The 2016-2017 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers keeps finding ways to win. Winners of nine in a row, the Steelers are headed to the AFC Championship game after beating the Chiefs at Arrowhead 18-16. Let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly from that game.
- For the first time this season, I’m leading off with Special Teams. They were (other than one squib kick and questionable backpedal by Justin Gilbert) pretty darn special on Sunday night. Chris Boswell scored all 18 of the Steelers’ points, going 6-6 on field goals. Return coverage units played the best I’ve seen them all season. Vince Williams looked possessed and he set the tone with a brutal hit on Tyreek Hill during a return .
- The linebackers are playing at a very high level. James Harrison is not beating father time. He’s aging like a top shelf single malt scotch. He’s refined but he can still hurt you. Five tackles and a sack, plus the speed and finesse on the two point conversion attempt that drew the holding call on Eric Fisher. Bud Dupree continues to grow and create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Ryan Shazier added another interception to his growing list of big plays—thanks to the disruption by Dupree.
- Le’Veon Bell ran for 170 yards, thanks to the stellar play of his offensive line, and probably should have had at least one rushing touchdown, but I’ll get to that later. The Steelers’ front office needs to lock this guy up when the time comes for contract negotiations.
- Antonio Brown made the biggest catch of the day on third down to enable the Steelers to take a couple knees and run out the clock. Brown finished with six catches for 108 yards. Brown is another guy the team needs to lock up with a long term deal.
- Jesse James is another young player who seems to grow every week. He’s become a reliable outlet for Roethlisberger, always fighting for extra yards. His development as regular option couldn’t come at a better time as the future of Ladarius Green is pretty murky. James was the second leading receiver against Kansas City, catching five balls for 83 yards.
- Red zone offense was terrible on Sunday. There is a litany of head-scratching moments in regards to why the Steelers couldn’t convert to touchdowns in this area. If your stud running back is averaging better than five yards per carry, why are you throwing the ball from the five yard line? I kept waiting for Nix and Bell to head towards one corner of the end zone much like the play that had such success against another bad run defense, the Buffalo Bills. It never happened.
- The officiating was inconsistent at best. I’ve seen the comments elsewhere about the hold called on Fisher for the two point conversion. I’ve also watched that play at least a dozen times. If that’s not holding, nothing is. Could that same infraction have been called a handful of other times throughout the game? Yes, I’m sure it could. There were multiple holding or pass interference calls on both secondaries that did not get called. There was an obvious grab of Eli Rogers’ face-mask where a pass interference call was negated by a tipped pass, among others.
A win is a win no matter how they get there. This was not one of the Steelers’ prettier victories, but a handful of great plays helped get the win. Kudos to Boswell and Bell, Ben and Brown, Bud Dupree, Sean Davis, special teams coverage unit and the man affectionately known as “Deebo” for their efforts on Sunday. There are many more names and plays from Sunday that I could list, but I’ll let that play out in the comments. Now it’s on to New England and a whole other laundry list of things to be ready for.