The Pittsburgh Steelers advanced to 3-0 thanks to a strong showing in the second half of Sunday’s matchup against Houston.
Pittsburgh’s defense also played a crucial role, shutting Houston’s offense down after allowing 21 points in the first half. Several players and units stood out as stars in the victorious performance.
These are the Steelers’ studs and duds from their third straight victory to begin the 2020 NFL season.
Stud: James Conner, RB
After rushing for 106 yards last week, Conner racked up 109 rushing yards on 19 carries against Houston’s defensive front. He also got involved in the passing game, catching four of five targets for 40 yards. Pittsburgh’s primary back changes almost week-to-week, but Conner is off to a hot start in 2020.
The former Pro Bowler is a free agent this coming offseason. He needed a bounce-back campaign after rushing for fewer than 500 yards in 2019. So far, Conner is on his way to a significant payday. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry this year.
Rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. also performed well. After not playing a role in Pittsburgh’s rotation during the first two weeks, McFarland gained 42 yards on six carries against Houston. The Steelers hope McFarland can bring some extra juice to the table if Pittsburgh’s running game becomes too stagnant.
Dud: The secondary
In the first half, Deshaun Watson picked apart Pittsburgh’s formerly great secondary. Last season, Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the league. However, the Steelers rank closer toward the middle of the NFL this season. Watson torched Pittsburgh for 21 first-half points and 264 total passing yards.
While Mike Hilton intercepted Watson once, the cornerback also gave up several big plays. Steven Nelson looks significantly worse than last year. Joe Haden is showing his age, and Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t putting his stamp on games. The First-Team All-Pro made plays every week last season, but he hasn’t made an impact in this year’s first three games.