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Week 16 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 10, New York Jets 16


What you need to know

Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming into Week 16 against the New York Jets, the Steelers have a lot of story lines to pay attention to. The Steelers are still firmly in the playoff hunt and control their own destiny if they win the rest of their games. The Steelers were facing off against Le’Veon Bell for the first time since time and Hines Ward was coaching against his former team.

In a game where the Steelers only allowed one offensive touchdown you would think they had a good opportunity to win. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a point during this game where the Steelers felt in control offensively. The offensive line was getting a good push in the passing game, but both Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph were not able to do their parts to help sustain the passing game. Late in the fourth quarter the Steelers were given one last possession to win the game with under two minutes left and the burden on Devlin Hodges’ shoulder. Unfortunately, with two missed conversions at the end of their drive, the Steelers offense stalled out and they could not pull off a comeback victory.

New York Jets

The Jets appear to be really good on opening drives, and then really inconsistent beyond them. Yes, the Steelers defense can be effective – and they can stop the run – but for some reason once the Jets get through that first script, they don’t seem to be able to move the ball. Anderson seems to be your best bet for production, but it’s hard to feel confident with him, especially when his value can hinge on scoring. Jamison Crowder is dropping the ball, and not as involved as you’d like. And LeVeon Bell is not himself, especially behind a bad offensive line.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Mason Rudolph, 33 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 20 - 129 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 0 - 0
Rudolph came in to replace Devlin Hodges who was benched after throwing his second interception of the first half. The difference between Rudolph and Hodges was evident immediately. Hodges delivered an accurate pass without much zip and Rudolph could deliver an accurate ball, but his was more scatter show and had more zip on it. Rudolph’s first pass attempt was thrown behind Diontae Johnson. Johnson’s momentum was take him across the field and he wasn’t able to make the adjustment to the ball for a reception. On two almost devastating back to back plays, a fumble was saved by a false start penalty and Rudolph’s following pass was nearly intercepted when the pass was behind McDonald and fell through the fingers of a Jets defender. Rudolph was starting to get into a rhythm and was getting the ball out quickly with the Steelers offensive line not providing much protection. In the third quarter, Rudolph went back to the bench after taking a big hit and injuring himself.

QB Devlin Hodges, 34 offensive snaps, Pass: 11 - 17 - 84 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0
It is either feast or famine for the Steelers passing game and unfortunately in Week Intercepted on the first d it was famine. Hodges through an interception on the first drive of the game. As he stepped up in the pocket, Hodges delivered a pass of the middle of the field while targeting Vance McDonald. The linebacker who intercepted the ball make an incredible play on the ball in the air. Hodges’ second interception was just as good as the first. Hodges was trying to hit his receiver in the back of the end zone and didn’t have enough loft on the ball. Marcus Maye was able to make a great play on the ball in the air for Hodges’ second pick of the first half. Hodges was benched after his second interception and then reentered the game after Mason Rudolph was injured. Hodges drew a sack when rolling to his right. The defender came through the line untouched and put the Steelers out of field goal range in the fourth quarter. Showing to be their own worst enemy, Hodges takes another sack. Hodges was sacked on three consecutive drop backs. On the last sack Hodges held the ball too long and is showing signs of being reluctant to pull the trigger on a pass. On Hodges’ final two pass attempts of the game he gave his guys an opportunity to make a play for the team. The next to last pass attempt of the game Hodges delivered a catchable ball close to the endzone for James Washington. Washington had his hands on the ball, but the reception was broken up at the last minute. The last pass of the game Hodges got the ball off and gave Juju Smith-Schuster a shot to make a play to keep the game alive. The ball was a little high, but Smith-Schuster had a chance to make the play. The ball went right through his hands.

RB James Conner, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 32 - 0
Even after being stuffed for a loss of yards on the first rush attempt of the game, early on Conner was the most explosive part of the Steelers offense. Conner found good space up the middle on his second carry and the Steelers’ offensive line was getting a great push against the Jets defensive line. Conner was showing fresh legs with three runs of more than 10 yards. Conner ended up leaving the game early. Again.

WR Diontae Johnson, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 81 - 1 (9 targets)
The development of Diontae Johnson over the last several weeks has been impressive. Johnson has went from a rookie who committed frequent penalties and drops to a go to member of the receiving group. In fact, Johnson has been the most targeted wide receiver for the Steelers over the last two weeks. In Week 16, Johnson’s first reception was a slant and showed excellent acceleration after the reception and was able to follow up with a great concentration after a reception to keep ahold of the pass. Johnson’s best reception came on an over the shoulder grab for a touchdown. Showing nuance in his route, Johnson faked going inside and was able to not only get a step on the defender, but also pull away from the coverage. Johnson’s final reception of the game came on off coverage. Johnson received the ball in open space and was able to make a play to make the defender miss.

