Taken from the grade book of is reminded of Wheaton High School’s old motto “Attenders are Achievers” and is aghast at the number of “sick days” the Steelers suffered during 2012 here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the victory over the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. Remember, no other grades were consulted prior to this posting.
Ben Roethlisberger struggled early on with the entire offense. Is performance in the first half was dreadful – until he was able to transform a turnover into money. Roethlisberger was hardly spectacular all day, but he did spread around the ball, throw three touchdown passes and did not turn over the ball. Grade: B
Jonathan Dwyer led the team with 52 yards rushing and was followed by Isaac Redman with Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Rainey brining up the rear. The Steelers running effort was nothing special and early on it struggled, but both Redman and Dwyer converted some key third downs late in the second half. Grade: B-
Plaxico Burress scored his first touchdown for the Steelers after nearly 8 years. Antonio Brown also got into the end zone for 6, as did Leonard Pope. Emmanuel Sanders led the unit in yardage – at 22 yards and Jerricho Cotchery also came down with some nice ones. Given that Cleveland’s secondary was staffed 75% by back ups, the units performance was only “OK.” Grade: B-
It wouldn’t be a complete game without an offensive line injury, now would it? The Steelers out did themselves by sending both David DeCastro and Kelven Beachum to the sidelines, leaving them at 5 healthy lineman as Doug Legursky came in at while Ramon Foster moved out to tackle. Neither the run blocking nor the pass blocking was anything special that day, but at the unit did about as well as one could expect given the circumstances. Grade: C
Cleveland had some success rushing the ball particularly after Brett Keisel went out injured. However, Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward combined for a sack and Heyward was also credited with another pressure. Ziggy Hood had a fumble recovery and Casey Hampton had one solo tackle on what might have been his final game as a Steeler. Grade: B
If this was James Harrison’s final game as a Steeler, he went out with a bang. And he wasn’t even the best linebacker on the field. That distinction belonged to Lawrence Timmons who was once again all over the field, sealing victory with back-to-back sacks and a final forced fumble. However, Larry Foote got burned in the end zone on coverage leading to Cleveland’s only touchdown and LaMarr Woodley was once again invisible. Grade: B+
The Steelers number one defense has been turnover starved all season long. So you strip the Steelers secondary down to two healthy corners, injure Ryan Clark, and what do you get? Three turnovers produced by the secondary, including 2 by Cortez Allen alone. Troy Polamalu set the tone with his first interception, and although the offense could not convert on that one, it did turn the other two into money. While the turnovers, and the ability to transform those into points, carried the day, the injury depleted secondary also held Cleveland to 3-10 on first down conversions. All in all, a fine day for an injury plagued unit. Grade: A
All year long the Steelers special teams have remained suspect. And so it was on the last day of the season. The unit contained Joshua Cribbs, but Cleveland did have one return approaching 3 yards, although so did Chris Rainey. Antonio Brown added a 10 yard return while Shaun Suisham made his only field goal attempt, from 41 yards. So far a solid day. But they unit suffered another fake punt that resulted in a 35 yard run, one where Robert Golden was caught asleep at the switch. These kinds of lapses have haunted the unit all year and cannot be excused. Grade: D
The Steelers defense had a fine game and although spoiled fans might have wished to see Dick LeBeau’s unit torment a rookie QB making his first start a little more, the bottom line is the defense did its job. The sailing was rougher on the other side of the ball, but the Steelers offense likewise made the plays necessary to win, particularly after the first two turnovers in addition to answering Cleveland’s score in the second half. Its true that in the early going the Browns appeared to be playing like a team that wanted it more, but Mike Tomlin’s Steelers did not get caught up in the ebb and flow of a meaningless game, and Cleveland’s final series firmly erased any doubt who wanted it more. Grade: B
Cortez Allen stole the spotlight with two turnovers. Lawrence Timmons mugged his way in the scene with his twin sacks to close the game. Excellent performance all around. There’s one player who has been steadily gaining strength all season. One player who only knows one speed, which is high gear. This player led the team in tackles, hit the QB once, registered a tackle for a loss, and sacked the quarterback. If an outside observer used this player’s intensity to gauge the stakes involved, he or she could have only concluded that the Steelers were fighting for a playoff spot, and for that James Harrison is the Unsung Hero of the victory over the Browns.