What a game it was for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16 at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday, and the post-game talk was about the usual cast of characters.
James Harrison’s consistent play, Antonio Brown with several key receptions, Le’Veon Bell’s big night and Ben Roethlisberger’s off-and-on style of play.
But what about those players who had a tremendous game, but simply aren’t getting the credit they deserve? This is where the unheralded players article comes in. We shine the light on several players who made a difference, but won’t be getting the ink compared to those other big-named players.
Time to give credit where credit is due...
TE Jesse James
While Ladarius Green continues to be out of the lineup with a concussion, many fans were concerned with the tight end position heading into the Chiefs game. I think it is safe to say James silenced most of those concerns with his play Sunday night. James’ 5 catches for 83 yards, which was the second leading receiver on the night, helped the Steelers move the ball as the Chiefs seemed to literally forget about James on several occasions. His 16.6 yards per reception stat line was more than enough production for the Steelers at the tight end position.
ILB Ryan Shazier
Hard to suggest Shazier would be an unheralded player, after all, he is the captain of the defense. But Shazier’s play wasn’t overly flashy, but consistent. Shazier had 5 tackles, and all of them were solo tackles. He had a pass defense, and intercepted the deflected Alex Smith pass, his fourth in the past four games. What was more impressive, in my opinion, was how controlled Shazier was on the field. You didn’t see Shazier shooting through the gap, and missing a tackle. He played fast, played smart and played a controlled brand of football. All good signs for the Steelers moving into the AFC Championship game.
OLB Bud Dupree
If you were one of the fans who didn’t expect much from Dupree when he came off the injured reserve list, you wouldn’t be alone. No one saw Dupree jumping onto the “moving train” and being the difference maker he has been during the team’s 9-game winning streak. Dupree’s play on Sunday night was tremendous. 4 tackles, all solo tackles, 1 pass defense and a quarterback hit which resulted in the Shazier interception. Dupree has shown the explosion which had fans drooling when he came out of Kentucky, and they are starting to finally see Dupree develop into the rock at the left outside linebacker position.
OT Marcus Gilbert / OT Alejandro Villanueva
The book end tackles along the Steelers offensive line have been nothing but amazing during this winning streak. Villanueva exorcised some personal demons at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night. It was there he had his first start in 2015, with Landry Jones at quarterback, and Tamba Hali beat him with a speed move to cause a fumble, and ultimately decided the contest. Hali’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the game, and he registered just one tackle, no sacks and no quarterback hits. When it comes to the stat line, the same can be said with Justin Houston on the opposite side. Gilbert has shut down Houston before, but he did so again on Sunday night, and his performance throughout this stretch run has been tremendous. When your offensive tackles aren’t being talked about...that is a good thing.
ST Coach Danny Smith
I realize Smith isn’t a player, but he deserves some credit. Smith is Steeler Nation’s favorite punching bag, and faced with the challenging task of stopping the league’s most dynamic returner, and a solid special teams unit in Kansas City, Smith’s group did a fine job. Other than the first kickoff for the Steelers, a poorly timed squib kick which gave Kansas City tremendous field position, Smith’s units performed well. Jordan Berry only had to punt the ball once, Chris Boswell went 6/6, and the kickoff unit pinned the Chiefs deep in their end every time they attempted to take the ball out of the endzone. The return units are still sketchy, but at this point in the season it is what it is. In a game where special teams could lose the game, they didn’t allow that to happen. Kudos to Smith and the boys.