Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is once again late with his grades on the Steelers because he was, in fact, grading real papers, here goes the Steelers Report Card for their victory over Kansas City.
Even before Ben Roethlisberger fell to injury, the Steelers passing game wasn’t quite in sync. Big Ben went 9-18 before leaving the game, and while he did lead one touchdown drive and did not turn over the ball, he also could not get the offense into a rhythm against one of the NFL’s worst teams. Byron Leftwich came into the game, and looked like a player who last saw action a season an a half ago – he looked sharp on some throws, rusty on others. Grade: C+
Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman had put in strong performances while the other was injured, so how would the Steelers rush the ball with both men healthy? Not particularly well, unfortunately. Neither man was particularly effective rushing, and Redman fumbled away the ball at Pittsburgh’s 9, giving Kansas City an easy score. Yes, the Chiefs played inspired defense, yes they stacked the line, and yes the offensive line did little to help them, but the Steelers still needed more from their rushers. Grade: C-
Mike Wallace showed incredible concentration in coming down with the ball in what was a decisive score for the team. Beyond that however, he was quiet for much of the night. Heath Miller did not score touchdown, but did lead the team with four catches, followed by Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, but no one in the group it seems, could do quite enough to make the necessary catches in the Red Zone or on third down. Grade: C
Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked once, and that was one of those plays when Ben was trying to make something happen. But that stat is misleading, as he did face pressure for much of the night, as did Byron Leftwich. The Chiefs also registered several tackles for losses. In short, they won the battle at the line of scrimmage, and the Steelers offense struggled all night because of it. The offensive line cannot turn in a similar performance against the Ravens. Grade: D+
It wasn’t too long ago that the proverbial “they” had written off Brett Keisel. Some of “them” even suggested that he should have already followed Aaron Smith into retirement. Keisel shined for the defense vs. Kansas City, registering two sacks. But the stat sheet doesn’t do him justice, as he was in Matt Cassel’s face all night, and caused all kind of problems for the Chiefs running game. Casey Hampton also helped keep the middle clogged up, while Ziggy Hood also disrupted things in the backfield. Grade: B+
LaMarr Woodley led the unit in tackles, but was shut out on sacks, as was James Harrison. Larry Foote turned in a respectable performance, but the real hero of the unit was Lawrence Timmons, who seemed to be in on every play, defending passes, hitting Matt Cassel and of course coming up with the game changing interception in overtime. Grade: B+
Ryan Clark is no longer merely one of the Pittsburgh’s most underrated players, he’s quite possibly one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Clark was in on every play it seemed, and it should come as no surprise that the only time Kansas City had any luck moving the ball in 4th quarter was when Clark was out. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis both played well helping to keep Kansas City to 2-13 on third downs. Another strong night for the secondary when the Steelers needed it. Grade: B+
For all of the praise heaped on the Steelers defense above, the truth is that the Chiefs did move the ball, particularly on the ground, with stunning success early in the game. While Dick LeBeau did make the necessary adjustments, the Steelers defense cannot afford such slow starts vs. the Ravens. Todd Haley’s offense put in his first mediocre night of the season, and overall the unit just managed to stay “above the line.” Mike Tomlin has done an spectacular job as Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. But there have been times during his tenure that his teams have played down to the competition. Steelers Nation will remember the game against the Chiefs as one of them. Grade: C
Under the best of circumstances Heinz Field is one of the most difficult venues in the NFL to kick. Factor in the wind, rain and steadily dropping temperature and you get a hostile environment for any kicker. A single missed kick in a game like this makes a huge difference as the Chiefs can attest. However, as they have all year long the Steelers got quiet consistency for this player, and that was ultimately the difference, and for that Shaun Suisham is Steel Curtain Rising’s unsung hero of the Chiefs game.