The Steelers came away from Sunday with a much-needed win in what was nearly a must-win game for the Steelers. If there was any hope of a playoff push, a win needed to come in Week 5, and luckily for the Steelers, they answered the call. However, there were reasons they won that game, and more importantly, they were not fluky, either.
What can be taken away from the Week 5 win over the Denver Broncos?
The Offensive Line’s Growth is Real
There were signs in the Steelers’ loss in Green Bay last week that the offensive line may be turning a corner. After finally getting a running game going in Green Bay at a semi-functional level, they followed up that performance with their best rushing performance in over a year. The Steelers’ offensive line is starting to gain experience with each other and gel. That means not only are they playing at a higher level, but they are having to think a lot less, and just play football at full speed. Accompany that with Najee Harris feeling his way out at the NFL level, and that is why the rushing attack continues to improve. This looks sustainable. The Broncos came into the game as a seriously good rushing defense, but the Steelers shredded them.
Pass protection is still a bit of a work in progress. However, Ben Roethlisberger is getting hit less and less. It is unlikely that the Steelers will ever be a truly good offensive line this season, there is just a little too much inexperience this year. However, it is not crazy to think they can be average and hold up as the season continues to move along. The positive signs are all there from the young players to the veterans finally gelling. When Von Miller’s name is only heard because he is being burnt by Chase Claypool, it was a good day. The Steelers’ offensive line deserves massive props.
Terrell Edmunds is Putting Together a Nice Season
It is something that has flown mightily under the radar as the season has drawn along, but Terrell Edmunds, who is in a contract year, is now playing at the highest level of his entire career. The splash plays from Edmunds, or the ball production may never come. It is year four with him and he is yet to prove he has consistent ball skills. So, it should just be accepted that he is unlikely to ever develop those skills at this point.
However, his mental improvement is huge. Edmunds has improved from a mental standpoint and a technique standpoint. There are fewer missed tackles and fewer coverage busts from him than ever before. He has proven he is a steady presence on the back end for the Steelers. In fact, he was tasked with covering Noah Fant in this game and held him to three receptions for only 20 yards. That deserves its fair share of praise. Edmunds is lining himself up nicely to get a little payday this offseason.
Matt Canada Put Up His Best Game as an NFL OC
This is the other biggest takeaway from the offense. Matt Canada was masterful on Sunday. There was a very real ability to exploit Denver’s rules on concepts and just take them out of the equation. Diontae Johnson’s touchdown was schemed up as a one-on-one because the Steelers took Denver’s Cover 6 match rules and turned them inside out. It left Eric Ebron doubled, and Johnson alone against Kyle Fuller.
On Chase Claypool’s big catch and run, the Steelers used 12 personnel to get the Broncos in base personnel. They then motioned Claypool across the formation to take Von Miller out of the pass rush, and force him into coverage against Claypool. From there, it was a massive play for Claypool who burnt Miller and got a 59-yard gain.
Canada routinely toyed with Vic Fangio and his coverage scheme rules. That is the mark of an offensive coordinator straight up outcoaching the other team. Canada put up his best game as an NFL offensive coordinator. It was a really promising sign for his future.
Devin Bush Makes a Huge Difference
The Steelers lost Devin Bush in the second half, and right after they did, the Broncos began to march up and down the field at will. There is some frustration among the fanbase with Bush, who was likely just getting comfortable as he recovered from his Torn ACL. All that needs to be shown to prove Bush’s importance is that the defense is quite honestly night and day with him in there. The Steelers have to change all of their schematics with no Bush on the field, even if they may not admit that fact.
Bush is a hugely important piece of the defense, and the hope has to be that the injury is not too severe for him. If it is severe enough to miss a week or more, the Steelers defense will be much worse off for it. Bush is that important to this defense with his sideline-to-sideline speed.