The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to come up with the unexpected victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, with an encouraging defensive performance to limit them overall. The battered secondary encouragingly stepped up, benefitting from an improved pash rush this week. The Steelers offense stepped up, with quarterbacks Kenny Pickett (left game with concussion) and Mitch Trubisky both seeing time, along with an encouraging game from wide receiver Chase Claypool in a much needed 20-18 victory, improving their record to 2-4. In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
PFF appropriately graded wide receiver Chase Claypool as the top player on offense (86.7), with a great game and stepping up for a position room that has been lacking in playmaking as of late. He caught all seven of his targets for 96 yards and a touchdown, which was the first for the position room all season, coming up clutch on third down repetitively including one of only two explosive plays in the game. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky holds the second rank in the grades (78.8), coming in for fellow quarterback Kenny Pickett who was injured in the middle of the third quarter. He went 9/12 for 144 yards and the touchdown to Claypool, no interceptions but took a sack (noting he could have got rid of it to Claypool). In comparison, Pickett was PFF’s worst graded player on offense (49.5) going 11/18 for 67 yards and a touchdown, no interceptions but was also sacked once. Personally thought his grade was a bit low, but important to point out his very low 3.7 yards per attempt and three throwaways that I’ll highlight further in my passing locations article for the week. The third and only player with a 70+ grade was guard James Daniels (71). I thought he and tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (63.7) were graded too high, each with two pressures and the latter allowing a sack. Guard Kevin Dotson (51.8) deserving the lowest grade of the week in my opinion, particularly struggling as a pass blocker and especially with three penalties.
Following a short Bucs punt out of bounds, the Steelers offense came onto the field at 14:02 for the first time, starting with a quick pass from Pickett (before the free rushing slot cornerback could get there from the blindside) to wide receiver George Pickens on a stop route in front of ample cushion for the catch and YAC for eight yards. On second and two Pickett threw again, to wide receiver Diontae Johnson on the quick slant for the five-yard gain despite Okorafor and Dotson were both pushed back, and really liking the decisive throws and play call here to start the game and move the chains. The following first down was a great read from Pickett on the run-pass option, with three receivers to the left and seeing the slot corner blitz pulls the ball and triggers to Claypool wide open on the short stop route and YAC for the nice play of 14 yards.
Third first down of the drive here, and it’s running back Najee Harris’ first ground opportunity on a toss, but Pickens lowered his head and whiffed on his block, allowing the safety to knife into the backfield and make the tackle for a big loss of four. On second and 14, it was another run, but this time a jet sweep to Claypool with room due to the linebacker guessing fake, and tight end Zach Gentry and Harris out in front, with the latter ending up on the ground and a decent block from the former, but the defender staying on his feet to tackle the eight-yard gain. Third and six now, and Pickett wants Pickens deep on the left sideline but over his head incomplete on the back shoulder attempt, where running back Jaylen Warren had the tough task of pass blocking linebacker Devin White coming free off the edge, whiffing and allowing the hit which was penalized for roughing the passer. Big penalty to keep the drive moving.
This put the following first down in the red zone, a carry where Okorafor missed his cut block and Daniels was beat on the backside, with Harris able to break the latter man’s tackle, but only able to gain one yard between decent initial blocks from Dotson and Gentry but allowing the stop. On second and nine it was another jet sweep, to Johnson this time but an apparent miscommunication between Claypool (lone receiver to the left, seemed to be on him) and Harris on who to block out in front, both going for the linebacker inside and the latter recognizing too late which left the cornerback free to tackle the three-yard gain. Third and six now, and a frustrating and untimely false start penalty here on Dotson that pushes Pittsburgh out of the red zone and into third and a long 11. Pickett surveys but seemingly good coverage, and due to Okorafor getting pushed back on the pocket collapse, decides to scramble straight ahead thanks to great blocks picking up the twisting rushers from center Mason Cole and Daniels to create the crease on the ten-yard gain, but unable to convert. Coach Mike Tomlin is aggressive here and goes for it on fourth and one, and enjoyed the decision to hand to Warren given his recent week five game full of making guys miss and churning runs, able to do so here as well up the middle with the line creating just enough space, particularly from a nice combo block from Dotson to eliminate White who was closing in. Love the aggressiveness in a game that they surely did not want to get behind in.
This set up first and goal from the ten-yard line, and Johnson runs the five yard out route and makes an impressive leaping catch on the high target from Pickett, for an encouraging catch and gain of four. Good to see him making a play after missing similar one’s last game. On second and goal from the six, Tampa Bay brought a six-man blitz, and this combined with a good play call getting the wide receivers to work inside on their routes to clear the sideline, and Pickett having just enough time to dump it off to the wide-open Harris for the walk-in touchdown. Very encouraging opening drive overall, Pickett going a perfect 5/5 including his first passing touchdown of the season, Steelers up seven.
