Winners and losers of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-18 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.
Larry Ogunjobi- Along with missing most of the Bills’ game with a back injury, Ogunjobi grew strong and settled into his final weeks as a Steeler. He was a force today, constantly in the backfield and pressing Tom Brady. His bump move is sparse but effective and he pulls gaps and stood up well.
Cam Heyward– Heyward played as usual, dominating today. Not that he was bad last month, but pass rush production had plummeted. Facing a rookie left guard, Heyward’s bull rush was winning 1-on-1 matchups and he was regularly collapsing the pocket. It’s critical against Tom Brady.
He finished the day with two QB hits after having zero in Weeks 2-5.
Jacques Pierre – The Pittsburgh secondary had to step up today to win this one. And for the most part, they held on. Pierre was the most impressive. Struggling to find his role since entering the league, he was competitive and combative at the point of capture, breaking the ball and making plays on possessions.
Red Zone Defense – Bend but don’t break. That was the Steelers motto today. Tampa Bay started 0-3 in the red zone with Pittsburgh winning on possession tries. The Bucs finished the day 1-4. It’s one of the biggest keys and stories in today’s game. Huge defensive stands and huge credit to a defense that came into this one injured and out counted (myself included).
Myles Jack/Terrell Edmunds – Two defensive players who had solid games. Jack had a crucial pass that nullified an eventual Cameron Brate TD and had a key third tackle in the second half. Edmunds’ return was needed with so many defensive starters absent. He wasn’t splashy, never is, but his run defense and ability to fill in and tackle were solid against a heavily loaded Bucs team.
Steven Sims– The Sims are desperate for big-play ability today with an 89-yard return, missing a few players with a 24-yard punt return later in the third quarter. Splash plays this necessary team with an attack that still struggles. I didn’t like him running back the only back, but the Sims still played well. He should have his back seat locked.
Wide receivers on third down – After struggling with possession in last Sunday’s resounding loss, the guys stepped up today. It wasn’t perfect, Pittsburgh still needs to be better at third overall, but Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens all made plays to move the sticks. Claypool was particularly successful in the second half with three long conversions the 3rd and 15th and 3rd and 16th and 3rd and 11th. Claypool was incredibly clutch today and a big winner. Encouraging to see.
Mitch Trubisky– I have to give him a lot of credit. Replacing Kenny Pickett, victim of a concussion, Trubisky took over. He commanded the attack, pushed the ball down and made big plays in third and long. That’s why Mike Tomlin didn’t try to bury him after benching him. He was still a snap away from great need and came in big Sunday.
Kevin Dotson – Tough for Dotson who was an error machine today. Two penalties in the first half, a false start in the 3rd and 6th in the red zone, and later flagged for waiting. He may also have been late on the field for Chris Boswell’s 55-yard field goal, forcing the Steelers to lose a timeout. Dotson was then flagged for nullifying Kenny Pickett’s long completion to WR Diontae Johnson, which resulted in Pickett’s injury. Dotson was beaten to the edge from the next snap. Probably the worst game of his career.
Unscripted Offense – Similar story to last week. Props to a good opening storyline, Pittsburgh finally found the end zone on an opening possession since Week 10 last year. But from there it was a dud. An offense that averages less than two yards per play the rest of the half. Settling for a field goal after Steven Sims’ 89-yard return. Just a ton of missed opportunities.
Tempo has been a positive development, using it in key moments like Connor Heyward’s 45-yard gain, but this offense continues to struggle overall.
Negligence of special teams – Two offsides on field goal attempts. Two miserable kickbacks until Pittsburgh pulled off Sims’ long kickback, with the Steelers trying to build an outside wall for Sims to cross. The aforementioned timeout was necessary to get the right staff on Boswell’s long goal. Pittsburgh two long comebacks and I’m sure I’m not ignoring it, but there’s a lot to clean up. Lots of annoying things that hurt this team. The players have to do their job, but the blame also lies with Danny Smith.
Robert Spillane – I’m still trying to figure out what Robert Spillane’s role is. Still no answer. He’s not a good dime linebacker, doesn’t make a lot of plays against the run, and got crushed by power half Leonard Fournette on his TD late in the fourth quarter. He’s played a lot in three-linebacker packages, but it’s Anthony Chickillo. Quality special team, star of the camp, it does not translate.