Ever since Ben Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending injury in September, the Steelers' quarterback situation has been a mess, and it might have actually hit rock bottom on Sunday during Pittsburgh's 16-10 loss to the New York Jets.
The Steelers defense has been so good this season that the team has been able to get by with just average quarterback play, but Pittsburgh couldn't even get that in this game, which is something that clearly frustrated coach Mike Tomlin. Steelers starting quarterback Devlin Hodges was so bad that he actually got benched midway through the first half after throwing two interceptions on the Steelers' first four possessions (the other two possessions ended with punts).
Both of Hodges' picks were costly in a game where points were at a premium.
The first interception came on the Steelers' opening possession on a drive where Pittsburgh was actually moving the ball. After starting the drive on their own 20, the Steelers quickly drove into Jets territory and their offense looked like it couldn't be stopped, but then the drive came to a crashing halt when Hodges did this:
With the Steelers already trailing 7-0 at that point, it was a big interception that killed any offensive momentum Pittsburgh had at the point.
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Although that interception was bad, Hodges' second pick was arguably worse, and that's because it ostensibly cost the Steelers some points. Early in the second quarter, the Steelers drove down to the Jets' 19-yard line, and that's when this happened:
Jets safety Marcus Maye read Hodges the whole way to make the pick. Hodges loves to take chances with his throws, but you have to pick smart times to take those chances. If he doesn't throw a pick on that drive, the Steelers would have almost certainly come away with at least a field goal, which would have been huge in a game where Pittsburgh only scored 10 points.
Although Hodges would get benched in the first half, he Mason Rudolph went down with an injury, and when Hodges returned, things didn't get much better. Although he didn't throw a pick during his second go-around, he did take a huge sack in the fourth quarter.in the second half after
With the Steelers trailing 13-10 in the fourth quarter and sitting at the Jets' 29-yard line for a second down play, the biggest thing a quarterback has to do is not lose any yardage. If you're being rushed, throw the ball away so that you're still in field goal range. For the Steelers, they didn't end up getting a field goal on this pivotal drive, because this happened:
The sack by Quinnen Williams cost the Steelers nine yards and pushed them out of field goal range. After fumbling on the next play and losing eight yards, the Steelers would end up punting. It wasn't Hodges' fault that Williams went unblocked, but after he got out of the pocket, he should have done everything in his power to throw the ball away. It wasn't a horrible mistake, but it did cost the Steelers.
The Steelers have a Super Bowl worthy defense this year, but it's starting to look like their quarterback situation is going to cost them a shot at finding out just how good the defense can be. Although the Steelers haven't been eliminated from the playoff race, they no longer control their own fate. The most likely way the Steelers will be making the postseason this year is if they win in Week 17 and the Titans lose (the Steelers could get in a with a loss, but the Titans would also have to lose and the Colts would have to win).
Here are the grades for Week 16. If you're looking for grades from.
N.Y. Jets 16-10 over Pittsburgh
|While it's hard to be too critical about a team that is dealing with so many injuries, the Steelers deserve a failing grade after losing to a Jets team that had nothing to play for as far as playoff standings are concerned. Although Pittsburgh's defense gave the Steelers yet another winning performance, they were again let down by an offense that committed two turnovers while averaging just three yards per carry. With the loss, the Steelers aren't eliminated from the playoff race, but they no longer control their own fate.|
|While the Jets' second ranked run defense feasted on Pittsburgh's feeble rushing attack, their pass rush recorded four sacks while also helping record a pair of interceptions. New York also received a solid performance by quarterback Sam Darnold, who led the Jets on a pair of second half scoring drives after Pittsburgh had tied the score just before halftime. The Jets' special teams also won the day, with Sam Ficken connecting on all three of his field goal attempts (54, 37, 42).|
Steelers-Jets grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Atlanta 24-12 over Jacksonville
|If the Jaguars were trying to save Doug Marrone's job with their performance on Sunday, they definitely didn't do a good job. The Jags were trailing 14-0 before six minutes had even run off the clock and things didn't get much better from there. The Jaguars defense surrendered 518 yards to Atlanta, marking the second time in three weeks that the Jags have given up 500 or more yards. Before that, they hadn't given up 500 since 2015. Offensively, the magic that Gardner Minshew provided earlier this season just isn't there anymore. Not only did the Jags struggle to move the ball, but Minshew ended up completing less than 50 percent of his passes (13 of 31).|
