Steelers Report Card vs. the Cardinals

From the grade book of a teacher who wonders whether his student is really gifted or is simply a big fish in a small pond. For another week that remains an academic question, next week is another subject however. Here is the Steelers Report Card for the victory over Arizona. No other grades have been consulted.

Ben Roethlisberger had one of his better days of the season. He distributed the ball well, made things happen with his feet, and used his release valves when warranted. He did have a couple of “almost” interceptions and still must improve delivery on deep balls. Grade: A-

Running Backs:
Don’t let the stats fool you. Rashard Mendenhall has little room to run, and made something out of nothing on occasions. This group did not put up pretty numbers, but Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore’s ability to run the ball late in the game allowed the Steelers to asphyxiate any Arizona comeback hope. Grade: B

Wide Receivers:
This was a banner day for the entire Steelers receiving corps. not only in terms of quantity of catches but also quality of catches. Mike Wallace is quickly establishing himself as one of the game’s most dangerous receivers while Antonio Brown’s ball catching ability continues to impress. Health Miller, Manny Sanders, and Hines Ward also made key catches. Grade: A+

Offensive Line:
Another week and other offensive line configuration. This week’s O-Line provided good protection for Ben early on but couldn’t run block. Later, things reversed, Ben found himself on the run while the Steelers rushed the ball better later in the game. Overall an above the line but still inconsistent performance from the offensive line. Grade: C

Defensive Line:
Already down to their third nose tackle, the Steelers got an emotional jolt with Aaron Smith went on IR. Arizona has run the ball fairly well this year, and while their rushers did get some double digit runs, the Steelers contained them well. The line, however, will need to get more pressure on Tom Brady next week. Grade: B

Lawrence Timmons made an appearance as his pressure forced Kevin Kolb into an early interception. LaMarr Woodley had another monster game acting as a one man wrecking crew. James Farrior also made his presence known, although Larry Foote had a subpar afternoon. Grade: B+

The secondary of the NFL’s number one pass defense had a hot and cold day. Ike Taylor managed to contain Larry Fitgerald well enough but committed some drive-sustaining penalties. The secondary also benefited from some woefully inaccurate passes from Kevin Kolb. This unit needs to play better against the Patriots. Grade: C+

Special Teams:
Where is Antonio Brown playing better, as a return man or as a receiver? Perhaps more importantly, the coverage units were excellent against Arizona as they have been all season. Shawn Suisham made three field goals in a range that he’d been having difficulty with. Grade: A

Arizona would figure to have an edge, given that they’ve got 5 coaches and 4 former Steelers under their employ. No such edge was apparent after the whistle blew. Mike Tomlin had his men focused and Bruce Arians and Dick Lebeau came in with good game plans that their units executed. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero Award
The Steelers offense scored three touchdowns and the defense contributed a safety. The final score was 32-20. Take away field goals of 41, 42 and 39 and Arizona is in more than a position to win the game in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers watched makable kicks go astray this year, but that did not happen against Arizona, and that provided the Steelers with their comfort zone which is why Shawn Suisham is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero for the Cardinals game.

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