The first play of the game showed us just what kind of game this contest would be as the ball went through the hands of a Cleveland receiver, into the hands of Minkah Fitzpatrick, out of the hands of Fitzpatrick, and was finally grabbed by OLB Alex Highsmith who returned it for a score. Don’t forget this was all possible to begin with because the Steelers lined up with Fitzpatrick as an outside cornerback and Highsmith covering the slot... nothing insane about that. Nothing at all.
That first play was just getting the ball rolling (and bouncing from team to team) in a game that continued to go bonkers for the entire 60 minutes to the point where Highsmith’s tip-drill pick-six may not have even been the craziest thing to happen this game.
Just look at all the other madness that took place on Monday night...
Kenny Pickett had a miserable game and still clearly outplayed one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.
For the second game in a row, Pickett looked completely lost and confused, but Steelers fans can take solace in the fact that at least we aren’t paying Pickett $230 million fully guaranteed to look like that.
Deshaun Watson may have read the field a bit better than Pickett, but he was just as frequently off-target, ended the day with fewer yards per attempt, and for some reason couldn’t keep from grabbing and twisting opponents’ facemasks at every opportunity. As infuriating as Pickett’s regression has been the past couple of games, consider how insane it must be to see that same level of struggling from a guy you completely mortgaged your future to acquire.
WR Gunner Olszewski proved once and for all that he’s a saboteur.
I really hope Olszewski’s injury is not too severe. I wouldn’t wish injury even on a guy who is clearly a mole planted by Bill Belichick to sabotage another team. A lot of fans already suspected Olszewski based on his repeated fumbles last season — two, precisely, in just two attempts (including one against the Patriots).
On Monday night, however, his toe-tapping catch on the kickoff to ensure that the Steelers would lose 30 yards in field position sent the message as clearly, as if he just showed up wearing a Patriots uniform. The fact that he managed to fumble again later in the game too was just icing on the cake. The amount of negative plays this guy has accumulated in so few touches is beyond impressive, it’s insane.
The good news: Great toe-tapping skills from— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 19, 2023
The bad news: Receiving a kickoff is not the time you want to show those skills off. pic.twitter.com/Ayygvyeszx
WR Calvin Austin made a difference with his physicality... somehow, with his 5’9, 162-pound frame.
A lot of people have been hoping Austin’s speed could generate some big plays for us, or at least open up some chain-moving catches underneath. Austin did have an impressive 14-yard punt return and clutch (combat) catch for a first down while blanketed by Denzel Ward. Arguably his biggest plays of the game, though, were in a capacity nobody would expect him to excel.
Austin’s downfield blocking was instrumental in Pickens’ 71-yard touchdown, and he turned into Najee Harris’ lead blocker on his 17-yard reverse field run. Sure, it’s not like Austin was pancaking people, but he was able to find the guys who needed to be blocked and get the job done, and any amount of blocking support from a guy who weighs all of 162 pounds is insane. Oh, and he also got the tackle after Kenny Pickett’s interception.
Steelers linebackers lead the team in scoring.
Remember when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were both chasing Roger Maris’ home run record the same year? That was crazy, but just imagine if they had been on the same team.
I know, it’s Week 2, and it’s way too early to talk seriously about either Watt or Highsmith chasing Watt’s single-season sack record this year, but after Monday’s performance, these guys look like they could do it. It is insane how good these guys are, and having that caliber of player threatening the quarterback from both sides works synergistically to make both of them better. Trying to figure out how to account for both of them is certainly going to drive opposing coaches crazy this year.
Pressley Harvin didn’t shank a critical punt.
In fact, he was pretty dang good. He wasn’t perfect, as he had two punts on the Browns side of the field go for touchbacks, but he planted four inside the Cleveland 10, including a booming 55-yarder and a 61-yard field flipper. He also had a nice hold on a bad snap, which brings up that Chris Boswell is also kind of insane. The Wizard of Boz appears to be back in form this year, drilling two 50+ field goals in a close game like it’s just another day at the office.
Mt. Washington disappeared.
Man, with a young quarterback under constant pressure who was struggling with accuracy, wouldn’t it be great if we had a receiver who was, like... 6’7 with hands like catcher’s mitts, who could be a security blanket type receiver for Pickett underneath? Man, if the Steelers only had a guy like that!
I know the reasons for not wanting to throw rookie TE Darnell Washington too quickly into the fire as a rookie, but for the second straight game, Pickett obviously could have used a giant mountain of a man five yards away to throw the ball to, and it’s not like that’s asking Washington to run advanced route combinations. It’s just crazy that with an ideal dump off target like that, Washington is still yet to see a single target through two games.
So, what was the wackiest part of week 2?
Whatever the craziest thing was, at the end of the day the Steelers pulled out a crazy victory, and regardless of how crazy it may have been it counts the same as a blowout win. In fact, a win against a divisional rival could end up mattering a lot when it comes down to playoff selection in seeding. The Steelers have a long way to go before they can feel confident that playoffs are in their future, but crazier things have happened...