Steelers “Studs and Duds” from Week 2 against the Broncos
Steel City Underground’s “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.
It wasn’t the cleanest game for the secondary, at least by their standards, but cornerback Mike Hilton shined and made plays all over the field in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 26-21 win over the Denver Broncos.
He led the team in tackles with eight and added a sack, two tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery to his stat sheet as well. He consistently brought pressure on Denver quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel throughout the game, and nearly racked up a few more sacks as well.
The Steelers second-round pick at wide-receiver, Chase Claypool, beat Denver’s secondary down the sideline on a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger that went for 84 yards and a touchdown late in the second quarter.
This is the type of play that the Steelers expected from their rookie when they drafted him back in April, but Claypool also made a name for himself on special teams against the Broncos. He made a tackle on the Steelers opening kickoff and picked up another on a punt later in the game.
Hopefully, this is just the start of a stellar rookie season from Claypool because having a serious deep threat on the outside could open up the offense more.
Second-year wide-receiver Diontae Johnson had a few mental errors in this game, including a fumbled hand-off on the Steelers ten-yard line on their first possession that Pittsburgh fortunately recovered, but overall he just made too many electric plays to not land in the studs column.
He consistently forced missed tackles from the Denver secondary and made several impressive catches on less-than-ideal throws from Ben Roethlisberger.
He caught a critical 28-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave the Steelers a 26-14 lead and nearly added a highlight-reel 81-yard punt-return touchdown to his resume, but it was called back on an illegal block in the back.
I debated listing three wide receivers in the studs column for a single game, but you could make the case that JuJu Smith-Schuster was one of the most physical players on the football field this Sunday, and it’s rare to see that from a wide receiver.
Smith-Schuster didn’t have a dominant performance on the stat sheet but made several third-down conversions in the game by breaking tackles and stiff-arming Denver cornerbacks.
He put a violent stiff arm on Broncos cornerback Michael Ojemudia that would’ve set Heinz Field on fire if there were fans at the game and set the Steelers up on the goal line for a James Conner touchdown late in the first quarter.
Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt
It was another dominating performance from the Steelers pass rush, sacking Denver quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel seven times and hitting them on seemingly every pass-attempt in the game.
Linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, alone, combined for 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, and two tackles for loss. But the play that really stood out for the pass-rushing duo was a forced fumble midway through the first half.
Watt drove his man deep into the pocket and forced Drew Lock to scramble. Dupree finished the play off with a punishing blow that knocked the ball out of Lock’s hands and right into Mike Hilton’s, who recovered the fumble. The turnover gave the Steelers offense a short field that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.
It was another week where you could make a case for just about any one of the Steelers defensive linemen to make the studs column, but defensive tackle Cameron Heyward wreaked havoc on the Broncos all game long.
He finished the game with only .05 sacks, but he landed 4 quarterback hits and consistently disrupted plays by dominating his match-ups against the interior of the Broncos offensive line.
The Steelers offensive line didn’t miss a beat with David DeCastro, Stefen Wisniewski, and Zach Banner all out due to injury. Rookie 4th-round draft pick Kevin Dotson made his first career start at right guard, and “Chuks” Okorafor, in his third year with the Steelers, made his fourth career start at right tackle.
The right side of the offensive line was a huge question mark and a bit of a cause for concern going into Pittsburgh’s home opener, but “Chuks” and Dotson played well and kept the Broncos pass rush off of Ben Roethlisberger.
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After a strong game against the Giants in Week One and a poor performance from James Conner in that game, second-year running back Benny Snell had an opportunity to show up big against the Broncos in Week Two and earn more playing time this season but Snell never got anything going against Denver, rushing for only five yards on three carries in the game.
Even worse, Snell had a disastrous fumble in the 4th quarter that gave the Broncos offense new life after it seemed that the Steelers had taken full control of the game with a double-digit lead. Instead, the Broncos took advantage of a short field and brought the game within one score with seven minutes left on the clock.
After nearly fumbling away a lead in Week 1, Snell could ill-afford to put the ball on the ground again, and he did just that.