Can anyone confirm what just happened, really happened? I’m stunned. Shocked. Emotionally drained.
But above all, incredibly happy.
Fitzgerald Toussaint/Jordan Todman: The running game was the question mark coming into today but boy, did they respond. Both ran hard, with decisiveness but vision, while Toussaint especially was sound in pass protection and made some big plays out of the backfield. His reception on 3rd and 2 on the final drive was a crucial play. Kudos to the offensive line for opening up some big holes, Alejandro Villanueva and David DeCastro immediately come to mind, but it’s kudos across the board. Couple of relative unknowns to use outsiders stepping up.
Jarvis Jones: The whipping boy of so many of us, including us on Depot from time to time, he made by far the biggest play of his career, dipping under Andrew Whitworth and stripping A.J. McCarron, stopping a Cincinnati Bengals’ drive. He’s been asked to drop a lot, chip tight ends, and hasn’t always gotten the rush opportunities, but he came up huge for a moment tonight.
Martavis Bryant: Challenge accepted. I know, I know. You’ve heard it 50 times already. You’ll hear it another 50. But wow, what a game. A 44 yard end around where he dodged several defenders. And of course, the grand daddy of them all. A re–donk-ulous ten yard touchdown grab, clutching the football to his butt and hanging on as he somersaulted into the end zone. Bryant has shown himself to be a tough player, able to overcome adversity, several times this year, and he did it again.
Ryan Shazier: How about another second year player having one of the best games of his career? The stat line itself is gaudy. 13 tackles, 2 TFL, a breakup, and two forced fumbles. That included the one at the end against Jeremy Hill, giving the Steelers one final chance that would capitalize on, winning the game.
Antwon Blake: A rare appearance on the winner’s list. Sure, his INT was as easy as it gets – a lame duck popup by McCarron in the rain. But he made the play, got a big return out of it, and didn’t allow any big plays, and should receive credit for helping neutralize A.J. Green for a large chunk of the game. Green’s catches didn’t come against Blake, either.
Bud Dupree: He’s been almost invisible the last month but came to play today. Didn’t record a sack but had several pressures and did an excellent job making an impact against the run. Found a little extra juice in the playoffs, like every player should.
Chris Boswell: Can’t forget about him. In a contest where touchdowns were scarce, Boswell was incredible. First season. First playoff game. On the road. In the rain. You’d have never known it with Boz. 4/4, including the game-winning 35 yarder. None were incredibly difficult kicks but when you factor in the circumstances, what he did – and has done all season – is nothing short of remarkable.
Joey Porter: I don’t know exactly how or why the heck he was in that huddle with the refs, but he was able to “draw” the penalty. That Porter grin he flashed should be hung up inside Heinz Field forever.
William Gay/Mike Mitchell: Putting these two in tandem because they shared a chunk of the blame for the blown coverages in Cover 2. Gay repeatedly failed to get a good jam while Mitchell couldn’t get on top of Green vertically. The biggest error came on the Bengals’ then-leading drive, leaving Green open and uncontested while Mitchell missed the tackle and Green stepped into the end zone.
Will Allen: Allen struggled as well. Terrible job filling the alley on Jeremy Hill’s 38 yard run. He also was called for pass interference on A.J. Green, leading to the Bengals’ first touchdown a couple plays later. Allen had his moments in the box, but in space, he struggles.
Shamarko Thomas: Feels like the entire secondary is going on here. It was just one play, and all things considered, doesn’t really matter, but to have a third catch interference call in one season is just unacceptable. Makes you sick.
Cody Wallace: Wallace was good for at least two penalties tonight and had some issues sticking to his blocks in the run game. A very parabola shaped season. Started poorly, got pretty good, and now regressing again.