Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers 15-10 win against the Cleveland Browns Sunday.
Najee Harris: Tough runner who benefitted from good blocking up front but certainly paved his own way too, most notably on a third-quarter 4th and 1. Harris was stopped behind the LOS but he churned his legs to hit the sticks. Pittsburgh needed to run the ball well today and they did.
O-Line Run Blocking: I questioned what kind of success Pittsburgh would have on the ground today. But they ran well against a tough Browns’ front seven. Line got a great push and created movement on their double-teams. Some of the penalties soured things but on the whole, this job did well up front. Kudos to them as they continue to take strides. Given who they were facing, this was their best performance.
WR Run Game: Sticking with the run game. Matt Canada did well to get creative with the Steelers’ jet runs, sometimes using it as window dressing but sometimes handing the ball off it, including the first reverse of the season that hit a big gainer to Claypool. Lot of guys got involved in the run game today and generally, it worked.
Cam Heyward/TJ Watt: Flipping over to the defense, the studs played like studs. Heyward blowing plays up on third and fourth and short and Watt recording 1.5 sacks in this one. Overall, this defense held up, bent and didn’t break, but those high-money guys earned their check.
Pat Freiermuth: Freiermuth. Catches. Everything. If you’re followed us – or really, anyone – you’ve heard that about him since the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh. But no catch was tougher than his fourth quarter touchdown grab, a juggling, contested catch on 4th down, securing the ball and tapping both feet inbounds. Shoutout to Zach Gentry, who might be pushing Eric Ebron completely out of a role.
Joe Schobert: Key defensive takeaway in the fourth quarter, ripping the ball out of Joe Schobert’s hands, recovered by TJ Watt. Steelers’ defense had been missing plays like that but got it in the game’s biggest moment. Great job.
Diontae Johnson: Johnson ran a couple of great routes today and had the game-clincher, a 53-yard catch and run to salt the game away.
Fake Field Goal: Which falls on the coaches, Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith. I get those calls are judged by whether or not they work. Hit it and you’re a genius, fail and you’re the village idiot. But the Browns weren’t remotely fooled by the fake so I have to wonder what the Steelers saw that gave them confidence to make the call. I have no idea. Take the points in a low-scoring game, go up 6-3, and get the ball at half. Instead, the fake swung the game the other way.
Dan Moore Jr.: Moore was put in a near-impossible task today and Pittsburgh did him no favors by putting him on an island time after time Sunday. Lots of empty sets that put Moore 1v1 against Myles Garrett, who won time and time again. Garrett didn’t always get the pressure but he consistently won the rep. It’s hard to blame Moore, we knew he’d struggle, but he still deserves to go on this list. Won’t see many tackles struggle as badly as he did.
Devin Bush: Bush has earned plenty of criticism already this season. But he made one of his worst plays of the year on D’Ernest Johnson’s third quarter. Despite Minkah Fitzpatrick having outside contain and forcing the back inside, Bush overran the play and gave Johnson the cutback lane which he hit and scored. Simply a brutal mistake by Bush that directly resulted in six points.
Special Teams: Beyond just the fake field goal. So bad there are two separate categories on today’s list. From Ray-Ray McCloud’s fumble, to penalties, to Pressley Harvin III’s kick out of bounds (why not have him squib?) to guys barely getting out of the way on bouncing punts not fielded by McCloud, delay of games, it was really ugly today. Some of that is player responsibility but some of that falls on coaching and Danny Smith.