Offensive players not named Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell, Stock down
Pittsburgh managed to score just a single offense touchdown against Cleveland, a team that had allowed 25 or more points in 11 consecutive games prior to Sunday’s contest. Pittsburgh opened Sunday’s game by orchestrating a pair of 16-play, nine-plus minutes drives that both ended in Chris Boswell field goals. The Steelers probably should have taken a third field goal to end the half, but ultimately decided to run an offensive play on an untimed down after Joe Haden fouled Brown in the end zone. By the good graces of the football gods (who, in fairness, probably just hate Cleveland), the Steelers took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
Now, the fact that Pittsburgh ran an offensive play instead of taking an easy field goal isn’t a huge issue in and of itself. The problem with that particular situation is the fact that the ultra-aggressive playcall to end the half did not fit the narrative for the rest of the game. Ben Roethlisberger attempted 36 passes and finished Sunday’s game with only 167 yards. Of Roethlisberger’s 23 completions, only seven went to guys not named Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell, and very few of his attempts traveled 10 or more yards in the air.
In fairness to Roethlisberger, Todd Haley’s game plan appeared to be totally Bell-centric from the onset; Bell’s 36 touches (28 rushing attempts, eight catches) were a career high, and he ended the game with 201 total yards, which is just eight fewer than Cleveland’s entire offense generated on Sunday. The weather certainly was a major factor, so hopefully Pittsburgh’s offense ups the ante a bit this Thursday in Indianapolis’ cozy indoor stadium.
Le’Veon Bell, Stock up
Le’Veon Bell is the best offensive weapon in the NFL by a pretty considerable margin. His statistics from Sunday’s game speak for themselves, but it was interesting to see how easily Pittsburgh’s front seven repeatedly blew through Cleveland’s halfbacks. Bell routinely picks up those blocks, which further underscores the immense value that he provides to the Steelers. So, as I’ve said numerous times (and will continue to say), the Steelers front office would be wise to extend Bell’s contract this offseason.
Pittsburgh’s front seven, Stock up
Yeah, it was against Cleveland, but Pittsburgh’s front seven sacked Cody Kessler and Josh McCown eight times, which is more than half as many as Pittsburgh’s entire sack total for the season. Eight sacks gets you into the stock up column. Aside from future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, Cleveland’s offensive line is an extremely weak unit (ranked 31st and 32nd in sacks allowed and quarterback hits, respectively), Pittsburgh’s ability to bully a clearly inferior counterpart is a good sign moving forward.
In Cameron Heyward’s absence, Stephon Tuitt had a monster game. He will need a few more of those performances if the Steelers hope to keep pace in, and ultimately win, the AFC North.
Coaching, Stock up
Pittsburgh’s offensive game plan was as ugly as they come, but it earned them a much-needed win. The red zone issues are concerning (scored just a single touchdown in four attempts), especially against a team like Cleveland, so that’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Given Cleveland’s horrendous offensive line play this season, Keith Butler did well calling a blitz-heavy game for the defense. I don’t foresee any major shakeups this offseason, but if anyone is coaching for their jobs, its Butler.
Overall, Stock up
By snapping a four-game losing streak, Pittsburgh’s stock is trending upwards, but they must play much better this Thursday if they hope to defeat the Indianapolis Colts, who are now 5-5 after an 0-3 start to the season.
I would’ve liked to see some of Pittsburgh’s ancillary pieces step up against a lowly Cleveland team, but it’s tough to be too critical of any of those guys given the conservative nature of Pittsburgh’s offensive game plan. Defensively, I thought Tuitt, Ryan Shazier and Artie Burns played exceptional games.
With Baltimore now 5-5 after a road loss to Dallas, the Steelers are in a good position to make a late season run by virtue of their incredibly easy schedule.