Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts Monday night.
Anthony McFarland/Benny Snell: Najee Harris was in and out of the lineup in the first half and was ruled out at halftime. Kudos to McFarland and Snell for stepping up and running hard. McFarland found open lanes and hit the hole while Snell had a nice cutback run. Neither guy was spectacular but the combination of their efforts tonight were important. For two guys who hadn’t had a single carry all year, and for McFarland, his first game in a calendar year, they showed up.
Matthew Wright: After a tough first game in Week 10 with the Steelers, Wright was good on field goals tonight. Hangtime on kickoffs may be a different story but in a low-scoring game, field goals were critical. Wright barely made his 52-yarder, doinking in off the left post, but it’s three points all the same.
Levi Wallace: Talked about the need for the outside corners to play better tonight and they did. Pittsburgh made smart and frankly, overdue, personnel adjustments, no longer using Arthur Maulet as an everydown corner. Cam Sutton bumped to the slot while Pierre replaced him at RCB. Wallace read routes well and drove on the ball effectively, finishing with two breakups. James Pierre had an early impressive INT though gave up a goal line fade touchdown late in the third quarter, bumping him specifically from this list.
George Pickens: Though it wasn’t perfect with at least one catch he should’ve made, Pickens still comes up large in key moments. He’s becoming more well-rounded and you can feel his game growing in recent weeks. He’s working all levels of the field and had a great scramble drill catch from Kenny Pickett on a two-point conversion, key points to make it a seven-point game. He still did what he does best, a toe-tapping 35 yard grab down the right sideline off playaction.
Alex Highsmith: Nearly on the loser’s list, he came up large on the final drive. A sack, tackle for loss, and pressure on 4th down. Clutch moments for him to get to ten sacks on the year. Came at a great moment. Make plays late. That’s what he did and that’s what the Steelers needed.
Kick Coverage: The #1 reason why the Colts got back into this game. Indy return man Dallis Flowers and Isaiah Rodgers averaged a whopping 49 yards per return on four tries. Rodgers’ long was 45 while Flowers broke things open in the second half with an 89-yard runback. Wright’s kicks don’t seem to have much hangtime while the team is very much missing Miles Boykin on the coverage team. This isn’t a one-game thing either. It’s been an issue since the bye week and gave the Colts the chance to surge in the third quarter. Pittsburgh didn’t win the field position battle tonight, that’s for sure.
Dan Moore Jr.: Two rougher weeks for Moore, who continues to struggle with power rushes and allowed an early sack. Also called for penalty that slowed down a drive that was moving. He did provide nice downblocks in the run game but his job as a LT is to pass protect and he’s struggled there.
Diontae Johnson: Johnson got involved early after the team talked about getting him the ball throughout the week. He got open, ran a few nice routes, but dropped a key would-be touchdown in the fourth quarter. For a guy who has yet to find the end zone this season, that was a play he needed and certainly was capable of making. It as a good ball from Kenny Pickett. Johnson continues to be a third weapon in this offense behind TE Pat Freiermuth and WR George Pickens who continue to regularly make plays ahead of him.
Johnson had another instance of not getting upfield, catching a slant and running horizontally to turn a likely third and short into third and six.
T.J. Watt: Expected more from Watt tonight. Limited impact plays. At least Alex Highsmith made plays on the Colts’ final drive of the fourth quarter. Better interior pocket collapse would’ve helped but the Colts had been allowing sacks in bunches this season and Matt Ryan wasn’t taken down enough tonight. Watt’s standard is high and he didn’t meet it tonight.