Steelers Report Card vs. Chargers @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who, as a second semester junior, decided to blow off studying for his open book, open note final in Crime the Individual and Society and bombed it accordingly. The feeling here is that the Steelers took the same approach to the Chargers game and their report card reflects it. As a caveat, no other grades were consulted prior to this posting.

Of all the units quarterback is one that offered something redeeming. Which is not to say Ben Roethlisberger played well. He was rusty early on and finished 5-13 on third down conversions – and that includes garbage time. So Ben must bear some responsibility. However, he didn’t have help from his running game, his receivers, or his offensive line. In spite of that, he did his part moving around to buy time and leaving the pocket and rushing. It wasn’t enough.  Grade:  C-

Running Backs
Jonathan Dwyer outran Roethlisberger by one yard, and most of his carries came on a 14 yard scamper. Outside of that he got nothing. Isaac Redman had 2 carries for zero yards. Chris Rainey had some one garbage time carry. Arguably the running backs should have gotten more carries, but they indisputably were ineffective in the carries that they had.  Grade:  F

Wide Receivers
Mike Wallace looked great. The problem was he didn’t start playing until garbage time, save for the final drive of the first half. Before that he dropped an almost certain touchdown. Antonio Brown had a drop, as did Jerricho Cotchery and even Heath Miller dropped a touchdown pass. Plaxico Burress made a difficult catch in triple coverage. The Steelers needed plays like that. They didn’t get them. Grade: F

Offensive Line
The Steelers offensive line started to click in Cincinnati when Willie Colon settled in at guard. Colon’s been hurt or out recently and line play has suffered. But the Standard is the Standard, and all of the Steelers offensive lineman were “below the line” in both their run blocking and their pass blocking. If they could get it done, at least against the Raven’s pass rush, then why was Ben running for his live vs. the Chargers? This unit failed to get it done. Grade:  F

Defensive Line
Vs. the Steelers San Diego was playing offensive lineman who’d spent the previous Sunday watching games while drinking beer with their buddies. And while San Diego only rushed for 2.6 yards, the Steelers defensive line did not dominate this group by any definition. Ziggy Hood did fairly well early on, and Brett Keisel chased Philip Rivers around but the Steelers needed more, and didn’t get it.  Grade:  D

Lawrence Timmons played well, especially early on. However Jason Worilds was invisible, James Harrison failed to be a factor as did Larry Foote. This group more than the lineman must shoulder blame for the lack of pressure on Rivers and San Diego’s almost automatic ability to convert third and shorts. Where have the forced fumbles been? Grade:  F

Against the Ravens, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown looked ready for prime time. Against the Chargers, ready for the practice squad Brown looked. Allen also took a step back. Troy Polamalu made some good tackles at the line of scrimmage, but a potential interception was botch by a collision with Allen. Keenan Lewis made some plays, but the truth is that Philip Rivers owned the Steelers on third down having converted more than the last several opponents combined. Unacceptable.  Grade:  F

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham made a 49 yarder. Drew Bulter punted well after a poor first punt. But the Steelers started inside their own 15 seven times. That’s not all on the special teams, but they could have provided a spark, but they didn’t and when it seemed like they were about to, you guessed it, it got called back on a penalty. Likewise the special teams got caught asleep at the switch on a fake punt at a point when the offense must might have been able to get the Steelers into the game. Inexcusable.  Grade:  F

Norv Turner is terrible head coach but an excellent offensive and it would be interesting to see his life time record vs. Dick LeBeau. During the first half LeBeau held his own, but Turner out foxed him, calling just the right play on third down time and time again. On a day when his player executed so poorly, its difficult to assess Todd Haley’s performance, other than to say it wasn’t good enough.

But the spotlight is and should remain on Mike Tomlin. The day he was hired, he declared that a true measure of a team isn’t how it handles failure but how it handles success. In the locker room after the game, the Steelers player all but said they’d overlooked San Diego. Yes, professionals shouldn’t “need to be motivated, but it’s the head coaches job to get his team mentally prepared to play, and the Steelers were anything but prepared. Grade:  F

Unsung Hero
Naming any kind of award winner here is a challenge. The Chargers opening possession of the second half really complicated things for the Steelers, but Steelers return unit Rainey stood ready to answer that with a 29 yard kick return, that while it wouldn’t have been a game breaker, could have set the tone for the Steelers in the second half. Instead it got called back, but that doesn’t negate Chris Rainey’s effort or attitude, and for that he is the Unsung Hero of the week.

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