|When the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection gets hot, it's nearly impossible to stop, which is something that the Jaguars found out on Sunday. Although Jones didn't score against the Jags, he did catch 10 passes for 166 yards, which was his highest total of the season and his highest total overall since Week 4 of 2018. Devonta Freeman also came through with his biggest game of the year. The Falcons running back totaled 127 yards, which was his highest total of the season. Freeman also scored two touchdowns, which both came in the first quarter and proved to be all the points the Falcons would need in the win.|
Miami 38-35 over Cincinnati (OT)
|It's not often that losing is a good thing for an NFL team, but it was for the Bengals on Sunday. In one of the wildest games of the season, the Bengals fought back from a 28-6 second half deficit to tie things up at 35 and send the game to overtime. A big reason the comeback happened is because Andy Dalton caught fire in the second half (not including OT), going 21 of 35 for 284 yards and four TDs. Although this loss might hurt, it probably won't sting for long, and that's because the loss means the Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft.|
|A lot of quarterbacks have taken advantage of the Bengals this year, but none of them were better than Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins quarterback went full FitzMagic against Cincinnati. Fitzpatrick threw for 252 yards in the first half -- the second-best first half in Dolphins history -- on his way to throwing for a career-high 419 yards. The Bengals secondary had no answers for Fitzpatrick, who also threw four touchdown passes. Although the Dolphins defense almost gave this game away, Fitzpatrick saved the day by leading Miami to a Jason Sanders game-winning field goal in overtime.|
Indianapolis 38-6 over Carolina
|This game marked the first start of Will Grier's career, and there's a good chance he's going to have nightmares about it for the rest of his days. Not only did Grier get beat up by the Colts defense -- he got sacked five times -- but he also threw three interceptions. Grier did a good job of getting the ball to Christian McCaffrey (15 catches, 119 yards), but that's about all he did well in this game. The Panthers' biggest offensive problems came in the red zone: They got inside the Colts' 20-yard line a total of three times in the game, but didn't score a single touchdown. The Panthers special teams also had a nightmare game, giving up two punt returns that went for touchdowns.|
|The Colts offense didn't even need to show up for the game on Sunday, and that's because Indy's punt return team provided all the points the Colts needed to get the win. Nyheim Hines put on a show against the Panthers, returning two punts for a touchdown. The first one came from 84 yards out in the first quarter, and then Hines added another one in the fourth quarter when he returned one from 71 yards out. With the returns, Hines became the first NFL player since 2012 to score on two punt returns in one game. The Colts completely controlled this game from start to finish, and a big reason for that was because they were able to steamroll the Panthers on the ground. Marlon Mack (95 yards and a TD) led a rushing attack that totaled 218 yards and three touchdowns.|
N.Y. Giants 41-35 over Redskins (OT)
|If the Giants proved one thing in this game, it's that their offense should be in good hands for roughly the next decade. The Giants were able to pull out this wild win thanks to phenomenal performances from both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. On Jones' end, he shredded the Redskins for 352 yards and five touchdowns, and the Giants needed every single one of those scores. The Giants didn't come away with the win until Jones hit Kaden Smith for a three-yard score in overtime. Jones' performance made him just the fourth rookie since 1950 to throw five TD passes in a game. As for Barkley, not only did he rush for 189 yards and a TD, but he also tacked on 90 receiving yards and another TD. Barkley's 279 yards from scrimmage was the most of any player in the NFL this season and the most by any player since Le'Veon Bell totaled 298 in 2016.|
|In this battle of rookie quarterbacks, Dwayne Haskins actually held his own before being knocked out of the game with an injury on the Redskins' opening possession of the third quarter. During his time on the field, Haskins was accurate (12 of 15) and he made smart decisions, throwing for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Haskins isn't the only rookie who shined for Washington, as Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 86 yards. Defensively, the Redskins gave up 552 yards of offense to the Giants, which is the most Washington has given up in any game since 2013.|
Baltimore 31-15 over Cleveland
|The offense created little space in the first quarter, but after that, they were their normal explosive selves. And that was without Mark Ingram for a decent stretch. Lamar Jackson is simply a marvel to behold, and the defense, despite some costly secondary penalties, made Baker Mayfield uncomfortable, holding the Browns quarterback to under 200 yards passing and picking him off once. |
|They deserve credit for blanking the league MVP through the first 15 or so minutes, and Nick Chubb looked just fine when he actually got the ball. So did Odell Beckham. The problem, as has been the case for most of the season, is that Freddie Kitchens seems largely incapable of scheming up a full game. This was always going to be a tough matchup, but the Browns still found a way to disappoint.|
Ravens-Browns grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New Orleans 38-28 over Tennessee
