Steelers Report Card vs. Eagles @ Heinz Field

From the grade book of a teacher who was pleased to see some under performing students perk up, and a little dismayed to see others slip, here go the Steelers report card for their victory over Philly at Heinz Field. As a caveat, no other grades were consulted.

For the first time this season, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw a touchdown. Ben played generally well, evading pressure and making things happen with his feet. And while he missed some key throws, he was also a victim of several drops. Most importantly, he made the throws he had to make on the Steelers winning drive.  Grade:  B+

Running Backs
Who was it that said the Steelers wouldn’t miss Mendenhall much? Me, among others. This is a time when I am gladly wrong. Rashard Mendenhall showed that he’s clearly the Steelers most talented back and also confirmed that when Mendenhall commits to a hole he can run with the best in the league. Isaac Redman also played much better, and was a key player on the 2nd half scoring drives. Chris Rainey was a non-factor.  Grade: A-

Wide Receivers

Studs numbers 1 and 2 of Young Money, Inc. both played subpar games. Mike Wallace could not get past press coverage and dropped a few, and Antonio Brown had two ugly drops, including one in the end zone. Jerricho Cotchery should have had a touchdown, but lost his footing. Emmanuel Sanders, on the other hand, came up with a couple of key completions, as did Heath Miller.  Grade:  C+

Offensive Line
This unit help short circuit a couple of drives with penalties and did an adequate job of protecting Ben against a fierce pass rush. The biggest improvement here was the run blocking, particularly with Willie Colon. The Steelers were able to run repeatedly right up the middle when called upon, and that was not something that they’d been able to do all season long. Grade:  B-

Defensive Line
Another unit that improved its performance. Michael Vick faced pressure all day, and a big part of it was because the defensive line was getting penetration. Brett Keisel lost a footrace to Vick (as you’d expect) but his presence in the backfield was a welcome site, as was that of Ziggy Hood and Steve McLendon. Nonetheless, the line must shoulder its share of the blame for the two 4th down conversions.  Grade:  B-

Was that a Lawrence Timmons sighting? Yes it was. Timmons was on fire, moving to the ball, making plays and disrupting things in the backfield. Larry Foote recovered both fumbles. James Harrison didn’t record any sacks, but was in Vick’s face. And low and behold, Jason Worilds also made his presence known on several occasions. Like the line, the linebackers share blame for the 4th down conversions, but a quality afternoon nonetheless.  Grade:  B+

Vick had a fairly good day statistically and, while you can’t discount his ability to regain the lead with 6 minutes remaining, he was ineffective on third down, and never really developed the kind of rhythm that Carson Palmer or Peyton Manning did. A big part of that has to do with the pass rush, but the Steelers secondary effectively defended Vick’s attempts to go deep. Ryan Clark also had a touchdown saving strip, although he and Ryan Mundy must watch the helmet-to-helmet hits.  Grade:  B

Special Teams
Chris Rainey had a 44 yard kick off return, and Antonio Brown had a 7 yard punt return. The Steelers kick coverage was solid, but the Eagles had a 13 yard punt return, which mustn’t become the norm. Shaun Suisham was 3-3 on the day, including another game winner into the open end of Heinz Field. Drew Butler’s punting was solid if not spectacular.  Grade:  B

Dick LeBeau moved Lawrence Timmons in closer to the action and the results spoke for themselves. Beyond that, LeBeau looked like a better coach with James Harrison back didn’t het…? Although the defense’s performance was soild overall, the unit still lost another 4th quarter lead, which is never good. For three weeks Todd Haley’s offense was all about an air game that was so effective, one wondered if the Steelers even needed to run. Haley never bought into that, and his commitment to the run paid handsome dividends. All three phases of the game were hurt by penalties, and that reflects on the coaching, regardless of whether they were coming off of a bye week or not.  Grade:  B

Unsung Hero
Entering the league behind two All Pro’s is never easy, especially when you’re expected to eventually replace one of them. This young man started 12 games last year, and while he may not have struggled, he certainly lacked the “wow factor” as Simon Cowe would say. However, he was back in the line up on Sunday, and this time he delivered to the tune of 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 passed defensed and two more QB hits, and for that Jason Worilds is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the victory over Philadelphia.

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