Steelers “Studs and Duds” from Week 7 Against the Titans
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.
Linebacker Vince Williams set the tone in this game immediately with a huge solo tackle against Derrick Henry on the Titans’ first drive of the game. He kept the physicality up for the entire game and did a tremendous job containing Henry. He also led the team in tackles, with 10, and finished with a sack and two tackles for loss as well.
It was a long game for Tennessee Titans right tackle Dennis Kelly, who was attempting to block linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt found himself in the Titans’ offensive backfield early and often, beating double teams, applying pressure on Ryan Tannehill, and stuffing Henry in the running game.
Terrell Edmunds had what was probably his best game of the season so far against the Titans. He made plays all over the field, tackling Henry, deflecting passes, and playing fairly well overall in coverage. It was a performance that Steelers fans should hope to see more of moving forward.
After a quiet stretch of games, at least on the stat sheet, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster came though with a big game against the Titans, catching nine passes for 85 yards. JuJu played a huge role for the Steelers, picking up several first downs and putting in the effort to fight for extra yards.
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt had another big game for the Steelers, playing a critical role in Pittsburgh’s run defense that held Henry, the league’s leading rusher by a wide margin, to one of his worst games of the season. Tuitt also came through in a big way on the Titans’ final possession of the game, applying pressure on Tannehill and forcing him to commit an intentional grounding penalty that potentially saved the game for the Steelers.
Welcome back, Diontae Johnson. After missing two straight games due to injury, Johnson came through with a huge game for the Steelers. He dropped a difficult touchdown pass at the end of the first half but finished the game with nine receptions for 80 yards, and showed off his electric playmaking ability. More importantly, though, Johnson caught both of Ben Roethlisberger‘s touchdown passes.
Running back James Conner continued his strong stretch of games, racking up over 100 total yards in four of his last five games. On Sunday, he rushed for 82 yards on 20 attempts and caught three passes for 29 yards. He did drop a wide-open touchdown pass in the first quarter, that bounced off of his hands, but Conner’s performance on the ground kept the offense moving, picking up first downs and giving the Steelers manageable 3rd downs often in the game.
The Offensive Line
The interior of the offensive line – in particular, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Matt Feiler – all had themselves a game against the Titans, opening holes in the running game and getting to the second level to block for James Conner. Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor had two costly penalties on the first drive of the game, but outside of that, the offensive line limited their mistakes and kept the pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger, who didn’t get sacked in the game.
Cornerback Joe Haden did his job, and then some, against the Titans on Sunday. He gave up a reception here and there but, for the most part, Haden locked down every receiver lined up against him for the majority of the game. He also made a few tackles on Henry in the game, including an open-field tackle on a screen pass on the final drive that could have burned the Steelers for a big gain.
It’s difficult to label any player a dud when the Steelers beat an undefeated team to move up to 6-0 on the season but Minkah Fitzpatrick did not have his best game against the Titans. He actually played very well for the majority of the game but, unfortunately, free safeties can ill afford to make mistakes and Minkah made a few costly ones.
He whiffed on a tackle that could have potentially held wide receiver, A.J. Brown, to a moderate gain instead of the 73-yard touchdown that Brown scored in the 3rd quarter. He also committed an ill-timed pass interference penalty on a 4th-and-1 play on the goal line that would have gone down as a turnover-on-downs otherwise.