DEN-PIT Grades: Harris Jr. earns career-low grade against Brown
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Steelers’ 34-27 win over the Broncos.
– It was a tale of two halves for Brock Osweiler (-0.2). In the first half, he could do no wrong. He kept finding open man after open man, and was quick and precise with his decisions. Then, in the second half, that ability to navigate the Steelers’ defense ceased. Osweiler started to have to force the ball into coverage, and his decision-making took a nosedive. On throws 10+ yards down the field, he was six-of-seven in the first half. In the second half, that plummeted to a dreadful 3-of-17. It’s hard to come from behind without being able to push the ball down the field.
– No one has ever come close to working over Chris Harris Jr. (-7.0) in his entire career the way Antonio Brown did Sunday. And honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any corner in any game I’ve graded get as thoroughly beaten as Harris was. The Broncos cornerback ceded 14-of-15 targets for 164 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a pass interference penalty. The Broncos played a ton of man coverage, and Harris’ usually elite change of direction was thought to be better suited to matchup with Brown. His -7.0 overall grade is his first grade below -1.0 since Week 12 of the 2013 season.
– One of the biggest takeaways I had after analyzing this game was how infrequently Broncos’ blitz packages got home. Denver has the second-highest pass rushing grade as a team, and their man blitzes have been deadly all year, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Roethlisberger was only pressured on 16 of his 58 dropbacks, despite the fact that the Broncos blitzed 29 times. The ineffective blitzing definitely shares in some of the blame for their shortcomings in the secondary. Von Miller (-2.7) was held to a negative pass rushing grade for just the second time this season.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (+4.6)
DE Malik Jackson (+4.1)
C Matt Paradis (+3.9)
ILB Brandon Marshall (+3.8)
S David Bruton (+2.9)
– It’s a shame that Ben Roethlisberger (+0.4) was hampered by injuries this season, because he’s playing at an MVP level, but won’t get any recognition. The late interception brings his grade down a ton, and deservedly so, but he still graded out above average, having to drop back to pass 63 times against the best defense in football. Big Ben was accurate on 80.8 percent of his throws on Sunday, and got the ball out of his hands in an ultra-quick average of 2.26 seconds.
– I touched on it earlier, but it’s worth repeating again: Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL right now. His +5.7 receiving grade on Sunday was the third highest single game grade from a wide out this year, behind only his own Week 9 performance and Keenan Allen’s 14 catch game in Week 6. He caught all but one of his 17 targets for 189 yards and two touchdowns, with another 30+ yard gain getting called back due to penalty. A truly special performance from a player in his prime.
– The disappointing rookie season from Bud Dupree (-5.3) may have reached its nadir on Sunday. The outside linebacker collected one lone clean-up hit on 25 pass rushes, and was continually pushed well behind the quarterback, opening up wide lanes to scramble. He also committed a couple of needless penalties and failed to make a single stop against the run.
WR Antonio Brown (+4.9)
DE Cameron Heyward (+4.3)
S Mike Mitchell (+3.0)
OLB James Harrison (+3.0)
CB Brandon Boykin (+2.7)