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Revisiting the Article: It Will Be Fun to Watch Some of These League Wide Competitions this Year

Photo courtesy of Steelers.com

By G.Stryker
SteelerNation.com

Before the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season even started, I wrote an article on league competition with specific Steelers players. Let’s see how those matchups fared and how the season unfolded in ways we could not anticipate. You can view the original article here.

James Conner vs Le’Veon Bell: James Conner had a tough year. Injuries held him out of 6 games, and he only managed one game over 100 yards (his beastly 145 yard game against the Miami Dolphins). 3 times he had over 100 combined yardage of rushing and receiving, but only twice did he have over 50 yards rushing. Le’Veon Bell only missed one game this season. Instead of playing football, he spent the night bowling. I assume his bowling score would have been higher than his yardage total for that missed game because he didn’t rush for over 100 yards at all this year. He had 8 games where he rushed over 50, and 3 games where he had 100 combined yards, matching Conner. Conner led in total touchdowns 7 to 4, and also led in yards per carry, 4.0 to 3.2, yards per catch, 7.4 to 7.0, and yards per touch 4.8 to 4.0. This is surprising since these stats are usually where Bell’s value lies. Instead, Bell had career lows in touchdowns, yards rushing, and yards per carry with at least 12 games played. Still, he led the pair in touches 311 to 150, rushing yardage, 789 to 464, yards receiving 461 to 251, and total yardage 1,250 to 715. At the beginning of the year, I gave the edge to Bell, thinking that the New York Jets would be pushing their new expensive running back to produce on a team that lacked playmakers. Intead, Bell put together one of his worst years, yet was still productive enough to break 1,000 total yards. Though Conner had more touchdowns and a better average that may have led to higher numbers, health is where Bell wins this matchup, only missing one game to Conner’s 6.  

 

Antonio Brown vs JuJu Smith Schuster: When I wrote the first article, I was under the assumption that Brown would be in Oakland, and JuJu would have Ben Roethlisberger as his QB so I gave the edge to JuJu. Instead, we had the AB show implode in Oakland, causing them to waive him before he ever played a down, only to be scooped up by the New England Patriots and their Hall of Fame QB, Tom Brady. Yikes, looks like my prediction was wrong. Not so fast! Whereas everyone was praising AB and the Patriots for pulling one over on the league to net the best receiver in the NFL, their jackpot soon turned to fool’s gold. AB wasn’t acting in Oakland. Turns out he’s genuinely crazy, and possibly a sexual assailant. Then, faster than you could say “Look out Jerry Rice”, he was dumped by the Pats and out of a job. Brown only managed to play in one game. He caught 4 balls on 8 targets for 56 yards and a TD, with 14.0 yards per catch and a 50% catch ratio. All of those numbers pale in comparison to JuJu who had 42 catches on 72 targets for 552 yards and 3 TDs, with 13.1 yards per catch and a 67% catch ratio. AB only managed to win the yards per catch, but it was off of a small sample size of 1 game to 12 games. Even though he missed 4 games due to injury, JuJu wins this matchup hands down. Sure, I thought JuJu would win this matchup, but not for one second did I think AB would implode and be out of the league for 15 games because of his off field behavior.  

 

TJ Watt vs JJ Watt: Brother vs brother, and at the beginning of the year, I thought JJ would edge out his younger brother, but I correctly measured the fight in the dog and saw that TJ had greatness in him. TJ not only won this competition, he’s also a candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year. TJ had a monster season: 2 INTs, 8 passes defensed, 8 fumbles forced, 4 fumbles recovered, 55 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 14.5 sacks, with 36 QB hits! If that ain’t a DPOY resume, I don’t know what is? TJ also didn’t miss a game, whereas JJ missed half of the season. JJ had 3 PD’s, 0 INT’s, 1 FF, 2 FR’s, 24 tackles, 4 TFL’s, and 4 sacks with 21 QB hits. In a full season, JJ projected to have more QB hits, but his most impressive accomplishment this season was being able to return from a torn pectoral muscle in 10 weeks to play in Houston’s playoff games. Absolutely a Herculean feat! Still, it wasn’t enough to unseat his little brother’s monster year, and the younger brother shows the older brother he’s a top player in this league, as TJ wins the matchup in a landslide.

 

Ben Roethlisberger vs the World: Preseason, I thought Ben had something to prove.  To show the league he makes star players, not the other way around. With Bell and Brown gone, the last of the “killer B’s” was poised to have a breakout season. Instead of greatness, he suffered the agony of defeat in the second game of the season on an injury that required 3 of the tendons in his elbow to be surgically repaired. Placed on IR week 3, his worst season ever was cemented in the record books. Ben totaled 35 completions on 62 attempts for a 56.5 completion percentage and 351 yards. He also had 1 INT with zero touchdowns. Career lows in all but interceptions, but the sample size isn’t large enough to be significant. Turns out the world showed that it means business, and Ben will have to wait until next season to show the world what he can do in the latter stages of his career.

 

Results: Though I was right about JuJu and Bell winning their matchups, I was wrong about Ben and TJ. One thing is for certain, there was no way I could have seen these incredible results the way they unfolded. All 4 matchups didn’t go how I envisioned them. It just goes to show you how wild and unpredictable an NFL season can be!

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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*Statistics are from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/

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