The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Saturday when they played the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16 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: 5 catches, 57 yards, 11.4 average, 1 TD, 25 longs, 5 targets
Steelers fans have been screaming from the rooftops to get Pickens more involved. Everyone has heard the answers to those statements. “He is a rookie, needs time to develop.” Things like that. Well, outside of one game where he dropped a couple passes, the rookie has been one of the most steady forces on the Steelers’ offense. Performances like this won’t quell those people who want more picking on a week-in and week-out basis. It was good to see him taking charge when the passes were thrown his way.
Stat line: 7 catches, 66 yards, 9.4 average, 0 TD, 17 long, 8 targets
It was Freiermuth who recommended the Steelers all wear No. 32 jerseys both before and after the game, and the former Penn State tight end did his best to honor the late Penn State running back. Freiermuth did have a pass go through his hands which, although a little high, should have been caught. but other than that he made up for it with some crucial conversion receptions in the second half. It was also great to see Freiermuth get 8 targets, this after not getting one last week in Carolina.
Stat line: 16 carries, 53 yards, 3.3 average, 0 TD, 14 yard long / 6 catches, 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 his rookie season. Not just running the football, but also using receiving ability to move the football. In the second it was Harris the receiver, not necessarily the runner, who was the difference maker for the offense. Moving the chains, and setting up the offense was the theme, and it made all the difference for the offense when it needed it the most.
Stat line: 5 catches, 64 yards, 12.8 average, 0 TD, 15 long, 7 targets
Johnson was red hot in the first half, but cooled in the second, but his first half was something to see. You could see the Raiders decide how they wanted to defend the Steelers’ receivers, and that was by shading towards Pickens. This left Johnson with a 1-on-1 matchup, which he was winning easily. In the second half adjustments created less space for Johnson, and that opened up things for others. Those are the counter-adjustments you want to see from the offense.
Stat line: 26/39, 244 yards, 6.3 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 81.6 rating
Some will be moan putting Pickett on the winners list, but there are some games where playing the best when it matters the most out does a rather mundane performance. Pickett wasn’t perfect, far from it, but the final two-minute drive was orchestrated in a way which will leave fans feeling better than they felt about the rookie just a few quarters before. Pickett played well when it mattered most, and that is what should matter most.
Stat 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 seemed determined to not let Franco Harris’ night be ruined because of the defense. From the moment Heyward came out of the tunnel waiving the 32 flag, he was ready to go and put together a vintage performance. Heyward played lights out, and the Steelers needed every play he provided.
Stat line: 3 sacks / 5 QB hits
The Raiders don’t surrender a lot of sacks, and the fact the Steelers got home three times was tremendous. They’ll need this type of production down the stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive, as well as the hopes of keeping Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak in tact.
Stat line: 3 takeaways
The takeaways were tremendous, but take a look at the stats below from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell. They speak for themselves…
Raiders went 72 yards for a TD on the opening drive. Here’s what they did after:
14 yds (point)
12 yards (point)
53 yards (FG)
0 yards (INT)
20 yards (INT)
12 yards (point)
13 yds (point)
5 yards (point)
0 yards (INT)
Can’t even say that they’re missing Renfrow + Waller anymore.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 25, 2022
Winning For Franco
Stat line: Similarities galore
The thought of the Steelers not pulling out the win on Franco Harris’ night was about as gut-wrenching as it could be. Thankfully, the Steelers rose up, just like the team did in 1972, and won the game. The similarities between the scores, etc. were crazy, but made this a very memorable game for everyone involved.
3rd and Long Defense
Stat line: LVR – 6-for-12
Allowing 50% for the opposition is far from perfect for the Steelers defense, but the 3rd and 16, and other 3rd and longs were tough to watch. The Steelers’ defense used to hang their hat on putting the opposition in 3rd and long situations. It was when they did the most damage. Now, fans are wondering how they are going to give up the conversion. The defense got straightened out a bit in the second half, and those adjustments were welcomed.
Stat line: 2/4 FG, 1/1 XP
Kicking in sub-zero temperatures can’t be easy, and I still think Tomlin should have gone for it instead of trying a 52-yard field goal, but you expect the Pro Bowl kicker to make anything from the 40-yard range. In a game with points at a premium, you can’t afford to leave anything on the field.
Stat line: Anyone covering Hunter Renfrow
It started with Tre Norwood misplaying Renfrow on his touchdown reception, but 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
Stat line: 5 for 14
After the Steelers’ dominant 3rd down offense last week, they followed it up with a sub-par performance on Saturday night vs. Las Vegas. However, the caveat here is how the team got the conversions when they needed it, and that would be the last two offensive possessions of the game.
If you want a more detailed look at the above list, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast where I outline each Winner and Loser, and MORE!
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