Well, wasn't that a pleasant surprise? To say that I am beyond shocked that the Steelers were able to pull off the shocking upset victory over Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the friendly confines of Acrisure Stadium on Sunday would be a huge understatement. I was expecting a blowout victory for the visitors, and predicted as much.
The Steelers were a week removed from their worst loss in over three decades. To make matters worse, the Steelers trotted out a ragtag secondary comprised of seldom used special teams standouts and practice squad call ups. Plus the fact that the Steelers seemingly were incapable of winning a football game without T.J. Watt in uniform.
The Steelers went out on Sunday and proved me, plus plenty of others in the fan base, to be absolutely wrong. They gave an inspired, total team effort to win on Sunday. I can't speak for everybody, but I, for one, couldn't be happier to have been proven wrong. I am beyond proud of the resiliency and overall effort shown.
Stock Up: Mitch Trubisky
Trubisky looked like a completely different quarterback in relief on Sunday. During the first 3.5 games of the season as the starter, Trubisky looked indecisive and unsure. He appeared hesitant to confidently pull the trigger, which negatively impacted the rhythm and flow of the offense. It was almost like he had been instructed to first protect the football at all cost, and focus primarily on playing mistake free football. He played like a tentative version of a bridge quarterback with a talented first round selection looking over his shoulder.
That all changed on Sunday when Kenny Pickett was knocked out of the game due to a concussion. Trubisky was the only other QB active for the game, and he knew it was his game to close out, and his alone. No more looking over his shoulder. Trubisky played like a man with a new lease on life, like the blinders were taken off and he could see clearly now. He used his mobility to extend plays and find clear throwing lanes, and to pick up a crucial first down on the final drive. Basically, he played like the veteran signal caller we all had hoped to see to start this season. What a brilliant display of professionalism and preparedness by a true gentleman.
Stock Up: Larry Ogunjobi
Now that's what I have been talking about. What all of Steelers Nation has been waiting to see from Ogunjobi. He played like a man possessed on Sunday, causing mass confusion in the Buccaneers backfield on multiple occasions. He was one of the main culprits responsible for Tom Brady's sideline meltdown directed towards his own offensive line. It was beautiful to see. We knew Ogunjobi had that type of performance in him, because he has done it to the Steelers on multiple occasions.
Ogunjobi is a disruptor for opposing offenses. His balance, agility, and explosiveness allows him to quickly penetrate gaps and create havoc behind the line of scrimmage, often after splitting double teams. His performance against the Buccaneers was a perfect example of the abilities he brings to the Steelers defense. Hopefully the first of many.
Stock Up: Chase Claypool
Talk about a sight for sore eyes. I called out Claypool on our Know Your Enemy podcast on Wednesday for what I could only view as a lack of love for the game. Half efforts, stopping on routes altogether, and not trying to work open or back to his quarterback in trouble outside the pocket. Those situations are effort plays, and reveal a player's intestinal fortitude. His desire to be great, and willingness to compete.
Claypool played the best and most complete game of his career on Sunday, at least since his rookie season. He competed and stayed engaged throughout, but took it up another notch in the fourth quarter, when the stakes were the highest and it mattered most. He showed solid hands and toughness during and after the catch. He continues to be the Steelers most determined runner at receiver after the catch, picking up extra yards by breaking tackles and dragging defenders. Now the question remains: Can he stack these types of performances? Better yet, is Matt Canada capable of utilizing Claypool in ways that will maximize his productivity, especially once Pat Freiermuth returns from injury?
Stock Up: Patchwork Secondary
What an incredible effort from a ragtag group of guys thrown together out of shear desperation. The Steelers starting cornerbacks were a seldom used special teams standout, who seemed to have earned a permanent seat in the old doghouse, James Pierre; and a practice squad employee promoted to the active roster named Josh Jackson. They were faced with the tall task of trying to slow down the Pro Bowl level duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for the Buccaneers. Surprisingly, the upstarts forced into action more than held their own. Pierre was physical and assertive throughout, while Jackson showcased his NFL experience in coverage.
Arthur Maulet did his best Mike Hilton impression, aggressively attacking the line of scrimmage and the ball carrier in run support. Tre Norwood appeared more comfortable with his assignments than last week's debacle, and Terrell Edmunds once again showed how important his presence is to the success of this Steelers defense. Each member of the Steelers secondary should be applauded for their performance under less than ideal circumstances.
Stock Up: Other Under the Rader Standouts
Steven Sims provided a desperately needed spark to the Steelers kick return units. Getting caught from behind on his long kickoff return showed what we already knew; Sims isn't a burner, but he is an elusive and decisive returner with proven experience.
Isaiahh Loudermilk showcased his powerful run stuffing abilities in his first action of the 2022 season. He was only credited with a single tackle, but he did an excellent job of dictating the action on multiple occasions. He impressively set the edge on one occasion, against a double team no less, and drew a holding penalty on another. Encouraging debut.
One final optimistic observation: All three inside linebackers had crucial pass deflections during the game. They were engaged and aware in coverage. I can't remember the last time that happened.
Stock Down: Kevin Dotson
Kevin Dotson's struggles continued against the Buccaneers, to the tune of three penalties and a special teams snafu. His missed block resulted in Kenny Pickett getting knocked out of the game. Dotson doesn't seem comfortable at left guard, or in the new scheme. I am starting to wonder if Kendrick Green's massive struggles in 2021 didn't inadvertently draw attention away from Dotson's performance at left guard.