The Pittsburgh Steelers won their third game in a row in improbable fashion in Week 15. Overcoming a 17-point deficit to the Denver Broncos, the Steelers showed a lack of play making in the first half, and an unparalleled dominance in the second half.
Looking back at the game, along with some help from our friends at Pro Football Focus, we take an analytical view of the game to break down what went right, and what went wrong.
The Broncos brought the house on more than one occasion, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times. Cody Wallace and David DeCastro each surrendered one, while Alejandro Villanueva allowed two. All five linemen gave up at least two pressures. Nonetheless, the line did enough to allow Roethlisberger to throw for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns in the contest.
Antonio Brown's 16 catches came on 17 targets. He primarily victimized Chris Harris, who allowed 14 of those catches, 164 yards, and both touchdowns.
Despite throwing 52 aimed passes, Roethlisberger targeted only five different receivers. Behind Antonio Brown were Martavis Bryant (14) and Markus Wheaton (11) as the next most targeted Steelers. It seems as if Roethlisberger is finding a true rhythm with his receivers as the regular season comes to a close.
The Steelers running game has seen better days, but it didn't stop the team from moving the football and putting points on the board. DeAngelo Williams gained just nine yards before contact on 14 rushes, and finished the day with just one missed tackle forced.
The Steelers defense didn't make as many halftime adjustments as many thought, but one thing they did better was get after the passer. Stephon Tuitt led the charge as he set a career high with six pressures, and he led the team with four defensive stops.
For the Brandon Boykin fan club, this will be a tough pill to swallow. Despite playing 35 snaps in coverage, Brandon Boykin only allowed a solitary seven yard reception while breaking up the only other pass thrown his way.
Not to be outdone by his the bookend defensive end/tackle, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward had himself a fine evening this past Sunday. Heyward (+4.3) had a strong game, notching a sack and four additional hurries along with solid work in the run game.
As great as Heyward was, the grading for other defenders wasn't as impressive. One to note was rookie Bud Dupree who graded at a -5.3. Some might contribute this to the fact he has never played a 14-game season in his life, and many rookies experience the "Rookie Wall" when they reach the end of the regular season.