From the grade book of a teacher who cannot deny that his star pupil performs better at home here is Pittsburgh’s report card for the Steelers victory over the Jets. Remember, as a caveat, no other grades were consulted prior this posting.
After being a little rusty out of the gate, Ben Roethlisberger started throwing with lethal efficiency. And again, he excelled when it counted on third downs. Todd Haley seems to be finding a balance between calling and designing plays that get the ball out of Ben’s hands quickly while letting Ben be Ben. The results — 75% completion rate, two touchdown passes, and a 13 minute time of possession edge — speak for themselves. Grade: A-
There’s no sugar coating the rushing stats — they’re anemic. Consistency eluded both Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. But that only improved their focus, and by the end of the game, both were burning off precious minutes from the clock by grinding out extra yards with second and third efforts. Baron Batch blocked well but he and Chris Rainey went nowhere with their carries. Grade: C-
Another week, another outstanding performance from the entire unit. Antonio Brown had a fabulous game making some of his near-impossible catches. Mike Wallace both caught passes in traffic and hurt the Jets downfield. Emmanuel Sanders was a force underneath. Heath Miller just catches touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery made a very tough catch that put the Steelers on the one. Will Johnson had another catch. Grade: A
For the first time in memory the unit suffered no injuries, which we must hail as an accomplishment. Ben Roethlisberger got good protection, “only” suffering three sacks (a high number elsewhere in the NFL). The run blocking on the other hand was atrocious. One out of four times they were handed the ball, Steelers running backs got tackled for a loss, which really isn’t their fault. Run blocking must improve. Grade: C
The defensive line started very weak against the run in the first quarter. But they picked up the slack well enough that the Jets couldn’t or didn’t attempt to run late. The unit neither made splash plays nor got into Sanchez’ face, but they did occupy New York’s offensive line, freeing the defense to make plays. Cameron Heyward closed the game with a sack. Grade: C
He’s going to get fined for it, but you can trace the change in tempo of this game to Lawrence Timmons hit of Mark Sanchez. LaMarr Woodley’s sack on the Jet’s first possession of the second half nipped any inkling of a New York comeback in the bud. Larry Foote was “quiet” in that he simply was the number two tackler. The unit was strong in run support and made its opportunities vs. the quarterback count. Grade: B
Between the penalties and the catches the first quarter made it look like Santonio Holmes was going to own Ike Taylor. But Taylor persisted and shut ‘Tone down for the duration. You didn’t hear Cortez Allen or Kennan Lewis’ names mentioned much, and which means they were doing their jobs. And what about Ryan Clark? Clearly this is a far different, and far better secondary with him playing. Welcome back Ryan. Grade: A-
Shaun Suisham was 2-2 from 45 yards out and his kickoffs were deep. Has this kid built up his leg strength? Drew Butler again punted well. DeMarcus Van Dyke forced a turnover on a punt return. Chris Rainey and Antonio Brown did well in the return game and the Jets got nothing on punt returns, although the Steelers could have covered kickoffs better. Grade: B+
Want to beat the Steelers? You’d score fast. Its still very early, but Todd Haley has thus far shown a ball-control focused offense the late Ron Earhardt would envy. Take away his two former Defensive Players of the Year and Dick LeBeau will merely hold your quarterback to three completions for 2 and a half quarters. Seriously, the main “adjustment” was the Steelers secondary settling down and communicating better, but players on the field can only do that if they’re well prepared, and Dick LeBeau had his players prepped. There are 14 more games to go, but no one is missing Al Everest.
The Steelers so thoroughly dominated the numbers of this game that no one will remember that they were behind until late in the second quarter. But with 4:23 left to play Ben Roethlisberger called a time out after a one yard run by Jonathan Dwyer and an incomplete pass left the Steelers at 3 and 9 on their 39. The target of Ben’s next two passes converted with a 10 yard catch and then followed with a 19 yard catch to put the Steelers in the Red Zone. That target’s name wasn’t Wallace or Brown, but his contributions were just as important to the Steelers victory, and that’s why Emmanuel Sanders is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the Jets game.