Sorry it had to end this way, Steelers’ Nation. Not a fun feeling. But what a crazy season. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Stephon Tuitt: Hard to pin this loss on the defense. Tuitt was a large part of that, dominating yet again today. He forced Peyton Manning to move in the pocket and did a tremendous job at the POA against the run, stuffing one player after another. The knee injury aside, Tuitt had a fantastic season for a guy who is still only in his second year. He and Cameron Heyward will make up one of, if not the, best 3-4 tandem in the NFL next year and for years to come.
Outside Linebackers: Really gotta tip my hat across the board. Losing Arthur Moats so early put extra stress, and snaps, on James Harrison, Bud Dupree, and Jarvis Jones. But all three responded well. Jones showed incredible hustle to bring down on a C.J. Anderson 34 yard run, maybe saving a TD. Harrison was a monster against the run, too, while Dupree held his own playing a high volume of snaps in the difficult Denver elevation. Thought all three did a fine job. Pressure wasn’t great, but not invisible, and it’s hard to get to Peyton Manning.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: DHB is a favorite over here and his play elevated to that today. Sure, he took advantage of a blown coverage, but his blocking in the run game, as a jammer on punts, and making a heady play to recover a Markus Wheaton fumble were all equally important. He showed why he’s so valuable and welcomed addition to this team, riddled with superstars.
Sammie Coates: Not a bad way to perform in your first real game action. It wasn’t perfect for Coates, and I bet there are detail things he missed that will show up on the All-22, but he provided two explosive plays. Catches of 37 and 24. Showed good run after. That’s an encouraging building block heading into the offseason.
Martavis Bryant: He had an early, ugly drop. No denying that. But everything after was rosy. Nine catches for 154 yards and a 40 yard end around. His athleticism for a guy of that size is incredible. Few guys in the league have ever had it to this extent.
Markus Wheaton: He did some nice things as a receiver but there was just too much ugly in a game where all the receivers were asked to step up. Wheaton was the only one who didn’t really respond well. He lost out on a 50/50 ball on the Steelers’ first drive, a 4th and 1 deep shot in the end zone. And he did his best Jacoby Jones routine, struggling to field at least two punts while letting some others bounce. He is new to the position and I get it’s a difficult spot. But I wasn’t looking for any 80 yard returns. Just ball security and good decisions. That’s what Mike Tomlin cares about most. And Wheaton failed by any metric you want to use.
Fitzgerald Toussaint: I feel for the kid. This one is going to have to sit with him for a long time. Six months until camp. He didn’t play terrible but when your fumble is responsible for the opposition’s game-winning touchdown, you’re going on this list. He’ll bounce back, and the loss is not all on him, but the Steelers lost the turnover battle. And he was the reason why.
Jordan Berry: To be fair, there was an apparent injury he suffered on his first punt trying to tackle Omar Bolden. I have no clue what it was and if/how much it affected him. But Berry struggled mightily today and some wind isn’t a good enough excuse. Special teams’ expert Chuck Zodda noted the issue wasn’t even just the weather but Berry’s technique on his drop. He did get off a 52 yard boomer but his touchback later was a killer. And only second of the year. Awful timing
Will Allen: Same story with Allen, who would leave the game with an injury. Struggled to tackle, missing at least 2 or 3. Have to wonder if this is his last season.
Third Down Offense: 2/12 on the day isn’t going to cut it, the Steelers reverting back to mid-season struggles. Hard to win games when you’re that inefficient, stalling drives, settling for punts and field goals.
Marcus Gilbert: He was called for a facemask on a sack given up, pushing the Steelers out of field goal range. And he wound up giving up the game-clinching sack to Von Miller. Gilbert has been great all season and the matchup is tough, but this is one of his rougher games. No getting around that.