My 8th Grade World Stuides teacher Mr. Baker used to have what he called “Gimmies” meaning, I give you the assignment, you do it, and you get an ‘A.’ More often than giving ‘A’s’ Mr. Baker gave us “This was a gimme, and you blew it” brow beatings. The Steelers game the Rams amounted to the NFL’s equivalent of a “Gimmie” and the Steelers took full advantage. Here goes the Steelers Report Card for their Christmas Eve shut out of the Rams; as always no other report cards have been consulted.
Charlie Batch got his first start in well over a year, and did respectably. He evaded pressure, directed three touchdown drives, and hit 7 receivers. His interception was not “his fault,” but then he also had a couple of other near interceptions. While Batch was certainly “above the line” the Steelers 1-7 third down conversion rate brings his grade down. Grade: B
Rashard Mendenhall had a career game. Even if you take out his 52 yard run he still had a respectable 3.7 yard per carry average, and he was fabulous on his 35 yard catch and run. Isaac Redman ran hard on his 8 carries, and John Clay hit pay dirt on his first NFL carry. Grade: A
Mike Wallace gave a plesant reminder of why he’s one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers. Hines Ward had four grabs as did Antiono Brown who also turned what looked to be a broken reverse/pass option play into a nice 8 yard run. Health Miller and David Johnson also got into the act. This group did well, but like Batch, they must bear some responsibility for the poor third down conversion rate. Grade: B
Raise your hand if you held your breath when Doug Legursky got hurt. In spite of yet another line up change, the offensive line did well, with Jonathan Scott subbing for Marcus Gilbert, and Chris Kemoeatu returning to the starting line up without drawing attention to himself. Through it all, the pass protection remained solid and the run blocking crisp. Grade: A-
Ziggy Hood had a nice stat sheet, but had difficulty in run support. Brett Kiesel had two defensed passes. Cameron Heyward got playing time on key downs. The unit did well, but their grade must nonetheless reflect Steve Jackson’s 100 yard rushing performance. Grade: B-
James Harrison was a beast, wreaking havoc in the backfield. Lawrence Timmons also made his presence known, while James Farrior and Larry Foote held up well on the inside. Jason Worilds, however was largely invisible during the game and his run support ability must improve. Still, Harrison and Timmons ability to make impact play save this unit from getting a minus attached to its letter. Grade: B
St. Louis signal caller Kellen Clemens was 37.5% pass on the day. In addition to shutting down the Ram’s passing attack, Troy Polamalu, William Gay, registered tackles for losses, while also defending passes. Keenan Lewis also had a key pass defense. An excellent outing for the Steelers secondary. Grade: A
Shaun Suisham nailed a 49 yard field goal when the score was only 10-0, and did well on kickoffs. Justin Kapinos boomed the ball off for a 47 yard punting average, and Antonio Brown made good on his lone kick return by bringing the ball back 30 yards. The coverage units were solid. The Steelers didn’t need any fireworks from their special teams, but got quality play all around, including a fake punt which could have given St. Louis the momentum needed to make a game of it. Grade: B+
This game went as scripted, and credit for that in large part goes to the coaches. The Steelers were playing without a number of key starters and injuries took their toll during the game, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the score board. St. Louis success at rushing the ball is the lone eye brow raiser here, but all in all Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff did a very good job. Grade: B+
Third round picks are supposed to develop into starters in today’s NFL. And the Steelers certainly had that in mind when they picked this young man. Unfortuantely, the said individual, despite multiple shots, has never been able to nail down a starting job. And maybe that’s for the best, because in his fighting to justify a roster spot year in and year out, this gentleman quietly enabled himself to bring another asset to the table – versatility.
Trai Essex will never be a stud offensive lineman in the NFL, but he’s grown into a player who can, has and does step into any of the five offensive line positions at a moment’s notice, and that versatility was on display yet again this past Sunday, and for that Trai Essex is the Unsung Hero for the Steelers victory over the St. Louis Rams.