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Varsity & JV: Winners & losers from the Steelers’ win over the Bengals

Winners and losers from the Steelers’ Week 12 win

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Steelers had their most complete showing of the season in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals, leading to a 16-10 win and a 7-4 record that keeps them atop the AFC Wildcard race.

You all know how this goes, so let’s get into the best and worst performances from Week 12.

Varsity

QB Kenny Pickett

That was the best game Pickett has had in his career. Look at his passing chart from last week compared to Sunday- a complete 180.

He made multiple high-caliber throws, and finished the day 24-of-33 for 278 yards. Of all the quarterbacks to play in Week 12, Pickett was second in CPOE and seventh in EPA/play. He didn’t have a touchdown, but that can’t be put on him. He delivered a dart to Diontae Johnson that should have been six points. I’ve been vocal about my lack of belief in Pickett. While one game doesn’t change that, I’ll absolutely give credit where it’s due- nice showing, Kenneth.

RB Najee Harris

Harris has taken a backseat to Jaylen Warren over the last two weeks, but Week 12 was his time to shine out of the backfield. He finished the day with 99 yards on the ground and the Steelers’ lone touchdown. He also had what may be the best run of the week, seemingly getting stopped after about a four yard gain, but keeping his legs churning to escape the pile and pick up 20 yards. The Steelers’ run game has been their bread and butter over the last month, and the former first-round pick was their catalyst on Sunday.

TE Pat Freiermuth

Welcome back, 88. Freiermuth returned last week against Cleveland, but this was his real coming out part of the season. He entered Week 12 with nine catches on the year- he doubled his total on Sunday. The third-year tight end finished the day with nine catches for 120 yards. He was utilized both as a safety blanket, and to stretch the field down the seam. This was the perfect use of Freiermuth, and hopefully we see much more of that going forward.

Offensive line

This unit has been on fire over the last month when it comes to the run game. Broderick Jones has been a catalyst for change, and has changed the foundation of what the Steelers do offensively. Isaac Seumalo has also been playing really well, as has James Daniels and tight end Darnell Washington, who is basically an extension of the offensive line. Pittsburgh has found their identity as a pound the rock team, and that wouldn’t be possible without the offensive line improving at the right time.

S Trenton Thompson

Thompson has done a superb job of filling in for Minkah Fitzpatrick and Keeanu Neal. He nearly had an interception against the Browns, and he hauled in a pick against Cincinnati, which set up the Najee Harris touchdown. Coverage wise, Thompson has been very good, and I would keep him in opposite of Fitzpatrick once he does return.

EDGE T.J. Watt

Watt became the second player in NFL history with 90 sacks in his first 100 career games, joining Reggie White as the only other player to do so. He finished the day with two sacks, an additional tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. He is once again leading the league in sacks, and back in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

DT Cam Heyward

Heyward was stuffing plays all afternoon, recording a tackle for loss, a sack, and a hit on Jake Browning. There is still a lot in that All-Pro tank.

CB Joey Porter Jr

Porter allowed Ja’Marr Chase to catch just two passes when he was the one in coverage against the dynamic receiver. He has yet to allow a receiver to top 40 yards receiving this season- a truly special talent.

K Chris Boswell

Right now, he may be the best kicker in football. He’s certainly having the best season. He went 3-of-3 on field goals, taking his season total now to 21-of-22, and he hasn’t missed an extra point yet this season. Boswell is as reliable as they come in the league right now.

Eddie Faulkner & Mike Sullivan

The new offensive coordinator and playcaller combination made it a point early on to show this offense was going to change, and credit to them for it. They immediately tested the middle of the field with a play action pass to Pat Freiermuth that gained 24, and they allowed the passing game to do that all day and be diverse. Plus, they broke the streak of 58 consecutive games without 400 yards of offense. Great job by Faulkner and Sullivan.

Junior-Varsity

RB Jaylen Warren

This is far from a panic button situation. Warren just came down to Earth a little bit against the Bengals. He fumbled when the Steelers were in position to score, and he couldn’t get much going on the ground. He’s still one of the best backs in the game right now, but we can all acknowledge that Sunday wasn’t his best performance.

WR Diontae Johnson

The dropped touchdown should have been challenged, but it’s no sure thing that it would have been overturned- Johnson needs to just hold onto the ball. Plus, the lack of effort on the Jaylen Warren fumble was inexcusable. Even then, though, he did have a 39 yard reception down the sideline. There were very few negatives from this game, if we’re completely honest, so highlighting what he did well feels important.