WR James Washington, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 41 - 0 (8 targets)
The splash plays were almost there for James Washington which would have taken a good night to a great night. After starting the game being take down on a gruesome looking horse collar tackle where Washington’s knees buckled and he was checked out on the sideline, Washington came back in quickly. Washington was quickly targeted and made a great high point catch in traffic. Washington’s first missed catch came deep down the sideline. He has made this type of tricky adjustment on the ball before in previous games, but was not able to come up with the catch here. On the next to last play of the game, Washington was targeted on one on one coverage deep down the middle of the field. The ball was delivered in a place where Washington could get both hands on the ball. Unfortunately, Washington could not bring in the pass and the drive ultimately stalled out.


New York Jets

QB Sam Darnold, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 26 - 183 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 3 - 0
Darnold didn’t have a great game, but he wasn’t terrible. For a second year quarterback, it’s not really the result you want, but it’s an improvement over where he was earlier in the season. He turned the ball over once, when he was strip sacked at the end of the first half. Darnold had about three seconds to avoid the sack which came from behind when the right tackle was completely ineffective. Darnold was in the midst of throwing the ball but it was knocked away. His best throw came at the end of the very first drive of the game, as he hit Robby Anderson with a 23-yard touchdown pass. The play, on a 3rd and 9 saw Darnold take the snap from out of a shotgun formation, while Anderson headed downfield into th end zone. Darnold didn’t have much time to throw, and got the ball off just before the defense go to him. Anderson was double covered, but Darnold put the ball high and over the head of both defenders, while Anderson jumped up to high point the pass for a score. After that the Jets were relentlessly conservative, and most of Darnold’s long gains came because his receivers did an exceptional job gaining yards after the catch.

RB LeVeon Bell, 56 offensive snaps, Rush: 25 - 72 - 0, Rec: 4 - 21 - 0 (4 targets)
For the second week in a row, Bell got a ton of carries, but is still seeing only a handful of targets, though he caught everything thrown his way. The Steelers run defense was a stout one, and Bell is behind a poor offensive line. His yards per carry came down again and while he looked good early — three of his first four carries were for seven yards, and five of his first seven carries were five yards or more — the longer the game went, the more he struggled, with him running for -2 yards on three carries in the final drive, handing the ball back to Pittsburgh for a final shot to win. The blame for some of that still falls on the offensive line, and some of it is because the Steelers defense was both determined to stop their former teammate and able to focus on him due to poor play on the part of the Jets passing game. Still, Bell has not looked right all season, and continues to struggle with finding and getting through the hole, breaking free of tacklers and creating more yards in space.

RB Ty Montgomery, 8 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 7 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)
Montgomery may be the number two back here, but that still doesn’t amount to anything. He is mostly relegated to special teams, and wasn’t even a factor there on Sunday.

RB Bilal Powell, 4 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Powell is battling an ankle injury, so it’s not shocking he did very little and was on the field for just four snaps.

WR Jamison Crowder, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (8 targets)
Crowder led the team in yardage, but he and Sam Darnold are struggling to be on the same page. He also had a massive drop which stalled out a drive in the second quarter, one he should have reeled in. He did have two longer plays — a 17-yard catch on a nice out route and a 15-yard play where he got wide open across the middle and was able to turn upfield for a big gain — and recovered a Sam Darnold fumble on the opening drive.

WR Vyncint Smith, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (4 targets)
Smith had a really nice grab in the fourth quarter, a 14-yard completion that came about because Smith had great inside position on the defender, who appeared to be mostly focused on keeping the receiver short of the first down marker. Smith caught the ball in stride and got outside of the defender, who took a bad angle and allowed Smith to gain the first down.

WR Robby Anderson, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 32 - 1 (4 targets)
Anderson’s best catch was his first catch, albeit on his second target. It was at the end of the first drive of the game, 23-yard touchdown reception where Anderson was double-covered in the end zone, but had a step on both defenders. Quarterback Sam Darnold fired the ball high to get it over the defenders and Anderson did a tremendous job going up and snagging the ball for a score. Anderson’s first target resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty as well.

TE Trevon Wesco, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 32 - 0 (1 targets)
Wesco’s only catch was a big one, a 32-yard catch and run in the third quarter. Wesco was the outlet for Sam Darnold on a dump pass in the flat. There were no defenders anywhere near the receiver, who turned upfield and scampered for an easy big gain.