The Steelers were looking for better results on their second straight road game this past Sunday. They found a win this time around against the Baltimore Ravens. Last week, there was little to be excited about following an overtime loss to the Bears, but this week was an entirely different story for Pittsburgh.
Here are my Steelers winners and losers from week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens:
Ryan Shazier played one of the best regular season games I’ve seen him play in a Steelers uniform. He was all over the field – constantly making plays against the run and in coverage. His stat line was more than respectable with 11 tackles (10 solo), a tackle for a loss, 3 pass defenses, and an interception. His presence could be felt anywhere on the field. Shazier caught fire again and proved why his name should be in the discussion for one of the most valuable players to the organization. If he can become a little bit more consistent and stay healthy, he could be in for the best year of his career.
I have been raving about Hilton since I watched him take the field at training camp in Latrobe, and it feels good to be so right about him. I predicted that he would not only make the team but also start for the Steelers in nickel situations. Mike Hilton has done that and more, as he has continually rated out as one of the best players in Pittsburgh’s secondary. Hilton let the Ravens know his name after he recorded 4 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, a pass deflection, and an interception against Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. I can’t say enough about how impressed I’ve been with Hilton since he arrived.
Just when we thought the old Le’Veon Bell was gone, he resurrects his season with a phenomenal performance against the Ravens. Yes, Baltimore was missing Brandon Williams (one of the best defensive tackles in the league at stopping the run), but it was still a noteworthy performance from Bell. He posted 144 rushing yards on a whopping 35 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. He also added 4 catches for an additional 42 yards. Though his average still wasn’t spectacular (4.1 per carry), his presence every down showed why he is still one of the best workhorse backs in the league. It was a big leap in the right direction for the All-Pro running back.
Heyward continued to build on one his best seasons to date with another solid outing against the Ravens this past week. Most of the time, Heyward’s impact and what he does on the field can’t be measured by a stat sheet, but he was definitely noticed this week. Heyward recorded 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss in quite possibly one of the best performances of his career. Having Stephon Tuitt back in the mix (who also had a solid game, by the way) should only alleviate pressure from Heyward.
It didn’t take long for JuJu Smith-Schuster to get off to a rocket-fast start for the Steelers. Still 20-years old, JuJu already caught his second touchdown pass of the season, and astonishingly still has seven weeks to build on his statistics (and possibly break records) before his 21st birthday. Though Eli Rogers is a capable player, he’s quickly becoming an afterthought now that Smith-Schuster is firmly in the mix.
I can guarantee you won’t see AB on this list very often, but he’s here today for a couple different reasons. First, his play was unspectacular last week. Though he was targeted 9 times (leading all Steelers receivers), he managed a mere 34 receiving yards (5th on the team). Though Brown always commands tough coverage, he was nearly invisible this week. He also had the ball go right through his hands on the two-point conversion attempt.
Second, Brown’s attitude on the sideline was terrible. On a 3rd and short, Brown was wide open, pleading for the ball, but Roethlisberger dumped it down to the flats instead. As a result, Brown threw a child-like tantrum when he went to the sidelines – throwing a Gatorade cooler and yelling at a coach. It’s okay for Antonio Brown to be upset in that situation, but the way he handled it was completely uncalled for. I’m not the type to sugarcoat it (even when it comes to an All-Pro player). It was a rough day all around for Brown.
Offensive Line Penalties
When they weren’t being penalized, the offensive line actually played a very good game. The problem is the o-line made you want to rip your hair out half the game with their bone-headed penalties. As a unit, they were penalized five times. When facing good opponents in the playoffs, these drive-killing penalties will be enough to send the Steelers packing. They have got to clean up the mess while they still can.
Wilcox will deliver the massive blow on occasion, but he takes bad angles and fills the wrong lanes. In pass coverage, he was less than spectacular. Wilcox was late coming over the top on a deep ball to Ravens WR Mike Wallace that would have gone for a massive gain (if not, a touchdown). Luckily for the newest Steelers safety, Wallace couldn’t collect the ball on a perfect pass. Wilcox should prove to be a solid depth guy, but we will be relieved to get Mike Mitchell back soon.
The story of McDonald‘s career was summed up with a huge drop he had in the first half. Vance flashed solid blocking skills and the ability to get open down the field, but dropped the ball in wide open space. He has yet to warrant major playing time like some thought he would, and Jesse James is clearly the Steelers favorite tight end at this point. If McDonald doesn’t start getting more reliable, he may never have a chance to carve out a significant role.