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Winners and Losers from the Steelers' 24-19 win over the Cowboys

Updated: Nov 11, 2020



Winners

Cam Sutton – Following Roethlisberger's 17-yard touchdown pass to James Washington in the second quarter to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 13-6 (Chris Boswell missed the extra point), Cam Sutton stripped the ball from CeeDee Lamb after a 15-yard reception and Minkah Fitzpatrick came up with the loose ball. The offense would get a field goal off the turnover. Boswell missed a 54-yarder on his first attempt, but Cam Heyward was called for a false start, so the play was ruled dead. On his second attempt, Boswell’s kick was good from 59 yards, a franchise record for the Steelers and Boswell’s longest kick by six yards in his career. The Steelers went into halftime trailing 13-9 after Boswell’s 59-yard kick.

James Washington – Washington ran a nice slant-and-go route for a 17-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger to give the Steelers their first points of the game. It was Washington’s only reception of the game, but it was a big play and well-executed.

Minkah Fitzpatrick – The defense was facing a third-and-goal from their own 5-yard line and were trailing 19-15 with 11:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. The defense had to at least hold the Cowboys to a field goal, but Fitzpatrick made things even better when he picked off an ill-advised pass by Gilbert in the end zone. The offense drove down the field and got a field goal off of Fitzpatrick's red-zone interception to shorten the Cowboys lead to 19-18. Fitzpatrick also had a pass breakup on the final play of the game to seal the win for the Steelers. It’s the second straight game that Fitzpatrick had a pass breakup on the last play of the game to secure a win. Fitzpatrick finished the game with six total tackles (five solos), an interception, two passes defended and a fumbled recovery.


Ben Roethlisberger – The Steelers’ offense started off slow for the second straight game, but they got it going in the second half. Roethlisberger led the offense on a six-play, 75-yard drive scoring drive that was capped off by a 31-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Smith-Schuster that slashed the Cowboys’ lead to 19-15 with 14:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. The drive took 2:22 off the clock. Including the touchdown pass, Roethlisberger was 4 of 6 for 80 yards on the drive. Once again, Roethlisberger led the offense down the field on a six-play, 79-yard drive that he concluded with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ebron to give the Steelers a 24-19 lead with 2:14 remaining in the game. Including the touchdown pass, Roethlisberger was 4 of 6 for 64 yards on the drive. Roethlisberger finished the game 29 of 42 (69.1%) for 306 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 113.8. It was the second straight game that Roethlisberger had a game-winning drive and fourth-quarter comeback. Roethlisberger now has 45 career game-winning drives and 34 fourth-quarter comebacks. Roethlisberger ranks fifth in game-winning drives, two behind Dan Marino. He is tied for fourth in fourth-quarter comebacks with Johnny Unitas.


Diontae Johnson – Johnson had six receptions on 10 targets for 77 yards in the game, averaging 12.2 yards per reception. Johnson’s biggest reception of the game came on a 42-yard catch-and-run that set up the offense for the game-winning score. Two plays later, Roethlisberger found Ebron for an 8-yard touchdown which gave the Steelers a 24-19 lead that they wouldn’t surrender.

JuJu Smith-Schuster – Smith-Schuster had six receptions on seven targets for a team-high 93 yards and a touchdown, averaging 15.5 yards per reception. It was another solid performance by Smith-Schuster, as he constantly moved the chains in the second half for the second straight game. Smith-Schuster had four receptions for 80 yards on the Steelers’ scoring drive that began at the end of the third quarter. Smith-Schuster finished the drive with a 31-yard touchdown reception over the middle from Roethlisberger. All four of Roethlisberger's completions on the drive went to Smith-Schuster.

Cam Heyward/T.J. Watt – Down 24-19 and facing a fourth-and-8 with 1:45 remaining in the game, Gilbert and company needed to convert to keep the drive alive, but Heyward and Watt had other plans. Heyward had a half-sack with Watt on Gilbert that resulted in a loss of 17 yards and forced a turnover on downs. Heyward got their first after having an impressive bull rush on left guard Connor Williams and Watt came later to bring Gilbert down. Heyward had four total tackles (three solos), a half-sack, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits in the game. Watt had one tackle, a half-sack, three passes defended and three quarterback hits in the game. According to Next Gen Stats, Watt had a career-high 10 pressures, nine of which came in the second half. Watt has 10 more pressures than any other player in the NFL this season (Aaron Donald: 38) and leads the NFL in pressure rate (20.9%).