The offense returned at 2:47 with a four-point lead at the 13-yard line, beginning with a Harris run with good initial blocks from the line but Gentry unable to connect and Cole staying on the double team on defensive lineman Vita Vea, each allowing the second level defenders to combine for the tackle on the churning gain of three yards. On second and seven following a timeout, Pickett surveys with good overall pass pro including tackle Dan Moore pushing the rusher past the pocket, but Dotson losing late allowing the hit on the throw to Johnson who fell on the comeback route (hard to tell if he slipped or was tripped) with the pass going out of bounds and incomplete. Third and seven now, and Tampa Bay showed an overload blitz, bringing two and confusing Pittsburgh’s o-line with Daniels allowing a rusher to go past and seemingly missing the call as the only lineman getting out to set up a screen, along with Cole having no shot to get there, and Pickett was able to elude him but noted poor ball security and lucky it wasn’t a costly forced fumble, though with the Bucs sending the slot corner blitz from the opposite side and Moore not blocking anyone, got the clean-up sack and loss of 12. Quick three and out, lead still four.
At 10:58 in the second quarter, the offense began with Pickett taking the shotgun snap and sliding right but Daniels allowing penetration that cut it off, and with room in front thanks to the design and Harris sealing off the lone rusher to the left just enough though losing late scrambles for six yards, noting he needs to slide down sooner to avoid getting hit. On second and four, Harris got the carry with good blocks from Daniels and Gentry to seal the edge, Okorafor on the second level, and good effort from Claypool downfield on a great 14-yard run. On the following first down, Pickens got his turn as a rusher on the reverse with Gentry in front, but poor initial block attempt and running past another defender that ran him to the sidelines to push him out of bounds for only one yard. On second and nine, Johnson got the jet sweep on a consecutive receiver run with Harris in front, but had to dart forward quickly due to the pursuing edge defender before the block was set up, but able to gain of five yards and noted Claypool missing his block. Third and four now, and despite Moore getting pushed back into Pickett’s lap, unleashes a dart to Claypool for a great catch in tight coverage for the conversion.
The drive continued with a Harris run where Cole was pushed back off the snap by Vea, limiting the play along with Okorafor allowing his man to work down the line, but great fight and churn from Harris to pick up three yards. On second and seven, Harris got the swing pass well behind the line of scrimmage, but a swarm of five defenders converging to limit the gain to only one yard. Third and six now, and despite the pocket collapsing due to Okorafor and Moore being pushed back and Daniels getting beat, finds Johnson on a great comeback route to get open on the sideline for a spectacular catch above his head and getting both feet in bounds. So encouraging to see the receivers making plays following a poor overall game last week.
Following another refreshing conversion, an undesirable holding penalty on Dotson followed setting up first and 20. Pickett had to unleash quickly here on the run-pass option with Okorafor allowing a push, and particularly a free rusher off the edge effecting his target to Pickens on the quick out but just ahead on the rushed throw falling incomplete. On second and 20, Cole got pushed back, Moore lost late, and good Dotson block standing his man up on Pickett’s throw to Johnson on the quick in route, but good recovery by the corner to tackle him quickly for only five yards. Third and a long 15 now, and Pickett surveys downfield then ends up checking it down to Gentry in the flat who’s only able to gain four yards, and it seemed Claypool was his first read but came of it quick, unfortunate if so since he stacked the corner and won on the corner route that could have converted. Steelers held to a field goal on another good drive, lead back to four.
The offense returned with 2:42 left in the half still up by four, beginning with a Harris run with good blocks from Moore, Cole, Daniels, Gentry, and Claypool, but Okorafor losing his on the inside along with Dotson unable to connect on the second level limiting the gain to two yards. On second and eight, Claypool and Pickens were lined up to the right and ran double moves for go routes, and seemed the latter beat his man, but Pickett came of the read then bailed the pocket a bit early creating pressure from Moore’s man cuing the throwaway. Third and eight now, and Daniels was pushed back initially but blocked his man to the ground, the tackles were beat around the edge with Okorafor allowing pressure on the off target throw to Pickens on the fail and three and out. Can’t capitalize on the defenses three and out, punt.
