Breaking down the success and failures of Pittsburgh’s Week 17 performance.
The Pittsburgh Steelers pushed the Cleveland Browns to the absolute limit on Sunday. Mason Rudolph and a cast of misfits nearly pulled off the comeback, but came up a two point conversion short. Overall, today couldn’t have gone any better. The Steelers pushed the Browns to the brink on the road while not receiving any injuries. My grades will reflect the talent discrepancy and just how well those backups played.
Let’s evaluate the team and highlight some individual performances. You may think my grades are spot on, you might also think I’m an idiot. Regardless, express your thoughts in the comments below.
Let’s do this…
The offense had FIVE scoring drives, FIVE. They did this without Ben Roethlisberger or Maurkice Pouncey as well. Say what you want but I was definitely impressed by this group. Had Rudolph not thrown that pick or missed on the two point conversion I think this grade gets boosted to an A.
Speaking of Mason Rudolph check out these stats:
315 Passing yards
That was as close to the best game Rudolph has played in the NFL. Especially when you factor in the Steelers still had about five drops, he threw two passes away, and the missed roughing the passer call on his interception. Rudolph was dialed in on Sunday and looks to have cemented himself as a career NFL backup who one day might get another opportunity to start elsewhere.
Speaking of monster games, Chase Claypool was dynamic. Cracking the 100 yard plateau and adding a ridiculous touchdown grab. I would certainly expect Claypool to be a big factor in the playoffs. James Conner also looked good with the ball in his hands and he has pulled ahead as the featured runner once again.
The only negative was both offensive tackles, Alejandro Villanueva especially looked like he was trying to get Rudolph killed at times. I would anticipate the Steelers find his replacement in the 2021 NFL Draft…
The defense played fairly well for what they had. No T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden, or Terrell Edmunds but the group still managed to put up four sacks. With Robert Spillane close to returning you can see this units potential as the playoffs draw near.
The defense’s inability to force a turnover is probably the reason why they weren’t able to win the game in Cleveland but without so many play makers, it’s hard to fault them. The defense was fine and made some stops. You also can’t put all the points on their shoulders as Rudolph’s interception gave the Browns excellent field position.
The bright side this unit will only get better but the reserves can build on this performance.
This was another game where nothing really special happened. But Matthew Wright was 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points he has earned himself another job in the NFL. On top of that Jordan Berry had a really good day punting he ball.
Ray-Ray McCloud was fine returning kicks and Kevin Rader was a special teams ace. Wright and Berry deserve the A for their efforts alone.
This wasn’t exactly a notable day for big time play calling either. The two point play call was a touch uninspired. However Randy Fitchner and Keith Butler put the Steelers in a position to win the game.
Using Josh Dobbs as a gadget quarterback was genius and gave the Steelers another dimension. One they should continue to use in the playoffs. Again, this was the perfect result for the Steelers, they nearly won and are healthy. Couldn’t ask for much more.
I couldn’t be more proud of this group. The Steelers reserves gave the Browns everything they could handle and have set themselves up for success against them next week. Was it a perfect game? No. But the Steelers should have all the confidence in the world that they can beat them again next week.
This was also a great day for Mason Rudolph that should at least land him another deal to be an NFL quarterback.
The Steelers now turn toward the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Their opponent, once again will be the Cleveland Browns. With many of the prominent players returning we should expect a more complete game, and hopefully the beginning of a long, memorable playoff run.