|The Saints started off very slow and allowed the Titans to jump out to a 14-0 lead, but they battled back to win by 10. Drew Brees threw more incompletions than he did last week against the Indianapolis Colts, but he still recorded 279 passing yards and three touchdowns. Alvin Kamara scored his first two touchdowns since Week 3 and Michael Thomas had a historical outing, as he passed Marvin Harrison for . In all, he had 12 catches for 136 yards and one touchdown. The Saints defense was spotty against Ryan Tannehill, who threw three touchdowns, but the offense was able to save them.|
|Sunday was a little weird in Nashville. The Titans decided to sit Derrick Henry with his hamstring injury since this game didn't technically count against them with how the playoff picture looks right now. Tennessee still played hard, but most fans were already thinking about next week and the Titans' rematch with the Houston Texans. Ryan Tannehill threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns, Dion Lewis rushed for 68 yards on 15 carries and Tajae Sharpe led the Titans with 69 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. The Titans played fine on Sunday, but they were definitely outmatched by the offensive talent on the other side of the ball.|
Texans-Titans grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Oakland 24-17 over L.A. Chargers
|The Raiders needed a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and they got the win thanks to a nearly perfect performance from Derek Carr. One week after being booed off the field in Oakland, Carr came out on fire against the Chargers, going 3 of 3 for 71 yards and a TD on the Raiders' opening drive. Carr was even hotter in the second half, completing all 10 of his passes. Although the Raiders didn't have Josh Jacobs, they did have DeAndre Washington, who filled in capably by rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders defense also came up big, surrendering just 19 rushing yards, the fewest yards the team has given up in a game since 2014. The Raiders needed five things to happen on Sunday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and amazingly, all five of them happened, which means there's still a shot that we could see Oakland in the postseason.|
|The Chargers offense played this game like everyone was just counting down the minutes until the end of the season. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler led an atrocious ground game that totaled just 19 yards, the Chargers' lowest rushing total since 2009. Philip Rivers wasn't much better in a game where the Chargers went three-and-out on their first three possessions (L.A. didn't get its first first down until their was under a minute left to play in the first quarter). It might be time for the Chargers to blow things up and start over on offense.|
Denver 27-17 over Detroit
|When you have to start your third-string quarterback against the Broncos defense, things can get ugly quickly, and the Lions found that out the hard way in this loss. With David Blough running the offense, the Lions managed to scrape out just 191 yards of total offense, which was the team's lowest offensive output since 2010. Blough, who threw for just 117 yards, never really had a chance to get anything going while up against a Broncos defense that sacked him four times. Although this game was tied at halftime, that wasn't because of Blough and the offense; it was because Jamal Agnew came up with a huge play in the second quarter when he returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown.|
|The Broncos aren't going to finish the season with a winning record, but it's looking more and more like they've found their QB of the future in Drew Lock. Lock is now 3-1 after leading the Broncos to a comeback win over the Lions. With his team trailing 17-13 in the second half, Lock engineered two fourth quarter touchdown drives to give Denver the win. A big reason Lock was so successful is because he got some major offensive help from Philip Lindsay, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown. Lindsay's score came on a 27-yard run in the fourth quarter and ended up icing the game. Defensively, the Broncos feasted on Lions quarterback David Blough, sacking him four times, with two of those sacks coming from Dre'Mont Jones.|
Philadelphia 17-9 over Dallas
|By the looks of how the Cowboys played, you'd think they were entering a preseason matchup and not the most important game of the season. Although the shoulder injury to Dak Prescott headlined the week, he showed no strength issues -- routinely overthrowing receivers when he wasn't underthrowing them -- and himself admitted it played no part in his poor performance. To make matters worse, Amari Cooper was targeted 12 times but had only four catches for 24 yards, and the play-calling got away from Ezekiel Elliott when he finally got going in the second half. Defensively, other than a couple of key stops on third down, the Cowboys got walked down routinely by Carson Wentz -- who was operating with a M.A.S.H. unit all evening. One week after routing the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys took a nap in the one game they couldn't afford to.|
