The Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns in Week 13. Here are four things we learned from Pittsburgh’s 20-13 victory over their division rival.
As has been the story this season, the Steelers again got off to a slow start in Week 13. The offense was predictable and early on, and they failed to accumulate points in the first quarter, while the defense allowed 10 points early in the second half.
Though Cleveland jumped out to 10-0 lead, the Steelers responded with 17 unanswered points before eventually sealing a 20-13 victory over the Browns. Here are four things we learned from the game:
Devlin Hodges is the right choice moving forward
Though he certainly wasn’t perfect in this game, Devlin Hodges did about as well as we could have expected him to – considering the circumstances. The undrafted rookie was playing without his top wideout and starting running back – all while dealing with poor play-calling from offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Still, Hodges found a way to overcome. He finished the game completing 14 of 21 passes for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception (that may have been Diontae Johnson’s fault). The most telling stat, however, was his remarkable 10.1 yards per pass attempt. After his performance this week, Hodges is clearly the right option for the Steelers moving forward.
Randy Fichtner was too conservative early on
I understand why Fichtner wants to protect his young quarterback, but the Steelers couldn’t move the ball while Hodges was handcuffed to throwing screens and short passes. Fichtner called a much better game in the second half, as he allowed Hodges to air it out.
However, some of Hodges’s best passes came on free plays where he got the defense to jump offsides. Fichtner’s offense ultimately got the job done, but his ultra-conservative game plan won’t cut it in the playoffs, assuming Steelers make it that far.
James Washington is the Steelers best weapon right now
Regardless of how you feel about JuJu Smith-Schuster when healthy, there is no doubt in my mind that James Washington is currently the Steelers’ best offensive weapon. This isn’t to say that he is better than JuJu, but no Pittsburgh offensive player has been better recently.
Despite seeing just four targets against the Browns, Washington managed to catch 4 balls for 111 yards and a touchdown. The second-year receiver hauled in a beautiful catch down the sideline and capped off a great performance with a miraculous touchdown while getting interfered with. He has been phenomenal over the past five weeks of play.
T.J. Watt continues to build on Defensive MVP season
By this point, football fans should have little doubt that T.J. Watt is one of the premier pass rushers in the league. However, another dominant performance against the Browns on Sunday solidified what we already know.
Watt now has 12.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles in 12 weeks. He is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and a strong finish could make him the front-runner for the award as we draw near the end of the 2019 season.
The Steelers are certainly trending in the right direction as of late. We already know Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league this year. If they can get the ball rolling on offense, this is a team that could make a late push.