The Pittsburgh Steelers continued to distance themselves from a blowout Week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles by cruising to a 31-13 victory over an underachieving New York Jets team on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger paced the Steelers with 380 passing yards and four touchdowns while Le'Veon Bell gained 154 all-purpose yards on 29 touches, including a career-high nine receptions.
Sammie Coates, meanwhile, pushed his streak of consecutive games with a 40-yard catch to five. However, the prolific second-year receiver dropped at least four catchable passes, including two likely touchdowns.
Despite Coates' inconsistency, it is clear that he has emerged as the clear No. 2 in Pittsburgh's receiving hierarchy. In fact, Coates was tied with Bell and All-Pro Antonio Brown (who had 78 yards and a touchdown on nine catches) with 11 targets, so he has clearly distinguished himself as a valuable component of Pittsburgh's offense.
Coates' drops will obviously be addressed in Pittsburgh's team meetings and practices throughout the week, but the fact that he caught a late, game-sealing touchdown in traffic likely allowed him to regain some confidence.
Let's see how everyone else stacked up:
The secondary - Inconclusive
Yeah, this is a bit of a cop out. Honestly, I'll let you guys draw your own conclusions. It's easy to be a little frustrated with Ross Cockrell's performance against Brandon Marshall, especially after how well he did against Bengals WR A.J. Green in Week 3. In addition to catching eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, Marshall forced Cockrell to commit a pair of defensive penalties. However, Cockrell performed much better in the second half (or, more accurately, the Steelers adjusted their scheme), as he held Marshall to just two catches for 31 yards. Aside from Cockrell, none of Pittsburgh's defensive backs have yet to intercept a pass, and hard-hitting safety Mike Mitchell continues to toe the line between tough and stupid.
And yet, Pittsburgh held Ryan Fitzpatrick to just six passing yards per attempt and allowed just two Jets first downs on 11 attempts. It may be annoying to see opposing receivers catch so many passes, but wins are wins; I just question if it's sustainable.
Bookend tackles - Stock up
Alejandro Villanueva was always going to be the de facto weak link of Pittsburgh's offensive line, so I think it's safe to say that the former Army Ranger has probably exceeded expectations so far this season. Villanueva is usually good for one holding penalty or false start per game, but he's been generally solid and has done a good job to keep Roethlisberger's jersey clean. On the other side, Chris Hubbard, who was playing in place of injured Marcus Gilbert, created some pretty good running lanes for Bell. The Jets are 1-4, but their defensive line is the best in the NFL. Holding Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson to just one sack is a praiseworthy achievement.
The offense - Stock way, way up
You kinda just have to lump everyone together here. At this point, Roethlisberger is one of the front-runners for the MVP award, while Bell might be the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFL. In a game in which he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, Bell managed to make his mark as a receiver by gaining 10 more yards than the best receiver in the league. On Jesse James' touchdown (James has three touchdowns in five games this season, which is also worth mentioning), three Jets defenders chased Bell as he trailed off into the flat, which left James as wide open as you will ever see a receiver in the end zone. There are very few position players in the NFL who make their teammates tangibly better football players; Bell is certainly among them.
For those of you on the "let Bell walk in free agency" bandwagon; I implore you to reconsider your stance.
Other than Bell, the offensive line was awesome, Ben was awesome, and the receivers were awesome.
I can't take credit for this, so thanks to D.J. Gallo for pointing this out:
Through 5 games the Steelers have a +46 points differential and they lost one game by 31 points.— DJ Gallo (@DJGalloEtc) October 9, 2016
Vince Williams, Stock up
Vince gets his own category this week. After leading all defenders with 14 solo tackles in a win over Kansas City last week, the former sixth-round pick repeated that feat by racking up a game-high eight solo tackles. Williams also tacked on his second sack in as many weeks for good measure. Williams is a legitimately talented sideline-to-sideline linebacker, and he may force the Steelers to shy away from offering Lawrence Timmons a contract extension next March.
Overall, Stock even
Pittsburgh's stock can't really go any higher after their performance last week against Kansas City. By making easy work of the Jets (who are more talented than their record indicates), the Steelers have simply maintained their hot streak. They will look to keep this streak going next week when they travel to Miami to face a Dolphins team that is every bit as bad as they look.
In Week 7, Pittsburgh will host the New England Patriots. So, does the Week 6 contest against the Dolphins qualify as a trap game?
Yes, yes it does.