Taken from the grade book of a teach who has just seen yet again live out the all important lesson of believing in themselves, here is the Steelers report card for their upset win over the Baltimore Ravens. As a caveat, no other Steeler report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Yes, Charlie Batch overthrew Mike Wallace in the end zone. Yes, he threw to Ed Reed in the end zone. Yes, his missed other throws that could have helped the team. But the stat sheet doesn’t detail Batch’s block on Dwyer’s touchdown. It camouflages the 8-8 performance after the interception. It fails to reveal the poise and focus that let him lead the Steelers to 10 4th quarter points. Steel Curtain Rising’s report card grades on performance and results. While Batch’s numbers might not have been excellent, the results were. Grade: A-
Measured purely by the stats, the Steelers running backs had a weak day. But if numbers don’t lie, they sometimes disguise the truth. Against the Ravens the Pittsburgh Steelers running backs ran the ball when they needed to. Jonathan Dwyer’s 16 yard TD confirmed that Pittsburgh was playing to win. Isaac Redman’s 24 yard run was equally impressive and helped set the tone for the 4th quarter. Grade: B+
Yes, Mike Wallace dropped one he should have caught. Yes, Emmanuel Sanders fumble was costly and could have been lethal. But Sander’s atoned by making a key catch to set up the tying touchdown. And Wallace was Mr. dependable on the final drive. Under appreciated in all of this is Heath Miller who made clutch catch after clutch catch, and whose touchdown was a testament to will and focus. Antonio Brown also played well. Grade: B+
Another game, another starting front five for the Steelers, continuing a now three year theme. In run blocking the Steelers did not dominate the Ravens as they might have, but no one can fault their protection of Charlie Batch, who had time to throw all day. Maurkice Pouncey also played well as an out of position center. And how many coaches wouldn’t like to have a player with Doug Legursky’s versatility? Grade: B
Ziggy Hood led the team in tackles, registered a sack, several tackles for a loss, and was spot on in the fumble recovery. He was the only member of the unit that stood out, and the Ravens did have success running the ball at times, although Flacco also found himself facing many third and long. Brett Keisel had 3 tackles. This unit had a solid night, but must bear some blame for Ray Rice’s TD. Grade: B
Larry Foote was all over the field making tackles on both sides of the line of scrimmage, sacking Flacco and pressuring him into bad throws. Jason Worilds had a quiet game, but did his part as did Lawrence Timmons. But the real star of the unit was number 92. As Mike Tomlin said after a hard-fought, close victory over the Bengals in 2010, “James makes plays, and he makes them in a timely fashion.” The Ed Reed interception should have doomed the Steelers, but Harrison’s strip sack shifted momentum right back to the Steelers. Grade: A-
Joe Flacco tried to go deep to Tory Smith early in the game, and Ike Taylor broke it up. Then he left for the game. So Cam Cameron thought he might feast on sophomore cornerback Cortez Allen. Guess again, Cam. Allen was excellent in his first “start” breaking up 3 passes and given the Ravens no quarter. Keenan Lewis had another strong game. Ryan Clark pulled down an easy interception. And Troy Polamalu was back, blitzing early and then covering deep. Flacco did have one 31 yard pass, but overall failed multiple times going deep on a day when the Ravens were 3-11 on third downs. Grade: A
Jacoby Jones did have one long one, but overall was a non-factor. Antonio Brown tried to return some punts he probably should not have, but did not hurt the team. But Chris Rainey had an under appreciated role in victory, as his 42 yard kickoff return set up the Steelers second field goal, allowing them to go into the half just 7 down. Drew Butler had a so-so day punting. 46, 41, and 42 – those were the distances of Shaun Suisham’s field goals, all of which were necessary all of which came outdoors in December, on a wet field, including the one to win the game with 3 seconds remaining. Grade: B+
The Ravens and Joe Flacco and the offense have been red hot at home. Yet Dick LeBeau kept him under 50% passing by playing to his weaknesses. Todd Haley devised a solid game plan to exploit Batch’s talents. While his attempt to go deep did not bear fruit, there’s no criticism here for taking shots down the field. But the real kudos here go to Mike Tomlin. The Steelers sorely lacked focus in their 8 turnover game to the Browns, and Tomlin shook up his roster. He and Haley also deserve credit for moving their Pro Bowl Center out of position. Pittsburgh won because they wanted it more, but all of that “want it” only mattered because the Steelers were focused, confident, and ready to persevere thanks to Tomlin. Grade: A
Paul Kruger is playing extremely well this year, and if the Ravens defense is having an off year, it’s still better than many. Being asked to start your first NFL game going on the road to a team that has beaten you three times and shows now quarter is not easy. But this rookie 7th round draft pick embraced this challenge and lived up to Mike Tomlin’s “Standard” by delivering a winning performance for 60 minutes, and for Kelvin Beachum is the Unsung Hero of the Steelers-Ravens game.