The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 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: 3 catches, 78 yards, 26.0 average, 0 TD, 42 long, 3 targets
Pickens is quickly becoming one of those players who can impact the game in a heartbeat. Even only receiving three targets, more on that later, he was able to gain 78 total yards and looked dominant doing it. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey talked about how Pickens was getting the best of him throughout the game. If only the Steelers would have targeted him more...
Stat Line: 6 catches, 82 yards, 13.7 average, 0 TD, 37 long, 8 targets
Fans love to hate Diontae Johnson, and I get a lot of it, but you also have to give credit where it’s due. Johnson had arguably his best game of the season, although his drought of not scoring a touchdown continued. Johnson might still make some head-scratching plays, like running laterally and losing yardage, but he also made some big-time catches in the game Sunday to keep the Steelers in the contest.
Stat Line: 3 catches, 33 yards, 11.0 average, 1 TD, 14 long, 6 targets
Seeing a trend yet with the winners? If not, you should. The Steelers loss wasn’t on the players tasked with catching the football. Every game Freiermuth is showing he is a versatile and dynamic weapon. Like Pickens, the hope would be the Steelers start to deploy him as such. On a day when Steven Sims was targeted 4 times, you would hope some of those targets would go to players like Freiermuth. He’s that type of player, so it’s time to start using him as such.
Stat Line: 22/30, 276 yards, 9.2 average, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 1 sack for 5 yards, 73.1 Rating
There are times when coaches can be blamed for issues in a loss, and then there are times when players simply have to play better. This would be the latter. The sad part of this is how Trubisky played outside of those three interceptions. In other words, Trubisky played a fantastic game if he doesn’t cost the Steelers points on more than one occasion. There is aggressive, and overly aggressive. The Steelers were on the wrong end of that docket in Week 14, and it cost them a win.
Stat Line: Blocked FG, Horrible punting
Again, there are lots of fans who want to blame a coach for the special teams misfortunes Sunday. How? Was it Danny Smith firing high snaps back to Pressley Harvin? Was it Smith who was punting the ball 17 yards? How about allowing Calais Campbell to get his big paw on a field goal to block a kick? Danny Smith? I don’t think so. This was on execution, and the Steelers didn’t do it.
Stat Line: 42 carries, 215 yards, 5.1 average, 1 TD, 44 long
I don’t know what’s more disheartening. The fact the Steelers surrendered 215 yards on the ground in Week 14, or the fact a team threw for 94 yards and won a game. Both are true, and both hurt just as bad. However, on a day when everyone in Acrisure Stadium knew the Ravens were going to run the ball, the Steelers were unable to stop them.
Stat Line: 2 sacks, 5 QB Hits
When looking strictly at the numbers, it looks as if the Steelers’ pass protection did a good job. But if you watched the game, you saw something different entirely. While there were only two sacks, one which knocked out the starting quarterback, and 5 quarterback hits, Trubisky was under duress for a large portion of the game. The perfect example was the play where he ran for his life, and was able to get a pass off to Steven Sims...for two yards. Doesn’t go down as a quarterback hit or sack, yet protection was far from perfect. The Steelers’ offensive line has been doing a good job so far this season with steady improvement, but Sunday was a step in the wrong direction.
Stat Line: 20 carries, 65 yards, 3.3 average
While player execution was lacking on Sunday, the fact the Steelers got away from the run was certainly head-scratching. The numbers in the first half weren’t amazing, but they were far from pedestrian. Also, far from just avoiding the run altogether in the second half. The first play from the third quarter was a run for no gain. After that, the running game was non-existent because they didn’t even try. Sure, they moved the ball through the air, but this game wasn’t like the ones in Buffalo and Philadelphia where it became evident the team needed to throw their back to success. I would have liked to see the Steelers stick with the run, and go for more overall balance.
Stat Line: 3 turnovers / 0 takeaways
There had been two trends which were consistent with the Steelers’ success since their bye. Don’t turn it over, and take the ball away. They hadn’t turned the ball over, and were able to create at least one turnover in every game since Week 10. In this game, they reversed those trends, and it was a death knell. The three turnovers took points off the board, and the defense’s inability to create stops and takeaways didn’t give the offense an extra possession or two it needed.
George Pickens’ Targets
Stat Line: Only 3 Targets
I felt as if this needed it’s own section of the losers section. In the past two games Pickens has had just five targets thrown his way. On Sunday, Steven Sims had more targets (4) than Pickens. While some blame coaching, and that is valid, plenty of blame goes on the quarterback as well. If Pickens is the type of player we all think he is, and that would be a WR1, then there are times you give your player a chance vs. tough coverages. They do this with Diontae Johnson, a diminutive player who won’t out-jump anyone, so why not Pickens? I don’t blame the guy for being frustrated.
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!