The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18 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: 30/44, 244 yards, 5.5 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack for 9, 80.1 Rating
Just like Monday night vs. the Browns, it wasn’t always pretty, but when the team needed a drive from the future Hall of Fame quarterback, he delivered. The third down conversions, and one fourth down conversion, were what won the game for the Steelers. Sure, the defense did plenty, and the offense wasn’t perfect, but Roethlisberger’s late game heroics continue until the day he officially retires. Those same heroics have the Steelers playing another week in the AFC Playoffs. Sometimes those types of moments mean more than stats.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 Pass Defense, 1 QB Hit, 1 Forced Fumble
Will Watt be given the half sack necessary for him to become the lone sack king in NFL history? It sure looked like that was the case until statisticians ruled his first half play ruled a tackle for loss and forced fumble, not a sack. Nonetheless, Watt’s name is currently right next to Michael Strahan atop the NFL’s all-time sack list. On top of that achievement, Watt was his usual dominant force on the field, so just another day at the office.
Stat Line: 3/3 FG, game winner in OT, 1/1 XP
What else did you expect? Was anyone even concerned when Boswell lined up for the game-winning field goal in overtime? I wasn’t. Already had it written in the post-game recap before he even kicked the football. Mr. Reliable, is, well, reliable.
Stat Line: 6 tackles, 6 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QB Hit
Heyward’s sack gave him 10 for the regular season, only the second time he has done this in his career. It is often believed Heyward plays best when Stephon Tuitt isn’t in the lineup, and while the statistics might back up that statement, he usually has Tyson Alualu next to him to help ease the burden. Heyward didn’t have Tuitt or Alualu this season, and still dominated. Might have been his most impressive game of the season, and if not for Watt he would be getting more attention than what he’s currently receiving.
Stat Line: Freiermuth / McCloud / Johnson / Claypool / Gentry
I wanted to add all of these players on the winners list, but decided to lump them all as one winner. No one had a fantastic game, but they all had their ups and downs. Thankfully, their ups were what made the biggest different. Freiermuth’s huge 3rd down reception, McCloud’s huge 4th down conversion, Johnson’s 3rd down conversion, Claypool’s block on the Najee Harris run and even Zach Gentry making plays in the passing game. This was an all-hands-on-deck game, and they all put their hands in the pile.
Stat Line: 11 carries, 28 yards, 2.5 average / 4 receptions, 27 yards, 4 targets
In the first quarter Harris left the game with an elbow injury. It didn’t look good, and despite him being listed as probable to return, fans didn’t see Harris again until deep in the second half. When he returned, you saw why the Steelers coveted him so much in the 2021 NFL Draft. Harris’ statistics aren’t mind-boggling, but the 14 yard run to set up the game-winning kick was a run no other back on the roster makes. On top of that, the one-handed catch he made was another play no one else makes on the Steelers’ roster. If you are still a doubter, just admit Najee Harris is a keeper.
Stat Line: 3 total tackles, 3 solo, 3 pass defenses, 1 INT
Fans love to bash Terrell Edmunds for a variety of reasons, but I felt Edmunds had a tremendous game. Throughout the game you could tell his job was to negate Mark Andrews, and when Andrews made a play it wasn’t Edmunds in coverage. Throw in the fact Edmunds was able to take the ball away with an interception, and he is more than deserving of being on the winners list.
Stat Line: 3 takeaways / 1 turnover
The Steelers’ recipe for winning is simple, protect the ball, take the ball away and run the football. The three takeaways the defense was able to get was the difference maker for many reasons. If they want to keep winning, this trend has to continue.
3rd Down Defense
Stat Line: BAL 3-for-14
When I was looking at the box score, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Steelers’ defense held the Ravens offense to the above stat line. Being able to get off the field was certainly a huge pivot point in the football game.
Stat Line: Dominating performance
The 15-point underdog Jaguars were able to beat the Indianapolis Colts, and not by just squeaking by, but by dominating the Colts. At one point, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, I was thinking how the Steelers could lose this game and have the Jaguars win, thankfully their win wasn’t for naught.
Pressley Harvin III
Stat Line: 37.3 average
I don’t want this to come off as cold, or lacking sympathy, but Pressley Harvin’s struggles continued after his two week stint away from the team while dealing with the loss of his father. Harvin’s struggles are to the point where the Steelers will now have a very difficult decision to make heading into the postseason with who will be punting the football.
Offensive Line Penalties
Stat Line: False Starts / Facemask
The Steelers’ pre-snap penalties continue along the offensive line. These issues have been many, but the facemask penalty which negated a nice catch-and-run by Benny Snell Jr. was one of the worst penalties of the day, if it was a penalty at all. Nonetheless, these self-inflicted wounds need to be minimized, and quick.
Stat Line: PIT - 6 Penalties / BAL - 1 Penalty
How an NFL team can be flagged just one time for 5 yards, see the Raven’s stat line, is beyond me. Another game where every time a big play was made you were left waiting for a flag, and it always seemed to go against the Steelers on this day. Thankfully in the end it didn't’ matter.
Stat Line: Sunday Night Football/Tie
At the time this column is being written the Chargers are currently beating the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. The fact the NFL chose this game to be in prime time, and it to ignite the option for a team to tie and both teams make the playoffs, seems like pretty bad foresight. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem as if teams are playing for a tie, but at the same time it shouldn’t be an option. NFL needs to be smarter.
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!