Steelers Report Card vs. Redskins @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher whose now seen his star pupil live up to expectations two weeks in a row, here goes the Steelers report card for their victory over the Redskins. As a caveat, no other report cards were consulted.

It may be ‘dink and dunk’ but its winning football for Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was 3-3 in the Red Zone, hitting three different receivers and led the Steelers to 5 scores. The Steelers, however were only 4-11 on third downs. That didn’t really hurt the Steelers, but does pull his grade down a smidge. Grade:  A-

Running Back
Jonathan Dwyer gave the Steelers their first back-to-back 100 yard games since Willie Parker in weeks 1 and 2 of 2008, and in doing so made a play on the mantel as the team’s starter. Chris Rainey broke another long one at the goal line to set up a touchdown. Baron Batch struggled on the ground and caught 1 pass. Will Johnson blocked well and got his first NFL TD.  Grade:  A

We’ve said this before:  All Heath Miller does is catch touchdowns (and in the process, is making his case for team MVP.) Mike Wallace atoned for his butter fingers by making several clutch catches. Emmanuel Sanders did have a drop, but his third down conversion set up the first touchdown. Antonio Brown didn’t show a lot of fire works, but made the bread and butter catches that resulted in a 6 minute advantage in TOP. Leonard Pope executed his role to perfection on the touchdown play. A strong outing for the receivers. Grade:  A-

Offensive Line
After posting its best outing vs. Cincinnati, could the offensive line made it two in a row? The answer is yet, it could. If you want to see why Willie Colon’s move to guard excited people so much, take a look at the block he threw on Sanders early 3rd down conversion. Mike Adams did well in his second start. The offensive line is gelling nicely, and that process is having spill over effects elsewhere. Grade:  A-

Defensive Line
Defending a player like RG3 is tricky, but the Steelers defensive line was more than up to the task. Moreover, they shut down the NFC’s most prolific passing attack. Brett Keisel defensed a pass, hurried RG3 and his tackle of Logan Paulsen on 4th down for a 7 yard loss sealed the game for Pittsburgh. Ziggy Hood got a hand on a pass, and Cameron Heyward led the team in tackles, by ESPN’s count. All in all an excellent afternoon for the defensive line.  Grade:  A

Larry Foote had the game’s only sack, which forced a field goal late in the game. Lawrence Timmons got into RG3’s face and got guys down behind the line of scrimmage. James Harrison might not have gotten a lot of pressure, but he did make 8 tackles. LaMarr Woodley also registered a tackle for a loss. Commentators enjoyed talking about how RG3 “frozen” the Steelers linebackers with his play fakes – which is true, but the bigger truth is that the linebackers never lost containment on RG3, and that made a huge difference.  Grade:  A

So you go up against RG3 without your top All Pro strong safety and lose Pro Bowl free safety, and what happens? You hold him to 12 points. The Steelers secondary was excellent in coverage, containment and run support on Sunday. Yes, the unit benefited from drops, but their hard hitting helped plant the seeds for some of those drops. This group was down right aggressive, and that aggressiveness paid dividends.  Grade:  A

Special Teams
The good news.  Shaun Suisham was 2-2 including a 48 yarder. Drew Bulter punted well. Rainey was solid returning kicks.  The bad news. The Redskins has a 17 yard punt return that set up their final score. Their kick return average was a little better than you’d like. But the most egregious error by the special teams was yet another touchdown was nullified by a penalty at a time when Redskins could have been put away. Sure the Steelers over came it, but That’s just inexcusable and pulls the unit “Below the Line.” Grade:  D+

Mike Tomlin mentioned that he saw an intensity from his defense that he had not seen all year. That was evident, and if the D is in fact finding its Mojo, then they’re doing it at just the right time. Todd Haley’s game planning was phenomenal. Roethlisberger’s goal line touchdown to Pope (and also to Johnson) show just how deadly this offense can be when the opposition must respect the run. Dick LeBeau is now 15-1 vs. rookie quarterbacks and he clearly had his team prepped to contain RG3. An outstanding game by one of the finest defensive minds in the game. Special teams coach Amos Jones needs to find a way to stop the penalties.  Grade: B+

Unsung Hero
18 months ago much of the Steelers coaching staff, let alone Steelers Nation had written this man off another failed third round draft pick. However, Carnell Lake took a personal interest in this young man, and he got on to the field in 2011, and more importantly, he kept himself there with his play. For the second consecutive game this man’s determination to play to the whistle saved the Steelers a touchdown in the end zone, in addition to two other passes defensed and plenty of hard hitting, and for that Keenan Lewis is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the Redskins game.

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