Updated: Sep 20
(Graphic by Ethan McCoy)
Ben Roethlisberger - Roethlisberger didn't disappoint in his first game back after playing all but six quarters in 2019. He looked like his normal self and the elbow looked fine. Roethlisberger was 21-of-32 (65.6%) for 229 yards and threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, a quarterback rating of 117.8. At the end of the second quarter during a two-minute drill, Roethlisberger was 5-of-7 for 67 yards and capped the drive off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to James Washington to close the half and give the Steelers a 16-10 lead. Ben also scrambled for 11 yards to get a first down on the drive. As expected, Roethlisberger showed some rust at first but he shook it off and started having a rapport with his receivers, completing a bunch of quick shallow routes over the middle. All in all, it was a solid first game for Roethlisberger in his first game back.
James Washington - To close the half with the Steelers' running the two-minute drill, Washington started the drive with a nifty 21-yard grab down the sidelines and would finish off the drive by catching a quick pass over the middle and powered his way into the endzone for the 13-yard touchdown. Washington displayed great second effort on the play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster - Smith-Schuster had to deal with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges throwing passes to him in 2019 with Ben out; now that he has his quarterback, he looked like his 2018-self against the Giants. Smith-Schuster finished the game with six receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Smith-Schuster also had a crucial fumble recovery late in the third quarter after Benny Snell Jr. fumbled after breaking off a 21-yard run. The offense would go on to get a field goal on the drive to give the Steelers a 19-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, Smith-Schuster can build off this performance and prove the doubters that he is a WR1 in the league. All he needs is his quarterback.
Bud Dupree - Dupree balled out tonight and was all over the field when it came to stopping Barkley and the Giants' run game or getting pressure on Daniel Jones. In the third quarter with the Giants in the red zone and on their 19th play of the drive, Dupree hit Jones' arm as he passed the ball and forced an ill-advised pass that resulted in a Cameron Heyward interception. Dupree had four total tackles, two tackles for a loss, one pass deflection and a quarterback hit in the game.
Run defense - Saquon Barkley had -3 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half. The defense filled rush lanes and was swarming to the ball all game; Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams and Devin Bush kept Barkley in check. Even the defensive backs were making plays in run defense. Barkley finished the night with just 6 yards on 15 carries, an overage of 0.4 yards per carry. What a performance by the rush defense to shut down one of the best running backs in the game. This defense has all the pieces to be truly special.
Vince Williams - Williams is sometimes overlooked as an inside linebacker, especially when it comes to his coverage abilities. But make no mistake, he's a dominating run defender and rush linebacker. Williams displayed those skills tonight against the Giants, finishing the game with five total tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit.
Benny Snell Jr.- The running game struggled early on, but once Conner left the game with an ankle injury, Snell took over and added a spark to the offense. Snell rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Snell is a very promising young running back that lost 12 pounds this offseason to add more speed, and it sure showed on Monday night, as he had a couple of big runs that he broke to the outside. Snell had a fumble that Smith-Schuster recovered, but other than that it was a near-perfect night for Snell.
T.J. Watt - With the offense struggling early on and looking rusty, the Steelers need a spark, and one of their 2019 first-team All-Pros stepped up. Watt picked off Jones' pass intended for Evan Engram and the offense would capitalize off the turnover with a Roethlisberger off his back foot 10-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. On the interception that set up the score, it appeared to Jones that Watt was rushing but he ended up dropping into coverage and was able to snag the ball away.
Chase Claypool - On the second offensive drive of the game, Claypool hauled in a nice toe-tap grab from Ben Roethlisberger for a 28-yard gain. The big completion set up a 41-yard field goal for Chris Boswell to tie the game at 3-3 after the 13-play, 59-yard drive. Claypool's 28-yard catch was his first reception as a Steeler. Claypool also had an eight-yard rush on an end-around on fourth-and-1 to close out the game. Claypool also had another reception that brought his total stat line to two receptions for 39 yards in the game. While it was nothing earth-shattering on the stat sheet, Claypool's dynamic 28-yard reception in the first quarter showcased that the Notre Dame product has a tremendous upside in this offense.
Diontae Johnson - Johnson muffed a punt after the defense forced the Giant to punt on their opening drive. The Giants would take over on the Steelers' 3-yard line, but couldn't capitalize off the turnover and went three-and-out. The defense bailed out Johnson and forced a field goal. While Johnson didn't muff another punt in the game, he looked shaky and struggled catching punts. Johnson also had a drop in the game and a miscommunication error with Roethlisberger. To Johnson's credit, he did start to play better in the second half and finished the game with six receptions for 75 yards. Nerves with it being the first game probably played to his special teams' struggles early on.
James Conner - Conner's injury issues continue to plague him as he suffered a left ankle injury and left the game in the second quarter and did not return. When Conner was in action, he rushed for just 6 yards on nine carries, an average of 1.5 yards per carry. While it's still very early in the season, you have to wonder if Snell will surpass Conner as the No. 1 running back if he can't stay durable.
Terrell Edmunds - Steelers fans are waiting for Edmunds to take that next step in his career, but Edmunds didn't show any signs of encouragement on Monday night and looked lost in coverage at times.