The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 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 latest game...
Stat Line: 34/52, 327 yards, 6.3 average, 0 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks 17 yards, 74.8 rating
Pickett set Steelers rookie records for completions and yards in the game vs. the Bills, and it should be noted just how good the Bills pass defense has been this year. They are the top ranked pass defense, and while Pickett had some rookie moments, he also didn’t look lost. We’ve all seen games where rookies have the “deer in the headlights” look, but Pickett didn’t have that in Buffalo. A tough place to play, a tough opponent and his first career start. Pickett showed plenty of good when it was hard to find, in my opinion.
Stat Line: Sticking up for his teammate
Daniels didn’t score a touchdown, but he made a play. When Pickett was hit, questionably late, after sliding, Daniels wasn’t going to stand for it. He took to his quarterback’s aid, and that was beyond telling. Think back to Alan Faneca’s comments in 2004 when the Steelers turned to Ben Roethlisberger as the quarterback. Faneca wasn’t too keen on the situation, and I’m sure the current offensive line isn’t too keen on it either. However, Daniels knows you have to rally behind your guys, and him defending Pickett should be a rallying cry for the entire offense moving forward.
Stat Line: 6 rec., 83 yards, 13.8 average, 0 TD, 29 long, 8 targets
If fans were to name characteristics of a WR1 on an NFL roster, they’d probably talk about consistency, big play ability, catch radius and an ability to make both the routine and difficult catches. When you look at that criteria, Pickens fits them all. It’s still early, but Pickens came off his 102 yard performance vs. the New York Jets in Week 4 with an 83 yard performance against the Bills on Sunday. If Pickens keeps this up, the offense will run through him, and I doubt there would be much complaining if that happened.
Stat Line: Complete ineptitude
Players and coaches deserve blame for the ineptitude on display in Buffalo Sunday, and Mike Tomlin is in charge of all of it. When Tomlin says in his post-game press conference about the team’s “lack of detail” that is the equivalent of him throwing mud on his own face. A lack of detail is a direct lack of preparation. Tomlin needs to wear this one, yet he is just one of many who deserve blame for this loss.
Stat Line: 5 rec., 60 yards, 12.0 average, 0 TD, 23 long, 13 targets
Mike Tomlin talks about how players need to make routine plays routinely. You’ll see this phrase again in the coming stanzas; however, Diontae Johnson needs to embody this saying. Johnson makes some crazy catches, but also has head-scratching drops more often than not. To say Johnson is struggling right now is an understatement, but if he starts with just making the routine plays he might be able to claw his way out of it. Also, when people think of sideline toe-tapping, they think of Antonio Brown’s time in Pittsburgh. Brown was relentless in his practice of this skill, and something Johnson should emulate to help perfect his craft along the sidelines.
Stat Line: Missed FGs, botched return, below average punting
This was not a banner day for the Steelers’ special teams units. Botched kickoff by James Pierre, two Boswell missed field goals and rather average Pressley Harvin punts made this a forgettable day not just for the offense, defense, and coaches, but also the special teams units.
Stat Line: 1-for-3 FGs
Boswell missed two field goals on the day, and the conditions were less than ideal, but you expect your Pro Bowl kicker to make more than he misses. With points at a premium, Boswell looked as if he was befuddled by the wind. The Steelers needed Boswell to be rock solid, but in hindsight an extra six points probably wouldn’t have moved the needle much in the Steelers’ way.
Stat Line: More defensive injuries
The list of Steelers injuries was long, again, after the loss. Pat Freiermuth and Levi Wallace left with concussions, Cam Sutton with a hamstring, Steven Sims with an eye injury and Larry Ogunjobi with a back injury. Not good to an already banged up defense. The Steelers best bet is to hope to get Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) and Terrell Edmunds (concussion) back in the lineup for Week 6.
Stat Line: 0 Sacks, 1 QB Hit
Further proof the Steelers defense, or more specifically the pass rush, is a one-man show. Without T.J. Watt the Steelers haven’t been able to generate much, if any, pass rush. The Steelers didn’t get close to sacking Josh Allen, and only mustered one quarterback hit — by Minkah Fitzpatrick. This simple fact might be the most depressing aspect of the Steelers’ defense right now.
Stat Line: Have to make routine catches routinely
As I stated earlier, making the routing plays routinely. Johnson wasn’t the only one who dropped a pass, or two, which could have been caught. Chase Claypool would fall into this category as well. The Steelers’ pass catchers need to help make their young quarterback’s life easier by making the easy plays.
Stat Line: 6-for-54 yards, officials failure to control game
The scuffles between these two teams could have been controlled if the officials were able to control the game. Them not flagging the hit on Kenny Pickett as he slid only set up the late-game skirmish between the two teams. Sure, the Steelers were flagged with more pre-snap penalties, what else is new, but the officials lost control of this game, and there is no one to blame but themselves.
4th Down Offense
Stat Line: 0-for-3
Fans love to say when Tomlin should go for it on 4th down. I get it, and in the 2nd quarter he should have gone for it instead of trying a field goal. Nonetheless, Tomlin also has to have confidence in his offense to get the first down. Putting up a goose egg in the category for 4th downs doesn’t invoke much confidence. The drop by Johnson on 4th down might have been the worst, considering the situation.
3rd Down Offense/Defense
Stat Line: Off - 5-for-15 / Def - 5-for-9
3rd downs have been an issue with the Steelers on both sides of the ball this season, and that trend continued vs. the Bills. The Steelers’ offense was great on third downs early in the game, but cooled down as the game progressed. If the Steelers want to win another game, they’ll have to start winning in these key areas. Start with third down success.
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!