Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wild 29-27 win against the Chicago Bears Monday night.
Pat Freiermuth: I’d say I’ve never seen Freiermuth and Heath Miller in the same room except they were both on the field tonight. Freiermuth continues his excellent rookie season with two touchdowns Monday night. His first came on a scramble drill, finding grass along the sideline and making the grab. His second was of the combat variety, battling a cornerback on a well-thrown ball and finishing the play. He has the best hands on the team and Roethlisberger has complete trust in him. Freiermuth also was an asset on the perimeter on the Steelers’ WR runs. This is the Steelers’ guy for the next decade.
Cam Heyward: Heyward has been batting down passes all season. It was only a matter of time before someone picked one off. It ended up being Heyward, who picked off Fields in the first half for his second interception in as many seasons. Resulted in a Steelers’ TD. Heyward is playing his best football at 32 and bringing it every single week.
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick’s still searching for his first INT of the season, no doubt a surprise, but he played well tonight. Showed a ton of physicality with several big hits, including one on QB Justin Fields. He also made a great effort play to nearly knock the ball out of WR Marquise Goodwin’s hand deep down the right sideline, though it was ultimately ruled a catch.
Alex Highsmith: Like Fitzpatrick, Highsmith didn’t have any gaudy numbers tonight. But he looked steady and consistent, especially against the run, taking away the cutback all night long as the Bears’ traditional run game (i.e. non-Wildcat) was held in check. Good outing for him.
Kick Coverage: Underrated part of this game. Jakeem Grant is a highly talented return man and Pittsburgh held him in check. Good lane integrity and tackling by guys like Derek Watt. Grant averaged under 24 yards per return and James Pierre had the big play, a forced fumble that ended a good-looking return. Great job by that unit.
Chris Boswell: While he did miss an extra point, if you nail two 50-yard field goals at Heinz Field in November (though the weather was good tonight) and a game-winning field goal, you get on this list. Plus, a fumble recovery as a feather in his cap.
Pressley Harvin III: Harvin had one nice punt to pin the Bears around their ten, but had two ugly open-field attempts. Perhaps trying too hard to keep the ball away from Grant, Harvin had a 32-yarder followed up by a 41-yarder that took a friendly roll to give him a couple more yards. Inconsistency was his #1 issue coming out of Georgia Tech, and he’s never fully put those concerns to bed.
Refs: For both sides. Bears got the worst of the calls, but the rookie right tackle for Chicago was taking about two kicksteps before the snap. Not one to complain about the refs and things that can’t be controlled, but there were some pretty bad calls tonight. A missed roughing the passer on Justin Fields, a poor low block call that wiped out a Bears’ TD, and the missed false starts. The worst call of all helped the Steelers, a taunting call on ex-Steeler Cassius Marsh on a third down sack that kept a Steelers’ drive alive. Horrible rule, horrible ruling.
Dan Moore Jr./Kendrick Green: Neither rookie was horrible, but certainly not good enough. Moore had issues on the edge even with Khalil Mack being out. One series was particularly rough, allowing a sack off play action while missing a stunt that led to Roethlisberger getting hit on third down. Green struggled to get a push up front, especially on third and fourth and short. He was routinely stood up by DT Eddie Goldman.
Terrell Edmunds: Edmunds’ struggles in coverage continue. Doesn’t look comfortable in zone and just doesn’t play to his athleticism in man coverage. At his worst, he got beat up the seam by 34-year-old TE Jimmy Graham, who is on his last legs in the league. The Bears scored the next play. He’s far from a bad player, but there hasn’t been enough growth in his game this season.
Ray-Ray McCloud: With just 6:30 left in the game, the Steelers were sitting with a fairly comfortable 23-13 lead and the Bears set to punt. But McCloud had a costly fumble on the ensuing punt return, scooped and scored by the Bears to make it 23-20. That’s two straight weeks McCloud has fumbled, and this one cost him dearly. With Steven Sims on the practice squad, his job is no longer safe.
Arthur Maulet: Maulet is physical and done well downhill, but he’s always been — at best — average in coverage. He got beat on back-to-back plays on the Bears’ go-ahead drive, a slot fade against Allen Robinson and the TD to Darnell Mooney. Not the guy you want out there in heavy-pass situations.