The Steelers came out of the bye week looking like a different team than the one that played the first half of the season. With key players returning to the lineup, and also some no longer on the team, the Steelers looked different and found a different result, pulling off their first win of more than 3 points on the season.
What was the difference, and who gets credit for the win?
Chase Claypool gone and a bye week to fit the offense to their young quarterback put a lot of pressure on the offensive coaches. For one game, at least, they appear to have been up to the challenge. The Steelers tied their season high with six drives gaining at least 40 yards, and their 6 scoring chances (2 TDs, 2 FGs, 2 Missed FGs) was a massive increase over the 2.5 scoring chances they averaged in the first eight games, and their highest number of scoring chances this season. Only three games since 2018 have seen more than six scoring chances at the end of Steelers drives.
Add to that the Steelers rushing for over 200 yards and Kenny Pickett recording his second game without an interception (2-0 in those games) and you have what could be a recipe for future success. The Steelers offensive improvements come with a pretty big caveat in the 20 points the team scored, which is below league average. The Steelers were moving the ball into scoring position, but they still struggled to convert those chances into touchdowns.
Some of the most positive and hope-inducing news came from two of the least productive Steelers of the first half, with Diontae Johnson recording a 12.6 yards per target mark to bolster the 4.4 yards per target he had on throws from Kenny Pickett before this game, and Najee Harris rushing for 99 yards on 20 carries, a big increase in his effectiveness and his highest yards total in over 10 months. When you add to that Jaylen Warren increasing his previous high rushing attempts by 50% while recording 77 total yards, you can’t be unhappy with the running back usage in Week 10.
While it is definitely valid to point out that this is one game against a banged-up defense, these grades only reflect this game, so we’re embracing the good while it lasts.
Honor Roll: Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Zero Turnovers, over 50% third down conversions
Demerits: Need to finish more drives with touchdowns. Pass blocking.
Final Grade: B
The Steelers brought back T.J. Watt and finally were able to debut Damontae Kazee. That was offset somewhat by the loss of Minkah Fitzpatrick. T.J. Watt’s availability is a huge factor in the Steelers winning and losing games, and that streak continued. T.J. Watt didn’t have great stats, but his four tackles were almost all nearly bigger plays, but players just made it across the line of scrimmage. A little quicker and more comfortable T.J. Watt would have had a much more impressive stat line. Alex Highsmith did get two sacks with Watt back, and the Steelers forced two turnovers. It was only the second game this season the Steelers won the turnover battle, with the other being in Week 1, the other game T.J. Watt played in.
Kazee lived up to his billing, doing the job of a deep safety well, and the Saints didn’t see a single play that gained 20 or more yards. Kazee also came up with an interception on a dropped pass, and it was a testament to how quickly he was getting to the ball. The Steelers held the Saints playmakers in check, with Alvin Kamara gaining a total of 45 yards and explosive rookie Chris Olave to 40 yards, his lowest yard total so far this year.
As a team, the Steelers held the Saints to 10 total points, and more than that, the Saints had seven of their ten possessions fail to gain 20 yards, including all five second half drives. That’s a dominant performance.
Honor Roll: T.J. Watt, Damontae Kazee, Alex Highsmith, Cameron Heyward, Levi Wallace, Cameron Sutton, Arthur Maulet.
Demerits: . . .
Final Grade: A
Two missed field goals and some poor kickoff coverage makes this game one of the worst special teams games in a while. Chris Boswell was the brightest spot on the Steelers special teams and with him on injured reserve right now, the Steelers suffered. Pressley Harvin had one of his better games with two of his three punts ending up inside the 20 and with no returns on the day, but he was still outperformed by his opponent who averaged over 50 yards a kick with a total of 2 yards in returns. Fortunately, with the defense stepping up like it did and the offense moving the ball better, the special teams struggles didn’t hurt the final result.
Honor Roll: Connor Heyward, Pressley Harvin III
Demerits: James Pierre’s fair catch interference penalty, missed field goals.
Final Grade: D
The Steelers needed to come out of the bye showing that T.J. Watt was the missing piece in this defense, and they did. They needed a more responsible game from Kenny Pickett and to show that the passing game can be better without Chase Claypool than it was with him. They pulled both off.
We needed to see a more effective Najee Harris and more of a role for Jaylen Warren. We got both of those. We got an actually good game from Diontae Johnson, two runs from Derek Watt, Kenny Pickett stepping up into the pocket and some creative play calls that worked as well. Are there still issues, questions, and real problems on this offense? Yes there are, but for this game the Steelers showed us everything we needed to see to believe this team can head in the right direction the rest of this season.
Final Grade: A
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Grade the Steelers Week 10 win over the New Orleans Saints
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