Steelers Report Card vs. Broncos @ Mile High

From the grade book of a teacher who never had much sympathy for those who always found the first day of school to be difficult, here is the Report Card for the Steelers game vs. Broncos. Remember, no other report cards were consulted prior to issuing these grades.

When we last saw him on this field, Ben Roethlisberger was wounded and his pass lacking zip. This time Ben was rocketing off balls to targets all over the field, despite losing the right side of his line. While Roethlisberger did fail to deliver on first and second downs, he was lethal on third down. Threading the needle in pro football is a sight to behold, because it precision, timing and a lighting fast ball. It also involves risk. Roethlisberger had a couple of near-interceptions until he went to the well one too many times. True to character, Ben accepted blame for the loss. He shouldn’t, he had plenty of help. Nonetheless his mistake was costly and timely and his grade suffers. Grade:  B

Running Back
Isaac Redman played the game of his life last year in the playoffs, seemingly broadcasting to the world that the one time-training camp curiosity was in fact for real. Redman’s encore was a thud, he got no and did nothing of note. Jonathan Dwyer only got 2 more carries but logged 23 more yards, and looked good doing so. Neither Chris Rainey nor Baron Batch did much of note with their carries, and the Steelers never established the ground game.  Grade: C-

Wide Receivers
If the Broncos game is any indication, Todd Haley is one offensive coordinator that knows how to spread the ball around to diverse group of talented receivers. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller, and Mike Wallace each had four catches, and each man found a way to come up with the ball it crucial situations. The unit suffered a few drops, but overall, a very, very solid night from the unit that is quickly distinguishing itself as the team’s strongest.  Grade:  B+

Offensive Line
Doesn’t the law of averages dictate that the Steeelers can’t keep suffering offensive injuries? I mean, it has to, right? Unfortunately dice do not have memories, ans neither do defensive front 7. In a word, this was not a good night for the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line. The unit was plagued by false start and illegal formation penalties, failed to establish an inside running game, and did an “OK” job of protecting Ben when it counted, and then completely failed at the end. Right now this unit remains a liability. Grade: D+

Defensive Line
This was supposed to be the Year of Youth on the Defensive line. Steel Curtain Rising even bought into the hype about Ziggy Hood’s training techniques. Johnny Mitchell rotated his lineman frequently, so everyone in uniform got plenty of snaps. Maybe that prevented them from getting into a grove, but regardless this group had the worst night of any unit. Brett Keisel, Hood, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon and Casey Hampton failed to get penetration, failed to control their gaps, and failed to disrupt well, anything. Grade:  F

Larry Foote was not only the best player of the linebackers, he was the best player on the entire defense, leading with 8 tackles, 1 sack, a pass defensed and a couple of hurries. In contrast, last year’s bonus babies, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, were invisible, save for Manning getting away from Timmons. Jason Worilds got onto the field for his first action all year, and registered a sack, but then joined Woodley and Timmons disappearing act. The Steelers need more from their linebackers.  Grade:  C-

Another unit that was supposed to see the flowering of a Youth Movement instead looked inexperienced and tentative. Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen were ineffective in coverage. Troy Polamalu had a bad angle on the 71 yard touchdown pass and got out foxed by Peyton Manning all night. The secondary’s resident “Ryan” failed to make forget “Mundy” is printed on the back of his jersey rather than “Clark.” Grade:  F

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham made good on all of his attempts and kicked the ball deep into the end zone. David Paulson delivered a leveling hit that sprung Antonio Brown loose on a 23 yard punt return. Emmanuel Sanders had a nice 27 yard punt return. Drew Butler boomed off 3 nice punts. Newly acquired Marcus Van Dyke downed a punt at the Denver 1. Overall, a solid effort. If Al Everest’s absence is going to be an issue in 2012, it wasn’t evident vs. Denver. Grade:  B

The Steelers game plan was predicated on keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands. The Steelers did that yet still got foiled. Game planning really wasn’t at issue on offense, even if execution was at times. On defense it’s a different story. It would be foolish to suggest that “the game is passing Dick LeBeau by” or any such nonsense, but Pittsburgh’s defense was clearly unprepared for Manning. In contrast, Manning was a step ahead of the Steelers defense from the first quarter onward. In terms of making adjustments, Manning ran circles around the Steelers defensive players and coaches. Grade:  C-

Unsung Hero
He’s been called a one trick pony. Vilified as selfish and uncommitted to the team. His lack of physicality has been criticized here and in parts elsewhere. But his production equaled that of everyone else in Young Money and he caught his passes in traffic. He also used his body to prevent the DB from making a play on the ball while catching a touchdown, and for those efforts Mike Wallace is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the Broncos game.

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