6 Steelers surprises from Sunday’s win over the Denver Broncos
Is a surprise a cheap enough thing to list this week? I’m wondering, as everyone was tapping the final nails into the coffin of the Steelers 2021 season – while I was saying “Wait just a minute…”
But I would be lying if I tried to say I wasn’t concerned somewhat.
The Steelers entered Sunday’s game as an underdog… AT HOME! If you used this useful guide, taking the 1.5 points or the over (39.5 points) would’ve been wise moves.
I guess all of the above are surprising, but there are some key points which also caught my attention in Sunday’s win over the Denver Broncos.
Big Ben is Back
The talk of Big Ben’s demise was greatly exaggerated, as the Steelers legendary quarterback put up a performance for the ages – throwing for two clutch touchdowns and finishing his Sunday with a 129.9 QB rating.
The Steelers offense was way more in-sync, and seeing Roethlisberger drop a 35-yard (in-air) touchdown completion to Diontae Johnson (50 yards total) on the first drive of the game is promising.
Ben also threw an 18-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to Chase Claypool, perhaps silencing critics who felt his arm may not have any juice left.
Najee Tops 100
We’ve had an observation here at SCU for years: when the Steelers running backs fail to top 20 touches – and Ben Roethlisberger is relied upon to throw too much – it usually ends up in a loss.
This week the Steelers rode Najee Harris to 23 carries against a Broncos defense who were giving up an average of 60 rushing yards per game. Even the Baltimore Ravens, the league’s best run team, barely topped 100 (102) one week earlier.
That didn’t detract from the Steelers gameplan, as Harris averaged 5.8 yards-per-carry for 122 yards total: his first 100-yard rushing performance as a pro. (Harris would also add a rushing touchdown and 20 receiving yards to his all-purpose total of 142.)
Von Miller Neutralized
If I told you that the underperforming Steelers offensive line would shutdown Von Miller, who entered Sunday’s game with 4.5 sacks and 7 QB hits, I would’ve been laughed into witness protection.
But that’s precisely what happened, with Chukwuma Okorafor handling most of the duties against a potential future Hall of Fame pass rusher.
O-Line Gets Help
Hats off to the O-Line for their job on Sunday, but also hats off to Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada for creating schemes which finally saw more involvement from the tight ends, running backs and even the full back, to assist the line at times.
The criticisms of the Steelers staff not using Derek Watt or multiple tight end sets is seemingly gone, as there was plenty of those fingerprints all over the Steelers Sunday win.
Going over the middle felt like it was taboo in the first four games of the season, but we finally saw a quick slant – and first down conversion – on Sunday.
Antonio Brown used to feast on these plays, and its not as if Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool aren’t capable of doing the same. The ball coming out quick still helps Roethlisberger and the offensive line.
They don’t need to rely on it often, but it really caught the Broncos defense off-guard later in the game, as the route hadn’t been run much.
We haven’t seen a lot of blitzes from the Steelers defense, and any effort from the inside linebackers was hardly noticed – if it occurred at all in the first four games.
Bush’s speed put Teddy on a backpedal, which was an even worse situation as he got dropped for a loss of 12 yards.