
Stat Line: Multiple players entered the game, or left the game, with injury
As if it needs to be reiterated, injuries have put the Steelers’ roster in a tough spot heading into Week 3. It will test their depth at many positions, and the hope is the Steelers get at least some of the injured players back for their first divisional game next Sunday.
Mike Tomlin “Living in his fears”
Stat Line: Not going for it on 4th and 1
Trust is a big thing on any organized/competitive team. If you don’t trust members of the team, it can be a big deal within the ranks of the group. Nothing screams a lack of trust more than Mike Tomlin electing to punt the ball on 4th an 1 in the 4th quarter. Essentially, he was saying he doesn’t trust the offensive line, and his running back, to get one yard and have a chance to complete the comeback. Some will throw out analytics, or the fact the Steelers got the ball back after the punt, but it doesn’t change a thing as it pertains to what the decision meant for the offense.
Stat Line: Ruggs 61-yard reception for TD
At the time of this being written, I don’t know how many snaps Witherspoon played before the touchdown pass to Ruggs put a dagger in the Steelers’ comeback hopes and dreams. However, if it was his only snap, it was forgettable. Maybe the question is what Minkah Fitzpatrick’s responsibilities were on the play, but either way it was a less than ideal welcome to Pittsburgh for Witherspoon.
Stat Line: 2 sacks surrendered, 10 QB hits, only 39 yards rushing
Everyone wants to bury players like Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, but to me the issue is the offensive line. You can’t run pass plays when your quarterback is running for his life. You can’t expect accurate passes when the defense is hitting your quarterback 10 times. You can’t expect your running back to get into a rhythm when he is being hit in the backfield regularly. The struggles start up front. If that doesn’t get fixed, nothing else will change
Stat Line: Derek Carr: 28-37, 382 YDS, 2 TD
The loss of Haden, in my opinion, was the biggest loss for the Steelers vs. the Raiders. It forced the team to make a decision with how they utilize Cam Sutton. James Pierre started, and when the Steelers went into their sub packages, primarily the dime, Sutton moved into his dime role and Justin Layne came onto the field. Talk about testing your depth. Nonetheless, the secondary was absolutely shredded. Getting Haden back will help, but so will getting a consistent pass rush on the opposing quarterback.
Stat Line: 5 penalties for 43 yards
The 5 penalties for 43 yards doesn’t seem like a lot, but the timing of the penalties were almost equally as tough to swallow. Penalties like the roughing the passer call on Spillane gave a new set of downs, and renewed life for the opposition. Not to mention the false start penalties which immediately put you behind the sticks.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 5-for-12
I said it in this section last week, and I unfortunately have to say it again this week. Having drives which are time-consuming and end in points hinge on winning on critical downs. Downs like third downs. For the second straight week the Steelers have struggled in this regard. Have to clean it up on these critical downs.
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!