Stats that stood out in a disappointing Steelers loss to the Broncos
While the Pittsburgh Steelers played an ugly game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and won in Week 11, their mistakes caught up to them on Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos. The Steelers ended their six-game win streak and undefeated record at opponents’ home stadiums in the process. Not everything was a negative for Pittsburgh, however. Some of the stats from Week 12 are things that the Steelers can improve upon moving forward or were just outright impressive from a personal and/or team performance standpoint.
Some good JuJu
Second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has put together a solid season in 2018. Entering the game, Smith-Schuster had already laid claim to the franchise record for the longest touchdown catch (97-yard TD reception; Detroit Lions, 29 Oct. 2017) and went onto the field and matched it by grabbing a Ben Roethlisberger throw and running it to the house for another 97-yards. His 13 receptions for 189 yards and the touchdown put Smith-Schuster over 1,000 yards receiving for the season (1,055 yards). With 13 receptions, Smith-Schuster claimed the second 10-plus catch game of his career (matching his performance on Sept. 16, 2018 vs. Kansas City Chiefs).
What can Brown do for you?
Antonio Brown has continued to find a way to be special despite the number of defenders opponents have shadowed him with. Denver’s defense played Brown tight, limiting him to nine receptions for 67 yards, ending his streak of consecutive games in which he had scored a touchdown to eight. Despite the Broncos defenders being very physical with Brown, he logged a 78-yard reception in the game – his second-longest career reception (79-yarder in 2011). Brown finished the game with 804 career receptions and 10,784 yards; he joined Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt as the only players in NFL history with a minimum of 800 catches in their first nine seasons in the league. Brown is the new record-holder for the fewest NFL games (126) to reach the 800 receptions mark. Brown also threw a pass during the game that was incomplete.
As Zach Metkler pointed out last week, Javon Hargrave is having a career-season in 2018. After earning two sacks against the Jaguars, Hargrave was steady in the center of the defensive front for the Steelers against the Broncos and earned 0.5 sacks (shared with Cameron Heyward). That moved his sack total in 2018 to 5.5 (9.5 on his career). With no Steelers nose tackle having ever logged more than 6.0 sacks in a single season (since sack totals became an official stat in 1982), Hargrave is on pace to pass Gerald Williams (6.0 sacks in 1990) and Gary Dunn (6.0 sacks in 1982 and 1983) with the most sacks by a Pittsburgh player at his position in a season.
With Marcus Gilbert still sidelined due to injury, the Steelers called on rookie Chukwuma Okorafor to man the right tackle position in arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. In just his third start, Okorafor handled himself against a Broncos defense that featured Von Miller and Shelby Harris bringing heated pressure. The young lineman handled 100 percent of the snaps at his position; 78 on offense, 5 on special teams play.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have the best game of his career against the Broncos on Sunday, but he wasn’t afraid to spread the ball out among his teammates on offense. The veteran quarterback targeted nine different players on the day, including Brown, Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, James Conner, Jesse James, Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Jaylen Samuels, and James Washington.
Roethlisberger extended his NFL record for the most 450-passing yard performances to six total after throwing for 462 yards against the Broncos. Big Ben now has two more 450-yard passing games than Dan Marino (ranked No. 2 with 4), Drew Brees (3) and Peyton Manning (3).
It’s notable that the Steelers were able to put together 527 yards of total offense (net) against Denver (308), but still managed to lose the game due to four fumbles (two lost, two recovered) and two interceptions.
Defensively, the Steelers’ streak of holding opposing offenses to under 300 total yards of offense ended at five games when Pittsburgh gave up 308 on Sunday. The five-game streak was the longest for a Steelers defense since 2012 (eight straight games).
Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva extended his consecutive regular-season games played streak to 59, ranked (tied) as the fourth-longest active streak among active offensive tackles in the NFL. That wasn’t what made Sunday so special for the former college tight end. In the second quarter, on a fake field goal, Chris Boswell threw a two-yard toss to Villanueva who became the first Steelers offensive lineman with a touchdown catch (six points) since Ray Pinney (at Cleveland Browns) on Jan. 2, 1983.
Boswell converted a 41-yard field goal attempt during the second quarter of the game. The successful kick increased his total career field goals made total with the Steelers to 94 and moved him to sixth in team history in that statistic behind Gary Anderson (309, 1982-94), Jeff Reed (204, 2002-10), Roy Gerela (146, 1971-78), Shaun Suisham (124, 2010-14), and Norm Johnson (105, 1995-98).