Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is quickly tiring of seeing his student slip because of correctable issues like failing to get work in on time, here is the Steelers Report Card for the loss to the Bears. Note as a caveat, no other Steelers Report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Something is up with Ben Roethlisberger. Yes it is true that he hasn’t had a running game to work with. Yes it is true that his offensive line has been horrendous. Yes Ben make some fabulous throws vs. the Bears. But Ben Roethlisberger caused four of the Steelers 5 turnovers vs. the Bears. And this is a tendency that is repeating itself. Turnovers doomed a Steeler team that otherwise dominated Chicago. Grade: F
Jonathan Dwyer proved his worth as a blocker and as a runner. Felix Jones looked smart running the ball, yet he put the ball on the ground, which hurt the team when it could lease afford it. Grade: C-
Heath Miller made his triumphant return, and looked very sharp. His impact was not only visible in the plays he made, but in the success of the rest of the passing game. The tight ends contribution to the blocking efforts was not apparent, however. Grade: B-
Antonio Brown had a break out game, just barely missing the 200 yard mark and making two difficult catches in the end zone. Emmanuel Sanders likewise put in a strong game and made the catches he had to make. Jerricho Cotchery did all he was asked to do. Markus Wheaton had a ball thrown at him that he didn’t catch. Grade: B+
David DeCastro did look good on some running plays. But he had difficulty pass blocking as did Ramon Foster. Marcus Gilbert split time with Kelvin Beachum, as did Mike Adams who was abused terribly the entire night. This unit’s play, particularly at the tackle position, remains dangerously far below the line. Grade: D
Brett Keisel had a monster game with a sack four solo tackles and a tackle for a loss. Cameron Heyward continues to pressure the quarterback but has not struck gold yet. Steve McLendon had 5 tackles. Ziggy Hood had 2 in what looked like reduced playing time. The unit’s play was solid, save for Matt Forte’s 55 yard touchdown run, which has to bring down the grade a bit. Grade: B-
Lawrence Timmons was all over the field leading the team in tackles in defensing to passes (how about picking one off?) Jarvis Jones was next in tackles, but still has yet to register a sack. LaMarr Woodley spent plenty of time behind the line of scrimmage. Vince Williams and Kion Wilson are both playing with a passion that says they want to stay there. A good performance, but something broke down on the 55 yard play, which hurt. Grade: B-
Troy Polamalu played a strong game and destroy a play with a brilliant tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Willam Gay also played well. Ike Taylor had a strong game, but let Brandon Marshall get ahead of him on a key conversion. Likewise the unit must shoulder some responsibility for the 55 yard run. Robert Golden did not shy from Jay Cutler’s challenge, but Culter made one hell of a play. Once again, no turnovers. This has to change. Grade: C+
Felix Jones did well on two kick returns. Brown’s punt returning was a non-factor. Shaun Suisham was 3-3 but his kickoffs were short, although that might have been by design. There were a couple of penalties and forgotten in the roughing the kicker penalty on Zoltan Mesko that sparked the rally is the fact that the defender was untouched. Polamalu’s blocked extra point was meaningless, but nice to see nonetheless. A mixed bag on special teams. Grade: C
Dick LeBeau’s game plan and play calling was solid. Todd Haley, Steelers Nation’s latest whipping boy, saw his offense nearly double that of the Bears. And while you can fault the coaches for ruining continuity on the offensive line, these tackles cannot be allowed to take comfort in their level of play.
While Mike Tomlin will ultimately be judged on W’s and L’s, and he doesn’t have anything in the W column almost 25% of the way in, his team was down 23-3 and fought back valiantly, showing that he maintains control of the team. Is it really the coach’s fault when his quarterback develops and acute case of butter fingers? For one week at least Tomlin gets a pass on this front. He and his coaches were “above the line.” Grade: C
When a team goes down 23-3 in the first quarter a lot of things can happen, and most of them are ugly. One of them is not coming back and making game of it, which is exactly what the Steelers did. Lots of players won and deserve accolades for that, but one of those who stepped up with big plays that no one would have thought him capable of was David Johnson, who caught 2 passes for 50 yards and for that he is the Unsung Hero of the Bears game.