On a day where the Pittsburgh Steelers have made the playoffs, aren’t we all winners? Scream, yell, go crazy. Let it out, Steelers’ Nation. You’ve earned it.
Antonio Brown: Thanks for being you, AB. It was a “quiet” second half by his ridiculous standards. 10 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Browns made no secret about trying to take him away, bracketing him every time he was the isolated receiver. It didn’t matter. Brown’s TD came on a skinny post in double-coverage and he continued to dazzle with his after the catch ability on the rest. He climbed the ladder on another to bail Ben Roethlisberger out, taking away a sure interception from Tashaun Gipson. What a game. What a season.
Heath Miller: On a game where Roethlisberger was off at times, Miller bailed him out. Twice, 83 made contested catches, basically ripping the football away from the defender. One of those resulted in a touchdown. Gritty, blue-collared, getting the job done. That was Heath Miller today. And sums up his entire career.
Markus Wheaton: I know the stat line isn’t tantalizing. Three catches for 57 yards. But two of those three were significant. A 40 yard grab that showed off his impressive body control skills and ability to track the ball, adjusting to a slightly off target bomb by Big Ben. And a touchdown in the second half, one play after a Brown’s turnover, to give the Steelers their first two-possession lead of the game. And for once, a tiny bit of comfort.
Keith Butler: I know the Browns’ offense is the opposite of scary but still, a beautiful game called by this team’s defensive coordinator. It wasn’t perfect – the 3rd and 19 blitz at the end of the half will be debated – but Butler made good one his word of blitzing more often. I have no idea what the actual number is but you can almost take to the bank it was his most aggressive game. Saw every Fire Zone he’s ever called in one game. Kudos KB.
Brandon Boykin: Thought he had a nice day. Solid tackler, made plays on the football, and took advantage of being the nickel corner from the first snap. He finished the day with four tackles.
Kick Coverage: No Roosevelt Nix. Fitzgerald Toussaint has to become the starting RB, taking away another special teams’ piece. No problem. Anthony Chickillo made a gigantic play, forcing a fumble that set up a Steelers’ field goal, pushing their lead to 18. The Browns’ beat themselves with penalties in many instances but this was a critical player by some back-end-of-the-roster guys who rose to the occasion.
The Fans: For their hearts surviving his crazy, emotional season. Hooray!
Ryan Shazier: The Steelers won, they’re in the playoffs, life is good. So I don’t want to spend too much time harping on the losers on this glorious day. But Shazier didn’t have his best game, again struggling against the run. Mike Tomlin wound up pulling him for Vince Williams on some run downs.
Martavis Bryant: Being sick and missing practice played a part in his poor performance but it’s hard to build up an excuse. Bryant has disappeared the last two weeks, catching one pass for six yards over the last eight quarters. He was understandably benched and replaced by Darrius Heyward-Bey, who supplied the Steelers with a 66 yard catch.
Offensive Line Run Blocking: Not their best day. Especially against the Browns’ league-worst rush defense, coming into this contest allowing 135 yards per game. The Steelers ran for 30 yards today. It wasn’t even that the Browns desired to take the run away, stacking the box. Line just didn’t do a good job. With or without DeAngelo Williams, they have to respond better in the Wild Card. It also highlights the loss of Nix.