With 46 second left until halftime, Pickett drops back and with Moore beat to the inside, cuing Pickett to escape, and an encouraging development in the rookies’ game to threw it away and live to see another day, seemingly learning from unnecessary sacks he took, and not running out of bounds as he did in recent memory. On second and ten, Okorafor got a good block with Harris getting the carry but no room considering Daniels lost his block, and Cole allowed a push for the tackle for no gain. Tampa Bay took their second timeout here, then on third and ten Harris ran again, this one for only one yard with all the blocks connecting including tackle Trent Scott in as an extra blocker and a pancake from Dotson, but lacking space so Harris bounces around the left side but met quickly by the free defensive back, but able to churn for a yard and the Bucs take their final timeout in order to get the ball back.
Pittsburgh’s offense came out to start the second half with great starting field position in the red zone thanks to a huge Sims kickoff return. Pickett came out throwing to Johnson who got open on the five yard out where he was pushed out. On second and four, Pickett showed good awareness again to just get the snap off, faking the jet sweep to Sims but throwing it away with a bit of pressure on what appeared to be a broken play. Third and four now, and Okorafor allowed pressure in Pickett’s face, targeting Pickens in the end zone in double coverage but well over his head sailing out of bounds. Very unfortunate to not come away with a touchdown given the situation, but do get the field goal to extend the lead to four once again.
Returning with 7:24 in the third quarter with the lead cut to one once again, and it’s another holding penalty on Dotson, but still allows White to get a big hit on Pickett off play action, who is hurt on the play, taking him out of the game. Trubisky comes in on first and 20, and despite Dotson getting beat around the edge (rough game), gets the pass to Harris who was open but hit at the catch point, jarring the ball loose and nearly intercepted, instead falling incomplete. On second and 20, Trubisky is able to find Pickens on the short stop route but tackled immediately on the five-yard gain. Third and a long 15 now, and Trubisky fires an over the middle pass to the open Claypool just short of the sticks, and able to fight for just enough YAC to pick up the big conversion. Luckily the throw goes through the hands of the leaping lineman, and Claypool provides more third down conversions as he did earlier in the season.
The drive continued with a Warren run, wrapped up behind the line by a free rusher off the delayed handoff, but good effort to churn and spin for positive yards on the gain of one. On second and nine, Trubisky quick triggers to Heyward on the out, beating the pass rush allowed by both tackles for the catch and gain of four. Third and five now, and the Bucs bring six on the blitz, with a free rusher and Daniels getting beat, allowing pressure on Trubisky’s throw to Johnson is a tick late and off target, allowing the defender to break up the pass and force the punt. Pittsburgh 3/10 on third downs now.
With 2:07 left in the quarter, the offense returned still down by one and another quick defensive stop, starting the drive off with a play action and Trubisky looking deep about to trigger to Claypool who was open, but Okorafor gets beat and allows the sack as he held onto it. On second and 16, Trubisky found Claypool on the quick slant getting separation from Gentry’s vertical route, along with good YAC for the gain of 11. Third and five now, and the pass intended for Heyward on the out past the sticks is batted due to pressure allowed once again by Okorafor, falling incomplete. Third down issues continue, lead still one.
Pittsburgh’s offense got their first opportunity in the fourth quarter at 13:38, starting with a Harris run that was only able to gain two yards, with Cole getting pushed back and a linebacker shooting free into the backfield forcing the bounce out, and along with another pursuing and Heyward losing his block late allowing the tackle. On second and eight, wide receiver Steven Sims got the jet sweep, but the edge rusher blowing up Warren’s block attempt to tackle him for a loss of five. Third and a long 13 now, and despite Moore being pushed back into Trubisky’s bubble, was able to hit Pickens on a good throw on the comeback for the catch and just enough for the conversion on the 14-yard gain. Very encouraging and timely play following struggles on possession downs throughout the game.
The following first down was back to Harris on the ground, able to get a successful five-yard gain with good collective blocks including Heyward. On second and five, Harris got another handoff but the defense able to swarm with a free linebacker along with Dotson and Daniels losing their blocks, allowing the tackle for a loss of one. Third and six now, and Pittsburgh used tempo to hurry up and earn a free play with Vea unable to make it to the sideline on the too many men on the field penalty, and able to decline thanks to the huge find by Trubisky to hit Heyward wide open for the catch and YAC for the first double explosive play of the season, gaining 45 yards, which was also the first explosive play of the game! HUGE.
The drive continued from the red zone, with Harris the lone man in the backfield, taking the wildcat snap for the run for five yards with a good initial push from Cole and Dotson along with Moore’s seal to the six-yard line. On second and five, Claypool did a great job finding space between the secondary in the end zone, where Trubisky made a great read and throw for the six-yard touchdown! Another first for the Steelers offense this season on the big-time drive led by Trubisky, a wide receiver finally catching a touchdown pass in week six. Amazing, and Pittsburgh now leads by eight.
