Tim Benz: Some Steelers superlatives as the bye week ends | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: Some Steelers superlatives as the bye week ends

Tim Benz
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt sacks Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the first quarter Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019 at Heinz Field.

Now that the bye week is done, it’s time to look at some Pittsburgh Steelers superlatives thus far in the 2019 season. After all, Mike Tomlin always likes to say how much self-evaluation he likes to do of his team during the bye. So we did a little of our own here at “Breakfast With Benz.”

Believe it or not, there were some good points. Even though, at 2-4, the list of negatives was a lot easier to construct.

Actually, I guess it was harder since there were so many more to choose from.

But there were a few positives that stood out.

Most valuable player

T.J. Watt.

The outside linebacker has been excellent. Since the opener against the New England Patriots, Watt has been a disruptive influence and the most consistent positive presence on the Steelers this year.

He leads the team with four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He also has defended three passes and has an interception, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.

Pro Football Focus rates Watt as the third-best edge defender in the NFL this season.

Unfortunately, my second choice behind Watt was Stephon Tuitt. And he’s out for the year.

Least valuable player

Anyone returning kicks.

Johnny Holton, Ryan Switzer and Diontae Johnson can’t get anything going in the return game. When it comes to kickoffs, the Steelers rank 30th in the NFL at 17 yards per return. They are 20th in punt return yards at 6.5 per attempt.

Plus, Holton’s speed is just tantalizing enough to get incompletions thrown his way. And Switzer gets open on checkdowns just enough to average a meager 3.4 yards per reception.

Best new acquisition

Steven Nelson.

The former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback has been nothing but a steady and consistent stabilizing force at the cornerback position opposite Joe Haden.

If you are into the “fancy stats” sites, his metrics are excellent. If you use the eye test, and feel like you have barely noticed him, that’s probably because quarterbacks are barely trying to throw the ball in his direction.

PlayerProfiler.com rates Nelson in the top 12 of NFL cornerbacks when it comes to coverage rating and catch rate allowed. The site also has his “burn” rate as 0.0, meaning that he has yet to allow a target when a receiver had more than five yards of separation.

Now, after missing the win in Los Angeles, Nelson needs to get healthy as soon as possible.

Worst new acquisition

Donte Moncrief.

Billed as a potential number-two receiver when he was signed from Jacksonsville, Moncrief has done nothing but drop passes and get hurt.

That includes this one which basically cost the team a loss against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.

He has as many drops (4) as receptions in four games. He’s totaled a lousy 18 yards receiving. Even with limited depth-chart options in front of him, Moncrief hasn’t been able to establish himself consistently in the receiver rotation.

OOOH! And the Steelers get him for $5.75 million against the salary cap next year. Awesome!

Most fun story

Duck’s debut.

The Devlin Hodges quarterbacking story may have begun and ended after six quarters. But it was a blast.

It takes a lot to find good times when the third-string quarterback has to play.

But if the third-string QB is a duck-calling good ol’ boy with a funny nickname and Bubby Brister-like accent and attitude, at least good times were had.

And, oh. At least he won his start in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

Least fun story

Ben’s elbow.

When you lose your starting quarterback after losing a star wide receiver and a star running back, that’s depressing.

Especially when he’s done for the year with no established backup ready to go.

Roethlisberger has had his fair share of injuries. But nothing this long-term and nothing to end his season.

Best play of the year

Devin Bush’s interception versus the Baltimore Ravens.

It was great both in terms of athleticism and timeliness, bailing him out after he jumped offsides on a fourth-and-6 to help the Ravens get a first down.

Worst play of the year

Jaylen Samuels’ interception.

It was awful both in terms of the decision by the player and the decision to have him try the throw from that position on the field in the first place.

Best coaching decision

Using the “wildcat” offense for the win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was “gimmicky,” to use Mike Tomlin’s own words. But it worked. And it was necessary.

Worst coaching decision

Using the wildcat for the Ravens game.

Again, using Tomlin’s words, it was gimmicky. And once Baltimore knew it was coming and what to expect, they stuffed it. James Conner and Samuels were held to 57 yards rushing on 17 attempts.

Also, well, see the Samuels highlight above.

Best Tomlinism

Painting the yellow barn yellow.

The yellow paint seemed to work against Chargers in L.A.

Worst Tomlinism

Painting the red barn red.

The red paint didn’t work in San Francisco versus the 49ers.

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Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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