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9 winners, 4 losers after Steelers 13-10 win over Raiders

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The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the field on Saturday when they played the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16 of the regular season. The Steelers won the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player performed well or poorly.

Players who play well can be called ‘Winners’, while those who leave a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it’s at the heart of this exercise.

Let’s check who landed on which side of the book after the last game…

winners

George Pickens
Statistics line: 5 receptions, 57 yards, 11.4 average, 1 TD, 25 long, 5 targets

Steelers fans have been screaming from the rooftops to get Pickens more involved. Everyone has heard the responses to these statements. “He is a rookie, he needs time to develop.” Stuff like that. Well, outside of a game where he missed a few passes, the rookie has been one of the more constant forces in the Steelers’ offense. Performances like this aren’t going to end with people wanting more Pickens week after week. It was good to see him taking charge when passes were thrown his way.

Pat Freiermuth
Statistics line: 7 catches, 66 yards, 9.4 average, 0 TD, 17 long, 8 targets

It was Freiermuth who recommended that all Steelers wear No. 32 jerseys before and after the game, and the former Penn State tight end went out of his way to honor the late Penn State running back. Freiermuth had a pass through his hands that, while a little high, should have been caught. but otherwise he made up for it with some crucial conversion receptions in the second half. It was also great to see Freiermuth score 8 goals after failing to score one last week in Carolina.

Najee Harris
Statistics line: 16 carries, 53 yards, 3.3 average, 0 TD, 14 yards long / 6 receptions, 42 yards, 7.0 average, 0 TD, 19 long, 9 targets

The Steelers’ running game left a lot to be desired, but this was the type of game fans saw frequently in their rookie season. Not just running the football, but also using the receiving ability to move the football. In the second half it was Harris the receiver, not necessarily the runner, who made the difference to the offense. Moving the chains and setting up the attack was the theme, and he made all the difference to the attack when he needed it most.

Diontae Johnson
Statistics line: 5 catches, 64 yards, 12.8 average, 0 TD, 15 long, 7 targets

Johnson was red-hot in the first half but cooled down in the second, but his first half was something to behold. You could see the Raiders decide how they wanted to defend the Steelers receivers, and that was shadowing Pickens. That left Johnson with a 1-on-1 matchup, which he was winning handily. In the second half, adjustments created less space for Johnson and that opened things up for others. Those are the counter-adjustments you want to see on offense.

Kenny Pickett
Statistics line: 26/39, 244 yards, 6.3 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 81.6 rating

Some will regret putting Pickett on the winners’ list, but there are some games where playing your best when it matters most results in a pretty mundane performance. Pickett wasn’t perfect, far from it, but the final two-minute run was orchestrated in a way that will leave fans feeling better than they did about the rookie just a few quarters earlier. Pickett played well when it mattered most, and that’s what should matter most.

Cam Heyward
Statistics line: 7 tackles, 4 solo, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 pass defense, 2 QB hits

While the rest of the defense forgot to show up on the opening drive, Cam Heyward looked determined not to let Franco Harris’ night be ruined for the sake of defense. From the moment Heyward emerged from the tunnel waving the 32 flag, he was ready to put on a vintage performance. Heyward played nonstop, and the Steelers needed every play he provided.

pass rush
Statistics line: 3 sacks / 5 QB Hits

The Raiders don’t deliver many sacks, and the fact that the Steelers came home three times was tremendous. They’ll need that kind of production down the stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive, as well as their hopes of keeping Mike Tomlin’s undefeated season streak intact.

Timely Defense
Statistics line: 3 travel items

The conclusions were tremendous, but take a look at the stats below from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell. They speak for themselves…

Franco’s Victory
Statistics line: similarities galore

The thought of the Steelers not getting the win on Franco Harris night was as harrowing as it could be. Thankfully, the Steelers got back on their feet, just like the team did in 1972, and won the game. The similarities between the scores, etc. were crazy, but they made this game memorable for everyone involved.


Losers

3rd and long defense
Statistics line: LVR – 6 by 12

Allowing 50% for the opposition is far from perfect for the Steelers defense, but the 3rd and 16th, and other 3rds and longs were hard to watch. The Steelers defense used to hang their hat on putting the opposition 3rd and long situations. That’s when they did the most damage. Now, fans are wondering how they’re going to get away with the conversion. The defense straightened up a bit in the second half and those adjustments were welcome.

Chris Boswell
Statistics line: 2/4 FG, 1/1 XP

Kicking in sub-zero temperatures can’t be easy, and I still think Tomlin should have done it instead of going for a 52-yard field goal, but you expect the Pro Bowl kicker to do anything in the 40-yard range. In a premium points game, you cannot leave anything on the field.

fighting
Statistics line: Anyone covering Hunter Renfrow

It started with Tre Norwood mishandling Renfrow on his touchdown reception, but it continued throughout the game. It was cold, and maybe that was it, but the Steelers’ tackling certainly left a lot to be desired.

3rd down offense
Statistics line: 5 for 14

After the Steelers’ dominant 3rd down offense last week, they followed up with a subpar performance Saturday night against Las Vegas. However, the caveat here is how the team got the conversions when they needed it, and those would be the last two offensive possessions of the game.


If you want a more detailed look at the list above, check out my podcast “Let’s Ride” where I describe each Winner and Loser, and MORE!

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