The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8 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: 6 carries, 50 yards, 8.3 ave., 19-yard long
It was difficult to find a winner in this game. No one stood out and played above and beyond expectation. Improvement was lacking across the board. However, if one player has shown up consistently when called upon throughout the early portions of the season, it’s Jaylen Warren. The undrafted rookie free agent running back isn’t just a change of pace back, but a guy who does a lot better than Najee Harris. He is decisive with the ball in his hands, is a hard-nosed runner, is tough to bring down and is a better in blitz pick up. I’ll go ahead and say it, if the carries aren’t being divvied up 50-50 now, they should be after the bye week.
Stat Line: Surrendered 6 sacks, 11 QB Hits, 7 TFL
All season the narrative surrounding the offense was how the offensive line, while not dominant, was playing above expectation. Well, Sunday was a step backwards. The line allowed a massive amount of pressure on Kenny Pickett, and it certainly curtailed what the Steelers wanted to do offensively throughout the game. Everyone wants deep passes, but what if you don’t trust the men up front to keep the quarterback clean when they do a 7-step drop? This game was just a bad performance by the offensive line.
Stat Line: A.J. Brown TDs / 5 tackles, 5 solo
Welcome back to the lineup, Ahkello! We welcome you back with plenty of one-on-one looks vs. A.J. Brown without much help over the top (more on that shortly). On top of that, your consolation prize is being benched for James Pierre near the midway point of the contest. Witherspoon hadn’t played since injuring his hamstring in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football. A rough welcome back.
Stat Line: 6 tackles, 5 solo, 1 Pass Defense
I don’t know if Minkah Fitzpatrick has ever been on the losers list before, but there is a first time for everything. Fitzpatrick was trying to be the do-it-all safety Steelers fans have come to love, but he just wasn’t making the plays. He was in position, but just wasn’t making the plays. The first touchdown pass to Brown saw Fitzpatrick no high-point the ball, like Witherspoon vs. New England in Week 2, and Brown go above him to make the play. Another play made by Brown was a bad angle on Fitzpatrick which gave him a huge catch-and-run opportunity. I don’t expect Fitzpatrick to be on this end of the ledger many times, but he was vs. Philly.
Stat Line: 8 carries, 32 yards, 4.0 ave., 18 long / 6 rec., 26 yards, 4.3 ave., 9 long, 6 targets
You don’t need me to tell you Najee Harris looks “off”. Anyone who watches the games knows this, but for the first time I saw Harris not make even the plays which he should make in his current state. This was typified on the 3rd and short check down pass which saw Harris hesitate and move laterally, instead of plunging ahead for the first down. Thankfully, Harris caught the pass on 4th down for the conversion, but Harris just isn’t playing well right now. It isn’t all on him, but even when the plays present themselves, he just isn’t making them. Let’s hope this isn’t a snap shot into the future of his career.
Big Play Defense
Stat Line: Jalen Hurts - 4 TD plays of 25+ yards
Remember the “bend, don’t break” defensive philosophy? Yeah, the Steelers defense didn’t do that in Week 8. Outside of Jalen Hurts have 25+ yard plays for touchdowns, the Eagles only had one trip to the red-zone. That’s right, 35 points scored, and only one trip to the red-zone. Let that sink in. The Steelers defense gave up big play after big play, and that was about as bad as it gets on a day when the offense needed the defense to help them out in a big way.
Lack of Improvement
Stat Line: Where is it? If anything, the team is regressing
While the Steelers’ season is in a downward spiral, the one thing fans are hoping to see during these rebuilding years is improvement. Anything, really. Just something tangible the fans can say is heading in the right direction. After Sunday, there isn’t an answer to the question on what’s improving. Quarterback? Nope. Offensive line? No. Defensive front? Nope. You get the picture. Nothing is improving, and that’s a problem.
Stat Line: 9 penalties for 60 yards
At one point I thought the entire Steelers’ offensive line would be credited with a penalty during the game, alas James Daniels and Mason Cole didn’t get the memo. The Steelers were flagged in almost every possible way. Offensive Pass Interference, Illegal Man Downfield, Illegal Formation, Delay of Game and even kicking the ball out of bounds on a kickoff. This team can’t withstand those self-inflicted wounds. Then again, I think we’ve talked about this the majority of the season and nothing has changed...
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 1-for-12
When looking at the team statistics for this article, I was curious how the Steelers defense did on 3rd downs. I looked one column over to see the Steelers’ offensive numbers. I had to do a double take when I saw the 1-for-12. One third down conversion. That’s it. One. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but there has only been one game this season the Steelers have had 50% in this category, and it was Week 4 vs. the New York Jets. That 50% was the highest percentage of the season. Pathetic.
Stat Line: 1-for-3
The Steelers offense moved the football, and that’s nothing new, but when the field got short is when the offense continued to struggle. The Steelers lone red-zone touchdown came on a gadget play where Chase Claypool threw a pass to Derek Watt, and it took a penalty on a field goal attempt to convince Tomlin to go for it on that 4th down play. The red-zone issues are not just coaching, but players executing. It’s just not good enough.
Stat Line: Huge Bye Week
The Steelers now enter the bye week, a week where players have to be given four days off to do whatever they like. The Steelers will likely have a normal Monday schedule, and maybe a few workouts before the players get the weekend off. In other words, while players might hang around if they are determined to improve, the coaching staff can’t hold meetings, etc. during those four days. That means this is a week for the coaching staff to really do some work. To iron out details, and to find a plan which will work. There should be some pressure felt from this coaching staff to get this ship headed in the right direction. If not? Well, this will be an interesting offseason, to say the least.
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!