Winners and losers of the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.
Anthony McFarland/Benny Snell: Najee Harris was in and out of the lineup in the first half and was ruled out at half time. Kudos to McFarland and Snell for stepping up and running hard. McFarland found open lanes and hit the hole while Snell had a nice run of cuts. Neither was spectacular, but the combination of their efforts tonight was important. For two guys who hadn’t had a single carry all year, and for McFarland, his first game in a calendar year, they showed up.
Matthew Wright: After a rough first game in Week 10 with the Steelers, Wright was good with field goals tonight. Kickoff hangtime may be another story, but in a low-scoring game, field goals were critical. Wright barely made his 52-yarder, ducking off the left post, but it’s still three points.
Levi Wallace: I talked about the need to make the outside corners play better tonight and we succeeded. Pittsburgh made smart and frankly overdue personnel adjustments and no longer used Arthur Maulet as a down hooker. Cam Sutton hit the lock as Pierre replaced him at RCB. Wallace read routes well and rode the ball effectively, finishing with two fractures. James Pierre had an early impressive INT, though he gave up a fade touchdown on the goal line late in the third quarter, specifically bumping him off this list.
George Pickens: While it wasn’t perfect with at least one catch he should have made, Pickens still comes out big in key moments. He is getting more and more complete and you can feel his game growing in recent weeks. He works on all levels of the court and had a great scramble drill catch from Kenny Pickett on a two-point conversion, key points to make it a seven-point game. He still did what he does best, a 35-yard toe-tapping grab down the right sideline of play action.
Alex Highsmith: Nearly on the losers list, he came out big on the final ride. A sack, tackle for loss and hit 4th down. Couple moments for him to get to ten bags a year. Came at a great time. Make plays. That’s what he did and that’s what the Steelers needed.
Kick Coverage: The #1 reason the Colts got back into this game. Indy returnman Dallis Flowers and Isaiah Rodgers averaged a whopping 49 yards per return on four attempts. Rodgers’ long was 45, while Flowers broke things open in the second half with an 89-yard runback. Wright’s kicks don’t seem to have much time, while the team is sorely missing Miles Boykin on the cover team. This isn’t one game either. It’s been a problem since bye week and gave the Colts a chance to rise in the third quarter. Pittsburgh didn’t win the battle for field position tonight, that’s for sure.
Dan Moore Jr.: Two tougher weeks for Moore, who continues to struggle with power surges and allows an early layoff. Also was called for a penalty that slowed a drive that was in motion. He did provide some nice downblocks in the run game, but it’s his job as LT to pass and he struggles with that.
Diana Johnson: Johnson got involved early on after the team talked about giving him the ball all week. He came open, ran some nice runs, but dropped a major potential touchdown in the fourth quarter. For a man who has yet to find the end zone this season, that was a game he needed and could definitely make. It’s a good ball from Kenny Pickett. Johnson remains a third weapon in this offense, behind TE Pat Freiermuth and WR George Pickens, who regularly play for him.
Johnson had another example of not getting on the field, catching a ramp and running level to turn a probable third and short into third and six.
TJ Watts: Expected more from Watt tonight. Play with limited impact. At least Alex Highsmith made plays on the Colts’ final drive in the fourth quarter. A better inside pocket collapse would have helped, but the Colts had allowed pockets in bunches this season and Matt Ryan wasn’t brought down enough tonight. Watts bar is set high and he failed to reach it tonight.