The Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 regular season schedule has ended, and Steelers Nation is rightly focusing on the Steelers-Bengals AFC Wild Card matchup at Paul Brown Stadium. But before completely shifting focus to the Steelers 2015 post season, long may it last, Steel Curtain Rising offers a final look at the Steelers 2015 regular season finish.
- The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers post-Thanksgiving 6 game stretch promised to define their season.
The Steelers were playing on the road in 4 out of six contests and were playing 3 division leaders in addition to 3 AFC North rivals, the later games all coming on the road. With that in mind, we singled 6 players who needed to step up during the Steelers final six game.
So how did these six players do? Let’s take a look.
Cornerback Antwon Blake
By Thanksgiving, Antwon Blake was already everyone’s favorite whipping boy in Steelers Nation, the pariah corner, much like William Gay was at this stage of his career (which is not to say that Blake will blossom the way Gay has.) Perhaps Blake takes more blame than he deserves, but there’s one undeniable fact:
- Antwon Blake did not step it up during the stretch.
In fact, although Blake continues to start, Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler began working in Brandon Boykin at Blake’s expense. And Boykin’s entry into games has generally been good for the defense. And of course there was the awful missed tackle on third down in vs. the Ravens.
Place Kicker Chris Boswell
Chris Boswell has been a pleasant surprise for the Steelers after the place kicking nightmare that plagued the Steelers from the Hall of Fame game to the home loss to the Ravens. Yet, he missed his first field goal at Heinz Field in early November. While all kickers are going to miss, making kicks during winter in the AFC North is a must.
- Chris Bowsell missed two kicks in the Steelers final six games.
The first miss came late in the game vs. the Colts, the second came in the first half vs. the Browns. The they from 47 and 48 yards away, by no means gimmies. He also made his other 12 kicks, three of which were from over 40 yards away, and one from 51 yards away.
Chris Boswell certainly stepped up during the Steelers 2015 regular season close.
Wide Receiver Markus Wheaton
Playing in the shadows of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton is the Steelers forgotten receiver. And although Wheaton had a moment of glory in the Michael Vick led-4th quarter comeback vs. San Diego, he hit a midseason slump after that.
Looking at the Steelers final 6 games of 2015, we made this observation about Markus Wheaton:
The reality is that Ben Roethlisberger’s first three targets during the Steelers final 6 games are probably going to be Brown, Bryant and Heath Miller. But there will be times when those men will be covered and Ben Roethlisberger will look Markus Wheaton’s way.
That prediction rang true vs. Seattle, and Markus Wheaton delivered with a 200 yard receiving game. In fact, Wheaton soared during the season’s final six game, scoring four of his five touchdowns during that span. More importantly, Wheaton is coming down with the tough catches.
In a word, Markus Wheaton stepped up.
Center Cody Wallace
Cody Wallace got fingered, because several other sites that do film review critiqued his performances vs. the Raiders and the Browns.
Cody Wallace’s name was rarely heard during the Steelers 2015 regular season finish, and that’s a good thing.
Fullback Roosevelt Nix
Roosevelt Nix is the Steelers 2015 undrafted rookie free agent find and his stout play on both offense and special teams vindicated Mike Tomlin’s decision to keep this college defensive lineman turned NFL fullback on the Steelers 53 man roster.
Nix found his name on the “need to step up” list because often times, it is players who hold roster spots 46-53 that are difference makers down the stretch.
While Nix continued his stout play, prior to his injury, it is hard to say that he did anything out of the ordinary to “step up.” He played well until he got hurt, and the Steelers have since placed Nix on injured reserve.
Backup Defensive Lineman Daniel McCullers, L.T. Walton or Cam Thomas
Fortunately, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon and Stephon Tuitt have stayed healthy and their play on the field has been excellent. The Steelers depth, or lack thereof, on defensive line was not tested during their 2015 regular season close.
But Daniel McCullers, L.T. Walton and/or Cam Thomas had better be ready, because that could change real fast in when the Steelers begin the playoffs in vs. the Bengals in the AFC Wild Card game at Paul Brown Stadium.