The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the New Orleans Saints in Week 10 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: Najee Harris - 20 carries, 99 yards, 5.0 average, 36 yard long / Jaylen Warren - 9 carries, 37 yards, 4.1 average, 21 yard long, 3 receptions, 43 yards
Fans want the Steelers to abandon the bell cow approach to running backs, and have more of a by-committee style of backfield. Well, it might look different than your typical “thunder and lightning” backfield, but the combination of Warren and Harris is certainly capable of being equally dynamic. The way they lay out the workload will also be noteworthy. The Steelers can still use Harris predominantly has a runner, while Warren could be the man who does more pass catching and runs which fit his style. It could work, just like it did in Week 10.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 2 sacks, 1 PD, 1 TFL, 1 Forced Fumble
To date, Highsmith has had 5 sacks on the season when T.J. Watt is in the lineup. Three in Week 1, and two in Week 10. This is the type of jump in production fans have wanted to see from Highsmith with Watt back. If Watt can stay healthy, and Highsmith can start to demand more attention, just think about the potential outcome. Scary to consider...
Stat Line: 18/30, 199 yards, 6.6 average, 0 TD, 0 INT, 6 sacks for 37 yds., 79.7 Rating / 8 rushes, 51 yards, 1 TD
I’ll catch a lot of flack for putting Pickett on the winners list. Pickett didn’t play a perfect game, far from it. But what he didn’t do was turn the football over, and was able to make enough plays to win. I said this a lot leading up to the game, but Pickett just needs to continue to take steps forward. Don’t get burned on the same disguised coverages, make the plays when they come to you, and just win a game. In my opinion, Pickett’s play was a step in the right direction. A huge step? No. But a step nonetheless.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 PD, 1 INT
It was good to have Kazee back in the lineup, and could it have come at a better time? The weekend where Minkah Fitzpatrick is lost with appendicitis, Kazee returns to the lineup. Kazee played well, and his hit on Chris Olave, while drawing a flag, set the tone for the defense. Watching Kazee fly around, it has me excited for Fitzpatrick’s eventual return to the lineup to see what this coaching staff can do with the team’s three safety look.
Big Play Offense
Stat Line: 6 total “explosive” plays
The Steelers had six plays of 20+ yards on the day. Four of those plays came on the ground, and two through the air. The Steelers hadn’t been able to find any sort of big play offense this season, and it felt unlikely they find it in the ground game, but that’s exactly what they did vs. the Saints. This offense has looked anemic at time this season, and adding an element of big play ability certainly will go a long way to the success of the unit.
Stat Line: 3 rec., 32 yards, 10.7 ave., 0 TD, 14 yard long, 4 targets / 2 carries, 23 yards, 1 TD
I was curious how the Steelers will cover up for the loss of Chase Claypool, and while they did it in a variety of ways, they used George Pickens more than I thought they would in Claypool’s old role. Pickens had himself a solid game both through the air and on the ground, getting his first rushing touchdown of his career. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands, and is showing serious progress throughout his rookie season.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 2 solo, 1 QB Hit
Watt’s stat line doesn’t scream “winner” but when you see just how he impacts the entire defense you can’t not put him on the winning side of the ledger. Watt is as dynamic as they come, and it was great to see him back on the field. While the coaching staff gave him plenty of reps off, when he was on the field his presence was felt. Let’s hope this continues for the duration of the regular season.
Stat Line: 2 takeaways, plus turnover on downs
Just like the explosive offense, the Steelers’ defense was very opportunistic. Not only with the two takeaways, but the 4th down stop of Andy Dalton and Arthur Maulet’s pass break up down the sideline vs. Olave. Great plays were made when they presented themselves. It was good to see, and the Steelers needed every single one of those plays to win this game.
Stat Line: 29 yards rushing for Saints
I had to do a double take when I saw how many yards the Saints rushed for vs. the Steelers defense. It was 29 yards for just Alvin Kamara, but the entire unit. Yes, they were without some offensive linemen and Mark Ingram, but 29 total yards certainly is sub-par. Kudos to the Steelers for shutting down the running game, and Taysom Hill, throughout the game.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 9-for-17
Dave Schofield told me 50% on 3rd downs is too lofty of a goal. I respect his decision, but will keep my goal at 50%, not the 40% he suggested. The Steelers offense did the job in Week 10, being above 50% on third downs. It’s only the second time they’ve done so this season.
3rd Down Defense
Stat Line: 3-for-12
Speaking of 3rd downs, the Steelers defense held the Saints offense to an abysmal 3-for-12 on third downs. Getting off the field was a reason why the Steelers were able to let Myles Jack rest this week in hopes of having him healthy for Week 11.
Time of Possession
Stat Line: 38:56 - PIT / 21:04 - NO
The Steelers have been on the other side of the lop-sided time of possession battle, but this week the team did their job both in maintaining drives, and getting off the field when necessary. The result? Almost 40 minutes of possession time to the Saints’ 21 minutes.
Stat Line: 2 Missed FGs
What a bad start for the new guy. No, Wright isn’t new to the Steelers, he kicked for them in 2020 and in the preseason of 2021, but when you are trying to have your coaches trust you and you miss two makeable kicks it’s tough. Wright will hopefully settle in, but for a team like the Steelers who struggle to score points to leave six points on the field is tough. Makes you wonder if Mike Tomlin might think twice before trying field goals moving forward.
Stat Line: 2-for-5
If I’m being honest, I thought Matt Canada called one heck of a game vs. New Orleans...except in the red-zone. I was asked on Twitter if I thought the red-zone issues were more quarterback or coordinator. I said both. I think Canada is trying to dial up plays which Pickett will succeed, and Pickett is trying to navigate his way throughout the NFL red-zone where windows are tiny compared to college. Either way, the Steelers red-zone offense needs to improve if they stand a chance of turning their season around. Can’t rely on field goals to win you games.
Acrisure Stadium Turf
Stat Line: Looks awful
Living in Maryland I always used to make fun of the FedEx Field turf. It was always laughable how bad it was. Guess what? The Acrisure Stadium turf looks the same as FedEx Field’s sod now. It’s really awful, and my wife put it best when she walked in the room and said, “That’s an NFL field?!” She’s right, these players are playing for millions of dollars, for billion dollar organizations, and that’s the turf they have to play on?! I’m not advocating for artificial turf, I’ve played and coached on it and would always take a natural surface, but Acrisure Stadium has to figure something out because the surface isn’t just attracting birds, it looks like it’s becoming a major issue.
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!