Much happier atmosphere around here today, wouldn’t you say?
Antonio Brown: You can probably already rattle off this impressive list. Nine catches, 195 yards, one touchdown, and a two-point conversion. Brown was uncoverable whether we’re talking sitting down in the soft spot in zone coverage, absorbing big hits from Eric Reid, or playing in straight man coverage, the San Francisco 49ers simply had no answer. It’s getting increasingly difficult to argue Brown isn’t the best receiver in the league, even though he’s giving up five inches and 30 pounds to the names that surround him.
Ben Roethlisberger: Hard to have one without the other. Roethlisberger was nothing short of exceptional, completing 77.8% of his passes while tossing three touchdowns. He got the big play going time and time again, trusting his receivers to make plays downfield. And honestly, showed a couple of the prettiest deep balls he’s thrown in awhile. No turnovers, no bad decisions. Flawless victory.
Ryan Shazier: He ended things on a sour note after suffering a shoulder injury but it seemed minor. His play on the field was major. 15 tackles, the most in a long time I’d bet, and three tackles for a loss, with a fourth nullified by a 49ers’ clipping penalty. He was an equalizer for Colin Kaepernick in the open field and disrupted their blocking scheme on any lateral run. Maybe a coming out party for the second-year player.
DeAngelo Williams: Tying a franchise record for rushing touchdowns will get you on here. It wasn’t flashy but Williams busted off a couple nice runs and converted in the red zone, where the Steelers’ repeatedly failed last week. This is Le’Veon Bell’s running game but you can bet Williams will see playing time. Bell won’t play the absurd 95%+ snaps he saw down the stretch last year.
Interior Defensive Line: Talking to you Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. San Francisco’s guards couldn’t control the line of scrimmage and struggled to stick in pass protection. They combined for 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and three QB hits. They dominated in the way Steelers’ fans knew they were able of.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Gotta show DHB a little love. His 77 yards receiving were his most in a game since 2012. He did his damage early, not catching a pass in the second half, but provided an explosive 41 touchdown, getting full extension and making the grab, showing surprisingly soft hands.
Jordan Berry: He out-Aussied Jarryd Hayne. The Steelers’ offense ensured Berry didn’t have to do much but his 62 yard punt out of his end zone was a well-timed field-flipper. He’s having a nice start to his NFL career.
Pass Protection: Almost forgot these guys. That’s when you know they played well. Kept #7 clean, not giving up a sack the entire day. Ben was barely touched. Against a 49ers’ defense that can get exotic, there were no free rushers or protection breakdowns. Kudos all around.
Keep in mind there aren’t many here. Hardly any true “bad” performances today.
Josh Scobee: Scobee might be the only one close to that. He did only make one mistake, clanking an extra point off the left upright, but that would mark his third missed field goal in two weeks. Kickers are fickle and it’s fair to wonder if leaving the comfort of Jacksonville, where he’d been his entire career, is messing with him. Feels tougher to trust him than when before the season started.
Will Allen: It’s tough to blame him but he showed a lack of athleticism trying to chase down Torrey Smith on his 75 yard touchdown. I thought overall, Allen did well, but the big play allowed will be the most memorable event.
Steve McLendon: McLendon did some nice things when the ball was snapped but was called for two offsides today. Pre-snap penalties will make coaches pull their hair out and McLendon did them no favors.