From a teacher who suspects his pupils got a stern talking to after receiving their mid-semester report. Here goes the Steelers report card for their Tumbling of the Titans. As always, no other grades have been consulted.
Ben Roethlisberger’s first two passes were off, and the interception before the half seemed foolish. But beyond that, Roethlisberger was damm near perfect, throwing five touchdown passes for the second time in his careeer. Moreover, he adjusted his game, and got the ball out smartly. Grade: A-
Overall rushing averages might fail to impress, but Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer did something that had yet to be done in the first four games – make the Steelers running game relevant. And that made a huge difference as Ben Roethlisberger used play-action to perfection. Grade: B+
Seven different receivers caught balls, and all of them made plays, from Hines Ward and Heath Miller returning to their roles as Mr. Dependable I and Mr. Dependable II, to Antonio Brown’s catch which set up the first TD, to Mike Wallace burning Tennessee deep after he burned them underneath. Against the Titans, Steelers Nation glimpsed what Pittsburgh’s offense could be with a compotent running game and decent pocket protection. Grade: A
Who says that you can’t sign quality left tackles off of the street? Turthfully, it is possible to give Max Starks too much credit for the line’s rebound, as Pouncey played markedtly better and Foster looks to settle back into a starting role. But Starks did make a difference on any number of plays. The line opened up holes for the runners and give Ben what he needs, time. Grade: B+
Cameron Heyward got his first NFL sack, Ziggy Hood got part of another, Brett Kiesel batted a pass that got intercepted and Chris Hoke had two tackles for losses. Outside of one quality 21 yard run, Chris Johnson was not a factor. The Steelers defensive line played head and shoulders over what it had done before, and that allowed other things to click for the defense. Grade: B+
James Farrior played as if he took all of those “over the hill” comments personally. His career may be winding down, but Farrior seems determined to go out with a bang. LaMarr Woodley atoned for his past misdeed with 3 splash plays. Lawrence Timmons also had a tackle for a loss and a pass defense. Grade: B+
Statistically Matt Hasselbeck didn’t have a bad day, but he also did not move his team effectively until garbage time rolled around. Still, there were a few miscues that lead to the late touchdown and the defense needs to guard against those. Grade: B
The successful fake punt and another moster game by the return team are nice. A blocked field goal and the failure to recover an on-sides kick are not so nice. While its gone unnoticed because of everything else and because of some dumb penalties, the Steelers special teams breakdowns are happening with alarming familiarity. The breakdowns must stop. Grade: C-
Mike Tomlin said after the Texans game that their was nothing that ailed the Steelers that couldn’t be solved with a little better blocking and better tackling, and he was one to something. Really, it looked like a different team out there between the improved run defense, improved offensive line, and flawless play calling by Bruce Arians on offense. Grade: A
This award could go to a lot of different guys. With young studs blossoming into super stars around him we have not seen a lot of him, but with 7 catches 2 touchdowns and a number of key third down conversions, Hines Ward is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the Titans game.