4:38 left, following a touchdown by the Bucs but huge stop on the two-point conversion to hold a two-point lead, needing to sustain and move the ball to put hopefully this game away. Harris began the drive with an excellent eight-yard run, with good overall blocking from the offensive line and Gentry, along with stellar effort from Harris to throw the linebacker off on his tackle attempt and churn for yardage, excellent effort and start to get the clock moving. On second and two, Cole botched the shotgun snap into the ground, with Trubisky able to track it down and barely beat the defensive back to fall on the ball for the recovery. Nearly catastrophic, whew. Third and a long 15 though, and with great pass pro by the o-line, Trubisky waits patiently and finds Claypool over the middle for the catch and YAC for 17 yards and the huge conversion, Claypool continuing to step up big with conversions and leading the team through the air and great find by Trubisky to keep the drive and clock moving.
The following first down was at 2:27, a Harris run for three yards where he made a man miss in the backfield around fullback Derek Watt’s block attempt, and churning for three yards with a more lackluster o-line rep. Tampa Bay took their first timeout here, then on second and seven it was Trubisky on the keeper, but Harris unable to block the blitzing defensive back who dropped him for a loss of four, and the Bucs take their second timeout. Third and 11 with a chance to end the game with a conversion, and guess who? Claypool provides another conversion, breaking off his short route for the scramble drill with Trubisky down the sideline on the amazing back shoulder catch on the sideline for the biggest one yet, in importance and yardage for an explosive 26-yard gain, which was only the second and final explosive play of the game! Incredible. With 2:07 on the clock, Trubisky faked to Harris and kept with the defensive back committing inside, scrambling to the outside with great effort breaking a tackle and stiff arming the next man to nearly pick up the first down on the nine-yard gain. Past the two-minute warning, and the Bucs out of timeouts, Trubisky was able to kneel it out for the huge and much needed victory!
Now for the defense:
PFF’s deservingly highest graded player is defensive lineman Cameron Heyward (88.5), playing well overall as a run defender and providing four pressures and a sack. The second ranked defender according to PFF was edge rusher Alex Highsmith (84.4), with solid grades across the board including a pressure/sack, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup in coverage. Safety Terrell Edmunds also had a solid game and ranks third in the grades (82.9), leading the team in tackles with ten, and one for a loss, a steadying force in the secondary filled with new faces. Three other players had 70+ grades: linebacker Miles Jack (76.7), edge rusher Malik Reed (73.8), and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (70.6). Jack was definitely deserving with eight total tackles and a key pass defensed, Reed had five tackles and also had a pass defensed, and Ogunjobi deserved a higher grade in my opinion, solid across the board with five tackles, one for a loss, three pressures, and two quarterback hits. Linebacker Devin Bush just missed this group (69.4), and had an encouraging game as well with five tackles, and highlighted by the key pass breakup on the Bucs two-point conversion that held them off from tying the game late.
Pittsburgh’s defense took the field first, starting out defending running back Leonard Fournette on the ground with a pulling lineman blocking Highsmith well along with Ogunjobi being blocked to the ground, and good job by cornerback James Pierre getting around wide receiver Mike Evans block to set the edge to force the cut inside, where Jack stayed clean to make the tackle for only one yard. On second and nine, Brady triggered quickly from an empty set to wide receiver Chris Godwin on a slant against the Steelers zone, where Highsmith dropped and closed quickly at the catch point to make the hit and jar the ball loose for the incompletion. Third and nine now, and Brady wanted Godwin again, who got wide open on a deep in route with cornerback Josh Jackson giving ample cushion in zone, but thankfully the pass was low and incomplete. Encouraging run stop and two incompletions to limit the first drive to a three and out, good start.
The defense returned at 7:32 and up by seven, defending a Fournette run where Jack overcommitted to the same gap inside with Bush (who pancaked the blocker), and with solid blocking elsewhere including a seal on Highsmith and Heyward a tick late off his block, found the crease for the 13-yard gain where Edmunds was able to make his first tackle in his much-needed return from injury. The following first down was a blitz from cornerback Arthur Maulet, looping inside defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk to get in Brady’s face, looking for the screen to Fournette that was bottled up by Heyward and Ogunjobi who were in the area due to the play action, incomplete. On second and ten, Brady deep drops, and despite good push from Heyward and Loudermilk, finds wide receiver Mike Evans on the deep comeback against Jackson who made the tackle, but big 20-yard gain.
