What a year it's been. Big Ben returns. Sweep the Ravens in the regular season. Win the AFC North. Go 12-4 (as I predicted in May)
Per usual we had plenty of our Twitter freakouts and battles with Browns and seemingly every other fanbase throughout the year. We had our "fire _____" days and our "Big Ben is done days", our "this team is Super Bowl caliber" and our "dear god i hope we don't have to play the Chiefs" days, but it was refreshing to get back in the winning regular season ways after an up-and-down 2019 with questions at the quarterback position.
The real work has yet to be done. It starts Sunday night with our third matchup against the Browns to close out Wild Card weekend, but let's take a look back at the weird 2020 regular season and handout some awards.
MVP: Ben Roethlisberger
People will scoff at this, I know, but I'm just going by true meaning of the word "valuable". It's insane how quickly people forget 2019. The Steelers only injury on defense last year, albeit a big one, was Stephon Tuitt. This year's defense has unfortunately been banged up for a while with no Devin Bush, no Bud Dupree, no Vince Williams for a handful of games, no Steve Nelson for a couple games, the list goes on. Big Ben being back has been the difference from what we saw last year to this year being 12-4.
66% completion percentage, over 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 INT all while only missing the last game of the season because of rest.
MOP: TJ Watt
Hopefully you continued to read after the MVP vote because you had to know I was getting to TJ Watt sooner rather than later. He should be the DPOY hands down.
That's all with missing the last game, too. He's without question the Steelers best player, and outside of Big Ben since he's the QB, is the one they definitely could not afford anything to happen to him. He's already well on his way to becoming the ALL-TIME sack leader in Steelers history.
Flat out stud and a ton of fun to watch. Hoping for a big playoff run from him after being rested up in Week 17.
Rookie Of The Year: Chase Claypool
Week 7 of this year it was an absolute no-brainer it was Claypool. But now after Week 17 he definitely has some competition with lineman Kevin Dotson and EDGE Alex Highsmith. Both Dotson and Highsmith have gotten a lot more snaps due to injury down the stretch and man they've made the most of them. At the end of the day Claypool's splash plays and ability to get in the endzone was the difference maker on the field and for this award. 873 receiving yards and 11 total TDs is tough to beat.
The 2020 draft class is looking like a big splash. Claypool, Highsmith, Dotson with the first three picks. Nice.
Comeback Player of The Year: Stephon Tuitt
Thought about giving this to JuJu. Bounced back well with Big Ben returning. Top 10 in both receptions (97) and touchdown catches (9). But this has to be given to Stephon Tuitt. 11 sacks after missing 13 games last season. Pairing him up next to Cam Heyward has been lethal and a big reason (along with TJ Watt and Bud Dupree) as to why the Steelers yet again led the league in bringing down the quarterback. Another big hit outside of the 1st round by Kevin Colbert and co.
Best Game: Week 8 @ Baltimore, 28-24
Looking back this is what really feels like gave the Steelers their best shot to win the division. Kept them undefeated and gave a two game advantage over Baltimore. Down by 10 at the half and came out in the second half on fire outscoring Baltimore 21-7 in the last thirty to complete the comeback.
Felt resilient. Felt tough. 4th and goal stand against Lamar. Impressive.
Worst Game: Week 15 @ Cincinnati, 27-17
This was the annual puke game. Just a nightmare. And of course, I was there in person for the shitshow. An absolutely incompetent offensive showing. A banged up, tired defense. First loss to Cincinnati in five years and to a third-string quarterback no less. Just awful.
Favorite Game: Week 6 vs. Cleveland, 38-7
The next week vs. Tennessee or the Baltimore comeback could be on this list, too, but both of those were really only good halfs. This was a full-on ass kicking from the jump. The ball was kicked off and the Steelers were already up 10-0 with two sacks of Baker Mayfield. It was never in doubt which was nice for two reasons: 1, the Steelers hardly ever have those, and 2, Cleveland and the national media were soooo damn cocky and fired up about the Browns showing they aren't the "little brother" anymore.
That ended quickly.
Best Play: TJ Watt Interception (Week 1), Chase Claypool Touchdown Catch (Week 17)
Capping the 2020 season right on both ends. I'm going with in my eyes just the physically most impressive plays, and these were the two that came to mind.
Steelers needed a spark, TJ reads the Jones dropback, knows its going to be a quick throw, reads it, times it, and snags it out of the air. Not too many All-Pro edge rushers can do that.
Chase Claypool displayed his best attributes in Week 17 touchdown snag from Mason Rudolph. Size, athletic ability, strength. Just dominated the defender on essentially a jump ball and took it away from him in the endzone.
Worst Play: Big Ben Pick-6 vs. Buffalo
Maaaaaan this one hurt. Hurt badly. Totally changed the game and swung it to Buffalo. It was a soft, terrible throw. The Steelers had just held Buffalo to a field goal and was up 7-3 getting the ball back with about a minute to go and a chance to extend the lead. Then this floater of a pass landed right in the hands of Buffalo and they capitalized. Never looked back. From that point Buffalo outscored the Steelers 23-8. Buffalo now has the #2 seed.
Best Celebration: Chase Claypool, Week 17, Shotgun
Ending a little fun here. I thought the execution here was great. Used the ball as the can, shook it around, slammed it on the helmet, and chugged. Great showing from Claypool there after an outstanding play.
Here's to a deep Steelers playoff run. Let me know yours.