Over the next several weeks, I will be ranking the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 regular season games from 16 down to 1.
We move onto numbers 11 and 10. While we still have one more loss to cover in the countdown, it may just crack the top ten before a certain win does.
#11. Week 2 vs. The Denver Broncos
This game still bothers me. I’m still trying to figure out why. The defense had seven sacks, Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 300 yards, James Conner ran for over 100 yards and the Steelers won their home opener (barely), 26-21.
So, why rank this outside of the top 10? It was just an ugly, uninteresting win. The game came down to the wire and Steelers fan sweat it out until the Broncos last offensive play, but without an 84-yard TD reception from Chase Claypool in the second quarter, the Steelers may have found themselves at 1-1 to begin the young season. Additionally, with 10 minutes to go, the Steelers led by 12 and almost blew the lead to Jeff Driskel.
The second half for the Steelers consisted of three turnovers and only nine points. There was a strong opportunity to close this game out much earlier, but the offense could not put two total halves together.
A win is a win they say, but this one was ugly and stressful. The offensive numbers are a bit skewed because most of the production came in the first half, but with the defensive numbers they had in this one, there is no reason it should have been as close as it was.
#10. Week 17 @ The Cleveland Browns
A lot of people would have this as one of the worst games of the Steelers’ season. The Browns got into the playoffs with the 24-22 win and proceeded to beat the Steelers the following week in convincing fashion. I look at this game a bit differently, however.
Mason Rudolph stepped in to play quarterback as Mike Tomlin made the decision to allow Roethlisberger to rest ahead of the playoffs. This was undoubtedly Rudolph’s best game in the NFL. He threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career and aside from a late 3rd quarter interception, Rudolph played well. It was encouraging to see this. No one has any real clue what the plan is after Roethlisberger retires, but Rudolph stepped in and showed confidence and poise for one of the first times as a starter. The Steelers also only had one three-and-out, which plagued them for a majority of the season.
The run game stalled most of the game, but Joshua Dobbs being included in a wildcat package created some diversity in the offense. Conner also caught five passes for the second week in a row. Key run stuffers such as Cameron Heyward and TJ Watt rested as well, allowing the Browns to exploit the Steelers defense and rush for nearly 200 yards, which ultimately was why the Steelers lost. The Browns ran a 10-play drive, then wiped almost seven minutes off of the clock in the fourth quarter.
Not many expected the Steelers to be competitive in this one, but a majority of factors almost led to the upset. The trio of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Claypool had arguably their best game collectively of the entire season with Rudolph at quarterback.
Listen, it was awful watching the Steelers lose to the Browns in the playoffs. A win here could have prevented that. With that said, Rudolph showed signs of potential and the offense was in sync for most of the game. The run defense is the reason for the loss, but in hindsight, this game cracks the top 10 because it was possibly a glimpse of the future.