This weeks scholastic analogy for the Report Card of the Steelers win against the Browns in Cleveland is that of a student who heads off into exam week by knocking his end of the semester paper out of the park.
As usual, we offer the caveat that no other report cards were consulted prior to this posting. Here goes.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He was not sacked, nor did he fumble in route to completing nearly 70% of his passes. In his first action of the year, Byron Leftwich went 5-7 and Antwan Randle El was 1-1 for 3 with a TD. It does not get better than that. Grade: A+
On the plus side Rashard Mendenhall ran for two touchdowns in the Red Zone and finished one short of Franco Harris’s record. Issac Redman only had three carries, but made those count for 12 yards. And Jonathan Dwyer looked OK in his first NFL action. AND, Mendenhall and Redman teamed up for 2 catches and 31 yards in passing game.
However, against the same defense Ray Rice ran for 92 yards and averaged a full yard per carry more than Mendenhall. Scoring in the Red Zone is important, but the Steelers will have to run better in the playoffs. Grade: B-
Mike Wallace is beginning to redefine the concept of a player who can do damage with just a couple of touches. Hines Ward had five grabs, including a couple of tough ones. Heath Miller and Antonio Brown caught four balls with the later scoring a touchdown. Randle El brought down two, and Emmanuel Sanders had a nice 17 yard grab. Grade: A+
Can it be that cohesion is starting to set in on the line? The line gave up no sacks of Ben, and gave the quarterbacks time to throw. And they played a big role in punching in close. Still, some a little more daylight for the running game was all that was missing. Grade: B
The coaches’ patience in Ziggy Hood is beginning to play off as he is starting to make a name for himself. Brett Keisel registered a sack and a forced fumble. Casey Hampton stuffed the middle as the Browns ran for 43 total yards, well below the Steelers already awesome season-long average. Grade: A
Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison led the team in tackles, and every member of the unit distinguished himself. In fact, back up Larry Foote lead the unit in splash or quasi splash plays. What else is there to say? Grade: A
Anyone fail to understand why Troy Polamalu is the Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 MVP? Polamalu, as usual, tried to deflect credit for this award, and his teammates backed him up, as Ryan Clark and Anthony Madison also came up with interceptions, who also defended another sack and defensed a pass. The secondary saw to it that the Browns never got a shot at making this a game. Grade: A+
Shaun Suisham was under orders to keep it away from Cribbs, and Suisham delivered. His kicks were not long, but that matters little when Cleveland averages 9.1 yards per return. Justin Kapios only punted twice, but made both of them count, albeit with a long loss. The special teams also stuffed a two point conversion attempt. Suisham not only made another kick, but made it from 41 yards out. Grade: A
Mike Tomlin and staff had to do a number of things. Decide whether to play Polamalu or not. Keep his team focused. Disarm the Browns most dangerous man. Tomlin and his team did all three of them allowing the Steelers to do just what they were supposed to do: Clinch the second seed while steamrolling an inferior opponent.
Larry Foote earns this honor this week. Foote’s name has seldom been called since his return last off season. However, in less than a half, Foote had half a sack, defended a pass in the end zone, registered a tackle for a loss, and hit Colt McCoy on another play. All season long “starters in waiting” have stepped into the line up, and not simply done their jobs, but done theme well. Larry Foote’s play Sunday epitomized that spirit.