|Had the Eagles delivered a 17-9 win over the Cowboys with their top talent available, this grade would probably be lower, because the expectation would be more points on their end. However, they did it with backups and the backups to the backups, and that's flat-out impressive. Thus, their grade is raised after Wentz outplayed Prescott and the Eagles defense kept the Cowboys out of the end zone for 60 minutes of football. Even losing Zach Ertz for most of the second quarter didn't put them in the hole, because Dallas Goedert stepped up and delivered. It was a gritty, gutsy win by the Eagles that could've been an A+, if not for the demerit earned by Jake Elliott and his two missed field goals that kept the Cowboys in a game they should've been long out of reach.|
Cowboys-Eagles grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Arizona 27-13 over Seattle
|The Cardinals played their best game of the season against a team that was playing for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and beat them in their building. Arizona's defense held Seattle to 224 yards and one conversion on 13 third downs in this one, a shocking development for a unit that entered the game 31st in points allowed (28.4) and last in yards allowed (413.1). Kyler Murray was excellent before leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Murray's replacement, Brett Hundley, had two big runs in the fourth quarter that led to the game-sealing touchdown. Arizona got a career game from Kenyan Drake for the second consecutive week, finishing with 24 carries for a career-high 166 yards and two scores. Just an excellent overall game for Arizona, who continues to prove they are no easy out in the daunting NFC West. |
|The Seahawks lost Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise in this one and Russell Wilson was unable to bring them back, but Seattle got no help from its top playmakers at wide receiver. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett combined for one catch for 12 yards in this one, unable to step up and help their Pro Bowl quarterback out. Seattle averaged just 4.0 yards per play against a Cardinals defense that entered the game 30th in the NFL in yards per play allowed (6.1). The Seahawks defense gave up 253 yards on the ground as Drake had a career day, including an 80-yard touchdown run that started Arizona's upset. Just a bad loss for the Seahawks, who lost the top spot in the NFC and appear destined to play on wild card weekend. |
Cardinals-Seahawks grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 26-3 over Chicago
|Instead of "Sunday Night Football," this game could have been just called "The Patrick Mahomes Show," because the Chiefs quarterback put on a show in Chicago. The Bears defense couldn't figure out how to stop Mahomes, who led the Chiefs to points on all three of their first half possessions. By the time the Chiefs punted for the first time, the Chiefs were already leading 17-0. Although Mahomes was impressive (251 passing yards, two passing TDs, one rushing TD), the Chiefs defense also came up big, limiting the Bears to just three points. This marks the second straight week the Chiefs have only surrendered three points and the first time since 2015 that the Chiefs have given up three points or less twice in one season. Basically, with the playoffs right around the corner, the Chiefs defense is getting hot at the right time.|
|The Bears had nothing to play for in this game, and not surprisingly, they played like a team that had nothing to play for. The offense struggled out of the gate as the Bears punted on their first three possessions and then things never really got better after that. The Bears defense arguably got a moral victory by holding Patrick Mahomes under 300 passing yards, which is almost fitting, because the Bears have been way better at getting moral victories this year than actual victories.|
Green Bay 23-10 over Minnesota
|The Packers had a chance to clinch the NFC North title on Monday with a win, and that's exactly what they did. In a game between two of the best teams in the NFC, the Packers absolutely bullied the Vikings, and they did that by dominating the trenches. The Packers offensive line spent nearly the entire game creating giant running lanes for Aaron Jones, who rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers wasn't perfect for Green Bay (26 of 40, 216 yards, one pick), but he did come through with multiple big throws, and most of those went to Davante Adams, who caught 13 passes for 116 yards. The Packers did turn the ball over three times in this game, which were really the only mistakes they made all night. Defensively, the Packers beat up on Kirk Cousins, sacking him five times, with 3.5 of those sacks coming from Za'Darius Smith. The Packers surrendered just 139 yards, marking just the second time this decade that they've given up less than 140 yards of offense to an opponent.|
|The Vikings offense was a total disaster in this game. They couldn't move the ball on the ground, they couldn't move the ball through the air and they couldn't protect Kirk Cousins, who got sacked five times. The only reason the Vikings were able to score any points in this game is because their defense forced three turnovers. The first turnover was a fumble recovery at the Packers' 10-yard line that the Vikings couldn't even turn into a touchdown (Minnesota settled for a 23-yard field goal). The Vikings' only touchdown came after Anthony Harris picked off Aaron Rodgers and set Minnesota up with the ball at the Packers' 26-yard line. The only thing uglier than the Vikings' rushing numbers (16 carries for 57 yards) were Kirk Cousins' passing numbers (16 of 31 for 122 yards with one TD and one pick). The Vikings finished with just 139 yards, the team's second-lowest total over the past 12 years. The good news for Minnesota is that there are no Monday games in the playoffs, because Cousins is now 0-9 in his career on Monday nights.|