Losers

Slow Start – The offense got the ball first to start the game and got two first downs but the drive stalled after two deep passes by Roethlisberger fell incomplete to Johnson and Chase Claypool, respectively. On their next possession, they went three-and-out and gained no yards. James Conner caught a pass from Roethlisberger on a screen on first down but it was a loss of four yards on the play. Benny Snell Jr. got tackled for a 2-yard loss on second down and Roethlisberger completed a 6-yard pass to Johnson on third-and-16. On third-and-2 of the Cowboys’ first possession of the game, Gilbert completed a 38-yard pass to Amari Cooper, who beat Cam Sutton on the play. Five plays later, Tony Pollard broke a 20-yard run off the left side. The Cowboys would ultimately settle for a field goal on the drive after Alex Highsmith sacked Gilbert on third-and-10. On the offense’s third possession, the drive started off well with Roethlisberger completing four straight passes and three first downs, but the drive was put to an end after three straight unsuccessful run plays. Anthony McFarland Jr. picked up 1-yard on second-and-2 and was stopped short of the first down marker again on third-and-1. The Steelers then tried running the ball with Benny Snell Jr. and he was stuffed as well on fourth-and-1. All three runs were from the shotgun and it’s mind-boggling how James Conner didn’t get a carry on any of the three plays in short-yardage situations on the drive. The Cowboys’ offense took advantage of the stop by the defense and went down the field on an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that concluded with a 20-yard touchdown pass by Gilbert to CeeDee Lamb on third-and-7 to give the Cowboys a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Gilbert rushed for 26 yards on two scrambles on the drive.

Offensive line/run game – Rookie third-round pick Neville Gallimore was dominating in the first half both in stopping the run and when it came to rushing the passer. It was Gallimore, who beat Maurkice Pouncey and hit Roethlisberger on a second-and-10 play from the Cowboys’ 45-yard line. Roethlisberger completed a pass to Johnson for four yards but injured his knee on the play. Roethlisberger finished the drive and completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Washington to shorten the Cowboys’ lead to 13-6. Roethlisberger got his knee evaluated and was not on the field for the final drive of the game but returned after halftime. The offensive line performed better in pass pro in the second half, but they still couldn’t get movement on the Cowboys’ front to run the ball in short-yardage situations. The Steelers were leading 24-19 and facing a fourth-and-1 with under 50 seconds remaining in the game and they went for the win by going for it, which ended up backfiring on them, as Conner lost four yards on a counter run. In a moment like that with the game on the line, the offensive line needs to dominant the line of scrimmage and create a hole for the running back. The offensive line also didn't perform well in the first half when they couldn't get two yards on three straight runs, resulting in a turnover on downs. The Cowboys came into the game with the worst-ranked run defense, allowing 170.9 yards per game. The Steelers rushed for only 46 yards on 18 carries in the game, averaging 2.6 yards per play, eight of those yards came on a Roethlisberger scramble.


Run defense – Coming into today’s game, the Cowboys had just one run that went for 20 yards or more. Tony Pollard had two 20-yard runs in the game and Dallas rushed for 144 yards on 31 carries as a team in the game, an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Special teams – After the offense went three-and-out for the second time in the game on four possessions, Jordan Berry punted the ball 61 yards and Cedrick Wilson Jr. caught the punt at the Cowboys’ 7-yard line and threw it across the field to C.J. Goodwin, who returned it 73 yards. An illegal block by Darian Thompson on Jordan Dangerfield was called on the play, but the Cowboys still got the ball at the Steelers’ 32-yard line. The defense forced a three-and-out and Greg Zuerlein kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 13-0 lead with 3:50 remaining in the second quarter. Boswell missed on the extra point after Washington caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to get the Steelers on the board after being down 13-0. After Roethlisberger completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster early in the fourth quarter, Boswell’s kick got blocked on the extra point. The Steelers would trail by four, 19-15, instead of being down by just a field goal. On the kickoff following the blocked extra point, Boswell did a pooch kick and Rico Dowdle returned it 64 yards to the Steelers’ 36-yard line. The Steelers kicked off from the 50-yard line because of a personal foul penalty called on Randy Gregory after the touchdown, so I guess the Steelers wanted to pin the Cowboys deep into their own territory instead of just kicking it for a touchback. The idea, obviously, didn't work out in their favor.

Going for it on fourth-and-1 – The Steelers were leading 24-19 and facing a fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter with the clock running after Claypool was tackled in bounds. The Cowboys had no timeouts left. Instead of kicking the field goal that would have given the Steelers an eight-point lead with 43 seconds left, Roethlisberger handed the ball off to James Conner on a counter play and he was tackled for a 4-yard loss. Gilbert led the offense to the Steelers’ 23-yard line and had one last shot at the end zone to win the game with 4 seconds remaining. On the play, Gilbert was under pressure and stepped up in the pocket and threw a pass over the middle intended for Lamb, but Fitzpatrick broke the pass up to secure a 24-19 win for the Steelers. The game was too close for comfort and the Steelers almost blew it by deciding to go for it on fourth-and-1 instead of just kicking the field goal. With a successful field goal attempt by Boswell, the Cowboys would have had to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion with under 40 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Yeah, Boswell missed an extra point and had his kick blocked on another extra point earlier in the game, but I still think you put Boswell on the field to attempt the field goal and give the chance for an eight-point lead. The worst-case scenario would have been the Cowboys driving down the field and scoring a touchdown, plus a two-point conversion to take the game to overtime. In Mike Tomlin's mind, the worst-case scenario must have been Boswell getting his kick blocked again and the Cowboys returning it for a touchdown to take the lead.

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