The drive continued with a first down run from Fournette, with Loudermilk and Bush guessing play action and taking themselves out of the play, Highsmith setting the edge well, but Malik Reed, Heyward, and Ogunjobi pushed back, and the latter working off his block late to tackle the seven-yard gain. On second and three, it was Fournette on the ground again, this time a good run stop for only one yard thanks to Heyward beating the guard inside as well as avoiding the pulling tight end to eliminate the lane straight ahead in the backfield, forcing the cut outside where Loudermilk took on the pulling guards block to set the strong edge and make the tackle. Third and two now following a timeout, and Brady got the swing pass out lightning fast to running back Rachaad White with three blockers out in front, and Maulet tried ripping inside Godwin’s block but got washed, and Jackson was unable to disengage but tackling the chain moving three-yard gain.
Third first down of the drive and Fournette got another touch, through the air this time following play action, where Highsmith got good penetration and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu timed his jump on the bat attempt well, going for a catch on the short dump off over the middle and Bush making the tackle of five yards. On second and five, the heavy dose of Fournette continued with an outside run with good seal blocks, and great job by Jack to get to the edge and turn the run back inside, Highsmith to fight through a double team but able to cut inside him, finding a crease due to Alualu being doubled and defensive lineman Montravius Adams and Chris Wormley working off their blocks late to tackle the six yard gain for yet another first down.
This set the Bucs up in the red zone, where Brady play actioned and despite a good push from Reed, unleashed to the seemingly wide-open tight end, but incredible leaping pass deflection from Jack to break up the would-be touchdown for the huge play. On second and ten it was a screen to White out wide, going off his hands with the pass out in front a bit. Big third down here, and with time Brady targets Godwin near the sticks but is off target on the low pass incomplete with safety Tre Norwood bearing down quickly to help ensure the third down stop. Nice job clamping down to limit the long drive to three points, lead is now four.
With 1:25 in the first quarter, the defense returned to a Brady play action dropback, looking for Evans over the middle but is deterred thanks to good coverage from cornerback Quincy Wilson, then throwing it away out of bounds towards Godwin with Pierre in coverage. On second and ten, Tampa Bay was flagged for a false start, drawn as the Steelers front was shifting, setting up second and 15. Wormley was able to get a good push on the shotgun pass despite a double team, but Brady was able to find the connection with Godwin open up the seam for the explosive 22 yard gain, with linebacker Robert Spillane’s deep zone drop unable to get there in time and missing the tackle, then Norwood making it. The following first down was a White run, with a big lane between Heyward (who was doubled) and Loudermilk who was pursuing Brady who faked pass well with his eyes, effecting Maulet’s angle, followed by a missed tackle by Wormley and finally brought down by Norwood on the gain of eight, and noted Spillane being head locked by an o-line man that wasn’t flagged. On second and two, Fournette got the carry where Loudermilk set the edge and worked off the block to combine for the credited tackle with Spillane, who came clean through traffic to hit him at the sticks but refused to go down on the churn for four yards.
The drive continued to start the second quarter and Highsmith was able to get a good push on the play action pass but timed the bat attempt a bit early, with Brady finding Evans roaming free on the slant in front of the zone coverage for the catch and YAC of ten yards where Spillane and Edmunds combined for the tackle. The following first down from the red zone was a Fournette run where Jack and Bush did a great job to fill the holes with the latter wrapping him up behind the line, falling forward for a one-yard gain. On second and nine, Highsmith tried his spin move that was handled well on the pass from shotgun, coming off his first read to Godwin who was double covered by Spillane and Maulet, freeing up the post route behind it for the catch and first down with Pierre in coverage and making the tackle.
This set up first and goal from the three, and as expected it was Fournette on the carry and great job by Heyward to toss his blocker to the ground and get to him at the line, but allowing the tough churn and nearly getting across the plane. Instead it’s second and one, right back to Fournette and great get off from Ogunjobi along with staying on his feet despite the cut block attempt to wrap him up quickly upon the handoff and safety Miles Killebrew and Edmunds converging off each edge and the latter credited with the combined tackle on the loss of three. Big third and goal now from the four-yard line, and great coverage here forcing Brady to hold it, and awesome power rush from Heyward to get there for the big sack, along with a good move from Reed to ensure he didn’t get away on the loss of five. Another huge stand by the defense to stop the Bucs offense for the second consecutive drive in the red zone, maintaining a one-point lead following the field goal. Huge.
