The Steelers reports cards of the last three weeks have taken an interesting journey. The Patriots game put them on academic probation. They rebounded against the Raiders to make the Dean’s list.
This week the erstwhile evaluator finds himself in the position of a teacher who sees his star pupil ace the first section of the test, only screw up badly on the second part because skipped a line on a bubble sheet, and only really took his chestnuts out of the fire because he had a killer eraser and because of time extra time gained due to an unexpected fire drill….
Here go the Steelers grade for the Bills game, along with the normal caveat that no other grades have been consulted prior to this posting.
Ben didn’t throw a touchdown and only put up 246 yards. But afforded little protection from his line, Ben did what he does best, make something out of nothing, taking off and gaining a key third down conversion in the 4th quarter. Grade: B+
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 152 yards, and had at least another 50 negated by penalties. Mendenhall ran hard, ran tough, and was the work horse the Steelers needed him to be. Isaac Redman also made his presence felt in short yardage situations. Mendenhall’s strip, however, was costly, knocking the running effort down a notch. Grade: B+
Hines Ward was on fire in the first half, and it was a pleasant sight to see. Mike Wallace did not put up big numbers, but did make some key catches, as did Emmanuel Sanders and Health Miller. But on many occasions when Ben did have time, he was left standing there, with no one to throw to. Buffalo obviously had a good game plan, but the receivers need to get open, and Emmanuel Sanders must make the catch he dropped in the 4th. Grade: C
Last week they protected Ben but failed to open lanes for the running game. This week they failed to protect Ben, but busted paths for the running backs, when they weren’t getting flagged for holding that is. Holding calls along negated 80 plus yards, in addition to putting the team in 1st and 20’s leading to 3rd and longs. This was almost the difference in the game. Injuries or not, the line must play more disciplined ball, and must play better. Grade: D+
Another unit depleted even more by injury, the defensive line actually gave up signifgant yardage in the run game, and didn’t help enough in pressuring Ryan Fitzpatrick when his receivers finally started catching the ball. Again, injuries or no, this unit is going to need to play better against Baltimore. Grade: C
The James Boys, that is Farrior and Harrison both had key plays, and Lawrence Timmons led the team in tackles. Still Harrison’s penalty, questionable though it may be, hurt, LaMarr Woodley missed a tackle on Fred Jackson’s touchdown, and the Bills did have some success passing in short yardage, for which the linebackers must bear some blame. Grade: C
The corners came up big with some key stops and Troy Polamalu’s interception, as well as some of his other hits in the 4th quarter are the stuff that Canton Highlight reels are made of. Keenan Lewis’ penalty was costly. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a little too much success in passing the ball in the second half, and that brings the secondary’s grade down (and let’s not even talk about the should have been touchdown in OT). Grade: B-
Can you really not give an “A” to a unit that features a kicker making his first four kicks for the franchise, all over 40, all under difficult circumstances. Can you really not give an “A” to a unit with a punter that booms a 55 yard punt in over time kicking from way, way back in his own endzone?
Yes, you can. Leodis McKelvin ran the OT kickoff 49 yards and should have scored! The kickoff following the Go Ahead field goal was likewise returned to the Bills 41. Either play could have sunk the Steelers. Grade: B
Bruce Arians’ game plan was excellent, and his player executed it to perfection. On the flip side key difference between the performance of the Bills offense between the first and second halves was that Fitzpatrick’s receivers started catching the ball. Tomlin and LeBeau need to figure some way to stop teams from nickling and diming the Steelers. And the offensive line penalties have got to stop. Grade C
Punter Dan Sepulveda would be a good candidate, but this week’s unsung hero award goes to Isaac Redman. He only got 25 yards, but he banged them out in situations where the opposition knew the Steelers were going to run the ball. Another step forward for the pride of Bowie State Maryland (where my mom once worked) “RedZone” Redman.