9 Winners and 7 Losers after the Steelers win over the Browns
The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Monday for the second game of the 2023 regular season when they played the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of regular season action. The Steelers were winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good or bad performance.
Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.
Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after the latest game…
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 FR, 1 QB Hit, 1 TFL
Larry O is not 100% healthy, but in the first half you got a glimpse of what a healthy Larry O can bring to the Steelers defense. He was dominant in the middle, and played as if his job depended on it. A tremendous performance for a player who needed to step up in a big way in the absence of Cam Heyward who went on Injured Reserve (IR) earlier this week. Now if only Ogunjobi could get to 100% and stay there…
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 FR, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 4 QB Hits, 1 TD
The new all-time Steelers sack leader does what he always does…makes plays to win games. What else is there to say about Watt which hasn’t already been said? The dude is a winner in every way possible.
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 5 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 2 QB Hits, 1 INT, 1 TD
The Steelers needed a big game from their bookend pass rushers, and they got just that with Watt and Highsmith. Highsmith’s performance, which included the opening score on the first play from scrimmage, was a memorable performance for a man who was paid handsomely this offseason. Highsmith and Watt…the NFL’s nastiest pass rushing duo.
Stat Line: 4 rec., 127 yards, 31.8 ave., 1 TD, 71 yard long, 10 targets
On a night where not much went right on the offensive side of the ball, George Pickens did his thing. 127 yards and a TD were what many wanted to see. Not Diontae Johnson? No problem for Pickens. The question was never Pickens, but the quarterback and coordinator who are working with him. Pickens is a stud, just like we all knew he was.
Stat Line: 4 total (+2 in differential)
The Steelers needed every one of their takeaways they got vs. the Browns in prime time, but they should have had at least 5 on the night, looking at you Mr. Wallace. Nonetheless, the Steelers are proving they are more than capable of taking the ball away, and with this offense they’ll need to keep that trend going.
Stat Line: 7 punts, 45.7 ave., 2 touchbacks, 4 inside the 20, 61 long
The Steelers brought in Brad Wing for a workout this week. Was Tomlin sending a message? It doesn’t matter either way because Harvin had a career night punting the ball. And let’s not forget the hold he had on Boswell’s second field goal. Poor snap, great hold. Big Press had himself a night.
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 3 solo, 1 TFL, 1 FF
Both of the Steelers inside linebackers led the Steelers in tackles, the way it should be. Was it perfect? No. Was it better? Absolutely. Holcomb looks like he is starting to come into his own in the middle of the defense, and that’s a great sign for the defense as a whole. It was cool to see Holcomb force the fumble on David Njoku and get the praise for it.
Stat Line: 9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 TFL
Holcomb might be “steady Eddy” for the Steelers defense, but Kwon is the energy. Elandon Roberts has his role, but Alexander is the guy who is bringing it every time he steps on the field. I thought it was a great signing when it happened, and after seeing it now for a couple games, I like it even more.
Stat Line: 2/2 FGs (52, 50), 2/2 XP
When it comes to special teams, just make the routine plays when they come your way. Boswell was good from 50+ twice, and that’s what you want to see from a kicker who had an off season in 2022.
Stat Line: Too many missed to count
Missed tackles aren’t an official stat in the NFL, but how many times did fans see a Browns run look as if it was bottled up, only to see 3-4 missed tackles spring the back for a big play? Too many…tackling was definitely a loser.
Stat Line: Bone-headed special teams play
Sometimes I have to remind myself Gunner was an All-Pro return man in New England. His play along the sideline to toe-tap himself in bounds was about as bone-headed as it can get. Throw in the fumble and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Steelers to cut ties with the veteran wide receiver/specialist.
Stat Line: I’m without words…but not really
I try really hard not to blame coaches for players missteps or missed plays, but after years of Canada I feel as if there is nothing else to be said other than the coordinator just lacks some of the basic knowledge and insight to really help the offense grow. Two plays come to mind in particular, the Calvin Austin III gadget play and the Kenny Pickett run on 3rd and short. Both made absolutely no sense to run them when they did. Some will wonder where Pickett is on this list, but for me I’m putting a lot of the onus on Canada. Pickett was awful as well, but you have to wonder how much of the issues are the coaching.
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 5 solo, missed opportunities
Another week, another week Wallace finds himself on the wrong side of the ledger. Wallace had some really bad run fits, missed tackles, and missed opportunities. It has been two games where it seemingly can’t go right for the veteran cornerback. I’m not suggesting the Steelers cut him, or even bench him, but it’s time to start seeing more Joey Porter Jr. and having Levi Wallace come in only in certain situations.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 4-for-14
I always shoot for 50%, but this number fell well short of that mark. It’s no secret the Steelers offense struggles in this situation, regardless of distance to-go.
Stat Line: They never got there
You might be thinking, “Red-zone, trying to think what went wrong there last night…” Well, nothing went wrong because they never got there. Four quarters of football, not one snap in the red-zone. I’ll just stop there.
Stat Line: Almost looked like the body bag game
The injury to Nick Chubb, Minkah Fitzpatrick being evaluated in the hospital for a chest injury. Injuries like this are awful. On top of that, when you consider how many players got banged up in this game, it reminded me of the “body bag” game at one point. Injuries always suck, no matter which team suffers them.
If you want a more detailed look at the above list, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast in the player below where I outline each Winner and Loser, and MORE!