With 4:07 left in the second quarter and the lead back to four, the defense started with a great run stop for no gain, with Ogunjobi solidly winning around the blocker to meet him in the backfield and Edmunds finishing the job to combine for the tackle. On second and ten Adams and Reed got a good push, but Brady triggers quickly to Evans on the stop route, open against the zone where Pierre ran him out on the eight-yard gain. Third and two now, fantastically timed long arm from Heyward to get solid pressure along with another good push from Reed on Brady’s throw ahead and low to Godwin, incomplete with Jack the closes man in zone coverage. Big three and out for the defense.
The defense returned with 2:02 left in the half, with Brady targeting the tight end for eight yards, catching the stop route with a bit of YAC before Jack could make the tackle. On second and two at the two-minute warning, Fournette got the carry with Heyward sealed and Maulet filling the hole and slowing him but missing the tackle, and Ogunjobi working through traffic to tackle the gain of two yards to convert. The following first down was an outstanding dip and rip from Highsmith, able to bend the edge to Brady for the strip sack, with the fumble popping in the air and unfortunately Godwin falling on top of it, with Edmunds close to the fumble recovery for the takeaway but no cigar. On second and 19, Brady found Fournette on the short out route from the backfield with separation given the situation, with Norwood shooting in but missing the tackle, and Jack and Maulet combining to tackle the gain of eight. Third and 11 with 58 seconds left, Brady is back to pass, and Brady bypasses the open Evans well short of the sticks, finding his man over the middle at the where Pierre provided excellent coverage to dive and play the catch point on the low throw that goes incomplete. Really impressed with the defense sans much of the secondary, Steelers up four.
With 23 seconds remaining in the half, this first down was a Brady to Godwin target with good coverage from Norwood, but a better throw and catch for 15 yards with Edmunds also in the area. With no timeouts, Brady spiked the ball to stop the clock at ten seconds. The following second and ten pass had plenty of time, but seemingly strong coverage again with Brady throwing it away, with Evans as the closest receiver. This brought out the field goal unit, and from 54 yards it’s good. This cut Pittsburgh’s lead to one going into the half.
Pittsburgh’s defense returned with 13:55 in the third quarter to a Fournette run where Loudermilk provided a good get off and Maulet shot free into the backfield to chase him down and make the tackle for no gain. On second and ten, Brady found Godwin wide open on the short over the middle target, with Spillane coming up to tackle the nine-yard gain. Third and one now, and it’s another Fournette run to the right, away from Pittsburgh’s shifted alignment for the easy conversion plus more on the five-yard gain where Reed worked off his block to bring him down from behind. Fournette got the following first down toss where Pierre set the edge well and Bush took a great angle and stayed clean from the pulling blocker to react to the cutback to tackle the three-yard gain. On second and seven, Heyward displayed great hand use to win his pass rush and get to Brady on his release, who was able to find Godwin for the slot go deep over the middle for the explosive 28-yard catch, getting the pass over Maulet in coverage along with Norwood not quiet getting there in time and Edmunds touching him down.
The drive continued with another first down run to Fournette, but Alualu was penalized for defensive holding. The following first down was the same plan, handing to Fournette who had a crease between Loudermilk and Spillane, and despite Bush doing a good job staying on his feet despite a chop block attempt, took a poor angle and Spillane and Jack finally tackling the eight-yard gain. On second and two from the red zone, Brady play actions to Fournette and running all goes, barely getting the pass off with Pittsburgh sending numbers and Wormley nearly getting there, targeting the tight end with good coverage and nice pass breakup by Spillane for the incompletion. Third and two now, and Fournette is able to find a sliver of daylight between Bush and Reed to pick up just enough for the conversion.
On the following first down, Tampa Bay was penalized for a false start setting up first and 15. Here Brady got the pass off despite a great push from Heyward against the double team, targeting the receiver who faked the corner then came in on the post route, making the catch on Jackson who made the quick tackle on the nine-yard gain. On second and six, Pierre was penalized for holding on Evans, who likely would’ve been beat otherwise, but it sets up first and goal. From the four-yard line, the Bucs took a turn in the penalty department, an ineligible man downfield that put them back on the nine-yard line. Replaying first and goal, Fournette got another carry and Edmunds provides a great run fill, shooting into the backfield to make the big tackle for a loss of two. On second and goal, Ogunjobi provided an excellent pass rush between a double team, throwing one blocker to the ground in pursuit to get the hit on Brady’s throw, able to find the receiver for the end zone target on the sideline against Pierre, who had good coverage but misjudged the ball location and thankfully the throw is out of bounds for the incompletion. Big third and goal here, and both Highsmith and Reed are pushed past the pocket, Heyward beating his man to the outside to prompt Brady to step up, with Reed nearly working back to him on the second effort on his release, targeting the receiver once again in the end zone, this time over the middle but the pass is low and incomplete with Pierre there in tight coverage again. Another big stand by the defense to hold the Bucs to yet another field goal, their fourth and only points of the game along with three great red zone stands by the defense! Lead is cut to one though.
