We are all winners, my friends.
Le’Veon Bell: What. A. Game. Maybe one of the best playoff debut efforts by anyone in league history, Bell simply set the team’s playoff record for rushing yards in a game finishing off with 167. It broke Franco Harris’ 1974 record, which came in the Pittsburgh Steelers first ever Super Bowl win.
It was patented Bell. Patience. Power. And a little bit of explosion. The offensive line and tight ends did a great job to open lanes and Bell did the rest. He wasn’t very involved in the pass game but he didn’t have to don a day where Pittsburgh didn’t need to throw to win. Bell is the best back in the league. Someone tell Omar Kelly.
Antonio Brown: Brown was an afterthought in the second half but there was no need for him to get involved. He did his damage early in this one, catching two touchdowns on his first three catches. The first was a 50 yard screen taken to the house, where Brown showed Bell-like patience, and the second a 62 yard slant where he simply outran the safety.
I’ve been critical of his blocking but gotta give him credit today. Brown showed rare interest in doing so and had a couple of key stalk blocks on corners. Kudos.
His only blemish was a drop that resulted in an interception but it’s a minor complain for a big win.
Run Defense: It’s an 11 man job and that’s what makes it impossible to single out one player here. Ryan Shazier and Javon Hargrave were notable but it was the entire defense that held Jay Ajayi to only 33 yards. He was the storyline coming into today following his 204 yard churn in Week 6’s beatdown. And a shoutout to Keith Butler for the gameplan that led to the execution. Can’t wait to see exactly how it happened.
James Harrison: Old man, same old amazing tricks. He took over the first half with six tackles (five solo), a TFL, and the crucial strip sack/fumble that Stephon Tuitt recovered. Remember, it was a 20-6 game at that point with the Miami Dolphins inside Pittsburgh’s 15. A touchdown there, Miami gets the ball at half…who knows what happens. It was the play of the game, in my book.
Ryan Shazier: Part for the run defense, part for the plays he made in coverage. Had another pick today, the third straight week he’s had one, and was dominant around the line of scrimmage. Another guy I’m excited to get a close look at when the All-22 comes out.
David DeCastro: Yes, he had an annoying penalty. But he held Ndamukong Suh in check and continued to be an asset when asked to pull. Neither are easy tasks. Credit can go to the whole offensive line, Marcus Gilbert’s dart scheme pulls were big, but DeCastro was excellent.
Special Teams: Oh Danny Smith. I want us to be best friends. But he’s making it tough. To be fair, special teams injuries have hit this team pretty hard but don’t expect this to serve as an excuse in that building. Chris Boswell missed an extra point, Kenyan Drake had a big return, and there was an early penalty that backed the team up. The kick returns…still not, uh, good.
A lot of that can and does fall on individual players issues but it’s all reflective on the coach.