Steelers “Studs and Duds” from Week 1 against the Giants
Studs and Duds takes a look at the winners and losers from each of the Pittsburgh Steelers games during the 2020 season. Check with us after every game each week for our list, and to also see who climbed, or fell, down the rankings.
The “million-dollar” question for the Steelers this offseason was how their future Hall of Fame quarterback would recover from the elbow surgery that sidelined him for the 2019 season. Anticipation was high for Steelers fans heading into week one, and Roethlisberger delivered.
It was not the prettiest start for the offense, but once “Big Ben” got into a rhythm in the second quarter, he looked to be back in form, completing 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns by the end of the game.
After trailing for the entire first half, Roethlisberger put the Steelers up 16-10 at halftime with a two-minute-drill touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter that Steelers fans have grown accustomed to seeing from their quarterback throughout his career.
Third-year wide receiver James Washington capped off Roethlisberger’s touchdown drive with a thirteen-yard reception in which he broke two tackles from Julian Love and Adrian Colbert of the Giants, and willed himself into the end zone.
Washington did not have a stellar performance outside of that touchdown catch, but it was a spectacular play and a huge momentum swing for the Steelers.
You will likely see linebackers Bud Dupree and TJ Watt appear on this list often throughout the season as they look every bit the dominant pass-rushing duo that terrorized opposing offensive lines in 2019.
You could feasibly list every player from the Steelers’ defensive front in the studs column for this game after holding Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just 6 yards on 15 carries, but Dupree separated himself from the pack in a big way.
He finished the game with 2 tackles for loss and 1 quarterback hit, but he consistently disrupted the Giants running game and forced Daniel Jones to make rushed throws on numerous occasions, including a red zone pass that was picked off by Cam Heyward late in the 3rd quarter.
It wasn’t the most dominant performance you’ll see from linebacker TJ Watt, as he keeps raising the bar for himself week in and week out, every year. But Watt played all over the field and found himself in the Giants’ backfield early and often. The play that landed Watt in the studs column, however, was a key, momentum-swinging interception early in the 2nd quarter that put the Steelers offense on the Giants 36-yard-line. The offense quickly scored a touchdown off of the turnover that nearly tied the game.
After an underwhelming 2019 season, wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster benefited in a big way from having Ben Roethlisberger back. He finished the game with 6 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns, and made several plays without the ball in his hands as well.
Smith-Schuster made a key pick that freed up James Washington for the 13-yard touchdown at the end of the first half, and a crucial fumble recovery near the end of the 3rd quarter that kept the Steelers offense on the field.
Second-year running back Benny Snell had a big game for Pittsburgh filling in for James Conner who missed the second half of the game with an ankle injury. The Steelers struggled to run the ball with Conner, but Snell rushed for 113 yards on 19 attempts, finishing the game with an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
He had a potentially disastrous fumble late in the 3rd quarter, but outside of that play, Snell consistently broke tackles, picking up extra yards on 1st and 2nd downs that helped sustain drives for the Steelers in the second half. The offense just looked more fluid with Snell in the game.
The Steelers had a shaky, up and down performance in week 1, but the only player who stood out as having a particularly bad game from start to finish was running back James Conner.
Conner missed the second half with a reported ankle injury, but even before the injury he had a disappointing game to say the least.
He rushed for 9 yards on 6 carries, caught 2 of his 4 targets for 8 receiving yards, and just never got into a rhythm. While he didn’t have a lot of help from the offensive line, he was significantly outplayed by Benny Snell.
The one area where the team consistently under-performed was on special teams.
The unit’s woes started early on a muffed punt by wide receiver Diontae Johnson that set the Giants offense up on the Steelers 3-yard-line. Had Johnson not fumbled on that play, and nearly muffed another fair catch later in the first half, he may have landed in the studs column for this week as he finished the game with 6 receptions for 57 yards.
After the Steelers scored their first touchdown of the game, Chris Boswell missed an extra point that would have tied the game up at 10-10 in the 2nd quarter. Tackling was also an issue for the Steelers on special teams, as they struggled to bring down Giants punt returners multiple times.
It was an overall poor performance on the day from the Steelers special teams unit.