With 4:14 left in the third quarter, the defense returned to a run, but it was Tampa Bay’s turn to be penalized for holding. This set up first and 17, where they tried White on the ground once again, with Wormley unable to get off his block, then Reed was able to for the tackle but a four-yard gain, with Heyward and Highsmith in the vicinity as well. On second and 13, Brady unleashes the pass over the middle to the wide-open tight end for the catch, with Jack coming up and providing the big hit limiting the gain to six yards, and another player knocked out of the game here. Third and seven now, and Brady is able to get the short pass off to White, with Heyward being blocked to the ground, and another solid tackle from Jack for the big stop just shy of the marker. The defense comes up big yet again, forcing another punt and impressively holding the Brady led Bucs to 3/10 on third down.
30 seconds left in the third quarter, the first down play was a Fournette outside run where Jackson set the edge, Highsmith worked down the line well, and Edmunds shot downhill from his deep alignment to fill the hole and make the solid tackle on the three-yard gain.
The drive continued to start the fourth quarter, and on second and seven Brady found the tight end on the short stick route in front of Jack, who made the tackle on the gain of six. Third and one now, and the Bucs go to the workhorse Fournette once again, and great run fits by the entire defense, particularly Heyward, with Wormley and Edmunds there to make the tackle for a loss of one as he tried to bounce it. So impressed with the defense’s performance without so many key players and holding Brady and their offense out of the end zone. One point lead remains.
Pittsburgh’s defense returned with 9:48 left and now up by eight, defending against Fournette, but this time on a screen pass where Ogunjobi pursued down the line well and Jack set the edge to turn it back inside, with Edmunds coming in to hit him first, along with Reed flying into swarm for the combined tackle for only one yard. On second and nine, Heyward was able to push his lineman back into Brady’s face on the throw, finding Godwin short of the sticks in front of the zone and able to get inside of Spillane for YAC and the first down where he tackled the gain of 11.
The following first down was a Fournette carry with good overall run defense plugging the running lanes to limit the gain to two yards. On second and eight, Brady found Evans (who has been quiet overall) on the five-yard stick route in front of Jackson, who reacted well and wrapped him up solidly on the four-yard gain. Big third and four now, and Brady was able to find the tight end who was able to make the diving catch against Spillane in coverage for a big 17-yard gain and conversion where Edmunds applied the big hit.
Another first down here, and Reed was penalized for offsides, which was able to be declined with Brady finding Fournette wide open on the dump off with YAC and Maulet missing a tackle opportunity, and Bush wrapping him up but drug for additional yards on the gain of nine. On second and one, Maulet did a great job to get inside the wide receivers run block and hit White behind the line, falling forward but only able to get back to the line of scrimmage. This brings up third and one now, and it’s the familiar Brady quarterback sneak, with Pittsburgh sniffing it out with the defensive line aligning tight with great get off and aiming low, particularly from Wormley and Alualu, with the latter combing for the tackle with Bush, and Edmunds grabbing him by the waist to make sure his second effort were futile, awesome job for another third down stop. The Bucs go for it on fourth and one, this time a toss to Fournette to combat the Steelers aggression inside, able to get between Pierre (set the edge) and Maulet (missing the angle), and valiant effort by Norwood to fly in from his deep alignment to lay the wood near the marker, but an amazing churning effort gains seven yards and the first down.
The drive unfortunately continued, starting with a Bucs false start penalty the set up first and 15. Brady found Fournette on a dump off pass at the line here, where Reed and Pierre were there to combine to tackle and limit the gain of four. On second and 11, Brady drops back and surveys against seemingly good coverage, and goes on the scramble drill feeling Heyward bearing down on his blindside, then targeting Godwin on a dangerous throw where Reed was covering the tight end and nearly had a huge interception, instead incomplete and Pierre injured on the play. This led to third and a long 11, and Brady went right back to Godwin with Heyward nearly batting the pass at the line, and awesome quick reaction by Norwood to tackle him quickly short of the sticks, doing an outstanding job of holding them to 4/14 on third down! Tampa Bay goes for it on fourth and one from the red zone, with Brady going to White in the flat, but able to get just enough for the conversion with safety Elijah Riley was a tick slow reacting from the box but unable to make the stop on his tackle.
