Pittsburgh Steelers’ Young Players Step Up in Huge Victory Over Falcons


Sunday’s win against the Atlanta Falcons was a game the Pittsburgh Steelers had to have.

The Steelers wouldn’t be 9-5 without their MVP candidates (Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell), yet they wouldn’t have won the past two games without uncovering hidden value in some of their younger players.


It’s been a roller coaster season for second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton.

Sunday was a high. His stats (5 catches-66 yards) weren’t astounding but Wheaton’s value in critical moments was. He made important catches just prior to both of Bell’s touchdowns to set-up the scores. He had several key blocks to break fellow receivers Martavis Bryant and Brown out for long gains. He also held the line for Bell in the screen game.

While all of his receptions were vital, his toe drag first down in the first quarter and his behind-the-back catch at the end the half were marked moments in this game. Wheaton’s perfect 5 for 5 afternoon may be just the type of game to ride into the playoffs.


This wasn’t Bryant’s best game (3-31 yards); however, each week it seems we get a new glimpse of Plaxico Burress, Jr. He is faster and stronger than expected. He can go up for the dramatic catch and he has the body to block the corner without getting the call. If Bryant continues to warm up in December, there are few teams that have the corners to keep the Steelers receivers covered up.


When Ryan Shazier was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, Vince Williams and Sean Spence knew their days of playing inside linebacker for the Steelers were numbered. Turns out, it was Shazier’s days as starter that were a LTO (limited-time offer).

The injuries in his rookie season have definitely put Shazier on the sideline, but the solid play by Vince Williams and to a lesser degree, Sean Spence, has kept the prized rookie in neutral. Williams played a little over half of the defensive snaps with Spence (37 percent) and Shazier (4 snaps) mopping up the rest.

Williams is is a vicious tackler and even looked impressive covering the speedy Devin Hester and Harry Douglas. Spence finally seems to be figuring out how to shed a block. He had few good plays, including a nice darting tackle for a loss as the first half ended.

Shazier’s four snaps yielded two tackles. He looks healed and hungry to earn his way back on the field. Going from zero to three starting ILB candidates is a good problem for the Steelers to have.


Devin Hester return skills did not unravel the Steelers’ postseason dreams thanks to a great effort by the special-teams units. Brad Wing pinned Hester with all three punts and Shamarko Thomas had two kick-return tackles to shut down one of the Falcons strengths. That’s two weeks in a row the Steelers have taken on a top five return unit and won.

"“We’re not a perfect group by any stretch, but we’re a group that will fight to the end together,”-Mike Tomlin after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons"

They’re not perfect but these discounted younger players are starting to find their place on this team, After all, you just don’t know what you don’t know. And today the Steelers’ young players know they are headed to the playoffs for the first time.