J.C. Jackson Shines in Loss.
Perhaps, the brightest spot on the Pats defense was the play of Jackson who held Ju-Ju Smith Schuster to four catches for 48 yards on 10 targets. The undrafted rookie was excited when he found out that he would cover one of the best receivers in football. Jackson has proven to be a feisty cornerback His biggest play occurred when he knocked the ball out of Smith-Schuster‘s hands with 2:34 to go in the contest. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger tried to hit Smith-Schuster in the end zone. Jackson knocked away the ball at the last minute. Smith-Schuster gave Jackson credit during the game for his technique and feistiness.
"He told me your going to be good," Jackson said.
Jackson rarely allowed Smith-Schuster to create seperaton. Jackson forced Smith-Schuster to make a great catch in the first quarter for 22 yards. Jackson was right there and Smith-Schuster just grabbed the ball over him. On Duron Harmon's interception, Jackson had good coverage on Smith-Schuster.
"He did great. Every week J.C.'s roles has expanded. He's been able to play lights out," Harmon said. "Smith-Schuster's been putting on a show all year and for J.C. to go out there and play the way he did it speaks volumes on the type of player he is and the type of player he is going to become."
The Pats did an effective job on Antonio Brown too who caught only four passes for 49 yards. Brown, however, did beat Jason McCourty for a touchdown to make the score 14-7 in the first half.
Rob Gronkowski Non-Factor.
Gronkowski has put up big numbers in his career against the Steelers. Sunday was a different story. Gronkowski did not have a catch in the first three quarters and was limited to two catches for 21 yards.
Tom Brady said the Steelers double-teamed Gronkowski at times. That wasn't the only explanation for why he struggled. The likely future Hall of Fame tight end doesn't have the same burst he once did with the back and ankle issues he has been battling all year.
Gronkowski wasn't the only issue the Pats faced on offense. Julian Edelman had a couple of drops. He had a respectable day overall with seven catches for 90 yards. Josh Grodon might have had his worst game as a Patriots player with only one catch for 21 yards.
Chris Hogan was gifted a 63-yard touchdown catch on the Pats first drive. The Steelers never covered him. Other than that, he was a non-factor.
Notes: Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn were non-factors. Clayborn runs past the QB at times. Lawrence Guy had a good day with some pressures. Jason McCourty struggled. Kyle Van Noy keeps improving and is becoming a smarter player. Trading for Danny Shelton has been a disappointment. He was supposed to help the run defense. Sunday he was inactive again. Keiomta Davis, Derek Rivers, Duke Dawson, Obi Melifonwu, James Ferentz and Jacob Hollister were also inactive. Nice touch by owner Robert Kraft to visit the Pittsburgh Synagogue where the mass shooting happened several months ago