The following first down was a quick swing pass to Fournette with wide receivers and a tight end providing good blocks out in front, then cutting inside to elude Spillane’s missed tackle, and running over Norwood and Wilson, and Ogunjobi hustling valiantly to wrap him up but falls into the end zone for the gut-wrenching touchdown. Another heart pumping finish in typical Steelers fashion. Tampa Bay needs two points to tie, Brady takes the shotgun snap, targets Godwin on the drag, and amazing play by Bush in excellent coverage and a huge pass breakup for the incompletion! Steelers lead by two, and the offense is able to sustain their final drive to run out the clock, WOW!
Let’s look at special teams:
PFF’s highest graded special teamer was Warren (89.8) with a tackle and also blocking well in my notes. Two other players have 80+ grades, Reed and also Jamir Jones who had an assisted tackle, good blocking, and tied for the team high in snaps. There were also four players with 70+ grades: Derek Watt (76.9), Gunner Olszewski (72.5), Edmunds (71.6), and Marcus Allen (70.1). Four players had below 50 grades: Mark Robinson (49.2) with a missed tackle, Pierre (30.8), and Norwood (29.7) the latter two each having a penalty.
Chris Boswell kicked off following the offenses opening drive touchdown to the one-yard line, where Boykin was blocked to the ground, Killebrew missed his angle, along with Robinson missing his tackle opportunity, and Warren working off his block to make the tackle on the 27-yard return. Following a good hold by the defense on fourth and ten, Norwood was hit with a neutral zone infraction on the field goal try, with the Bucs making the second attempt from 30 yards out. Steven Sims returned the following kickoff from the two-yard line, but Snell and Boykin each missed their blocks to allow the tackle for only 11 yards. Punter Pressley Harvin’s first attempt came at 1:35 in the first quarter from the back of the end zone, a nice 52 yarder to the sideline where the returner had room to the middle with two blockers on Boykin, instead staying on the sideline and where the latter pushed him out on the two-yard return.
Sims next punt return opportunity came at 11:01 in the second quarter, fielding it from the seven-yard line and able to get 12 yards on the return with Boykin getting a pancake, Snell and Reed missing their blocks in the middle forcing the bounce out, and Norwood allowing his man to work off his block to make the tackle. Boswell came on for a 55-yard field goal with 4:12 left in the half, doinking off the cross bar but bouncing through for the four-point lead. Sims’ next punt return opportunity came with 2:57 left in the half, fielding the 47-yard punt from the 20 and sidestepping the gunner who was allowed a free path by Wilson, but stuck with the play to tackle the short return of six yards. Harvin’s second punt didn’t come until 2:12 in the second quarter, a short one that takes a friendly bounce for 53 yards that was fielded at the 19, returned for six yards where Marcus Allen cut off the running lane and Killebrew combined for the tackle. Harvin punted with 32 seconds left until the half from his own 15-yard line, a 42 yarder that was returned for six yards with Gunner Olszewski working off the block and making the tackle on the cutback.
Sims provided a spark on the opening kickoff of the second half, able to make the first man miss around a Snell missed block, good blocks from Warren and Allen along with a double team block from Reed and Jones to create space, then a great cut to get around a Connor Heyward block, then off to the races for the timely explosive 88-yard return where he was chased down and tackled, nearly knocked for a fumble but thankfully hanging on. Great play to start the half. The offense couldn’t capitalize, but Boswell capped the three and out with a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead back to four. The Steelers were offsides for the second time of the game with 7:26 in the third quarter, the first on Norwood and this one going on Pierre, with the retry good and cutting the lead to one. Harvin’s next punt came at 4:25 in the third quarter, a short punt that takes a decent bounce for 44 yards, and downed by Christian Kuntz at the 15-yard line. Sims got another punt return opportunity with 2:21 in the third quarter, fielding it at the 24-yard line and providing another splash in the return game with a 24 yarder, making the first man miss once again (allowed through by Olszewski for the second time), and good blocks from Maulet, Killebrew, and Connor Heyward. Harvin punted on a short field with 38 seconds in the third quarter, a 30 yarder that went out of bounds at the 17-yard line.
Another punt return opportunity came at 13:49 for Sims, fielding the short punt but trying to do too much, reversing field but running backward and losing a whopping seven yards on the play. Boswell kicked off following the big fourth quarter offensive touchdown to go up eight, returned from the goal line, with Allen, Jamir Jones, and Boykin missing tackle opportunities and Derek Watt making the tackle at the 27-yard line.
STEELERS VS. BUCS WEEK 6 SNAPS & REGULAR SEASON TOTAL SNAPS:
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