Taken from the grade book of a teacher who didn’t know whether to interpret the silence of his newly arrived pupils as a sign of genius or something far different, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers report card for the torturing they endured at the hands of the Titans. Please note, no other report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is a class act. He’s got the fate of the franchise on his back and that self-same organization essentially hung him out to dry by providing a tackle doubling as a tight end as his only back up at center. Roethlisberger was under duress all day, yet managed to remain poised and refrained from pointing fingers publicly. He also moved the team smartly down giving them at least a theoretical chance to win the game at the end, which is a credit to his spirit of his professionalism and competitiveness. His play wasn’t perfect, and his grade much reflect that. But he is certainly not to blame for the loss. Grade: B-
Vs. the Titans Steelers Nation saw what had to have been one of the worst rushing efforts in franchise history. Even in the pass happy NFL, 33 yards does not cut it. Early on Isaac Redman looked very much like a back who hadn’t carried the ball in a month. LaRod Stephens-Howling played a little better, but tore and ACL for his troubles. While they might not be “at fault,” players must be graded on “what they put on tape” and the performance and production of a both men was simply unacceptable. Grade: F
Emmanuel Sanders dropped what looked liked could have been an opening score. He atoned for that to lead the Steelers in catches, but still suffered from other drops. Antonio Brown also looked good. Jerricho Cotchery simply did what was asked of him. Still, given the chaos in front of them, this unit needed to do something special, something extraordinary and they didn’t. Grade: C
David Johnson didn’t do much more than catch a pass and clearly did not help improve the run blocking. David Paulson was invisible. Kelvin Beachum started the game here but was quickly shifted to center….. Again, perhaps not “their fault” but his group was not an asset on the field Sunday. Grade: D
David DeCastro now holds the dubious honor of maintaining the Steelers offensive lines “tradition” of injuring your fellow teammates. Marcus Gilbert struggled, and the entire line looked lost without Maurkice Pouncey. Again, this might not be “their fault” but their production was simply unacceptable. Grade: F
On paper, this group had a fine afternoon, holding Chris Johnson to 2.8 yards per carry and the Titans to 2.7 yards per carry. And that just goes to show you how statistics deceive. The Titans in fact, rammed the ball down the middle of the Steelers defense. They may not have done it eloquently, but they did do it effectively. Steve McLendon, Brett Keisel, and Ziggy Hood made plenty of tackles, but didn’t get much penetration. Grade: C-
There was the good, the bad, and the injuries. LaMarr Woodley registered the game’s only sack and was the backfield consistently. Rookie Jarvis Jones made a show stopping behind the line of scrimmage tackle of Johnson. The sight of 95 making splash plays for the Steelers was hair raising. Larry Foote led the unit in tackles, but Tennessee appeared to be targeting him in the running game. Lawrence Timmons, while not playing poorly, needs to be heard more than scene. Jason Worilds was sadly invisible. Grade: B-
Cortez Allen’s reign as starting cornerback lasted less than a half. William Gay played a very strong game in replacement of Allen. Ike Taylor’s name was not called much, which is good for a corner. Ryan Clark went out of the game twice with injuries, but was back in after a play. No wonder he led the team in tackles. Troy Polamalu showed flashes of his old self, although should have been more attentive on a possible fumble recovery. Overall, a solid performance from the oldest unit on the field. Grade: B
Yes there were the dumb penalties. No, there was no spark from the return game. But in spite of that, this until was succeeding in not making themselves a glaring liability for 3 and a half quarters. Then Zoltan Mesko followed with a 39 yard punt (not terrible, but he was kicking from the 5) which Houston returned for 27 yards, giving Tennessee 1st and 10 at the Steelers 17. The Steelers are settling into a very dangerous “special teams mishap of the game” rut. This must stop. Grade: F
Mike Tomlin does not coach scared. Sometimes that philosophy has its consequences, and your number two tight end going to play center was one of them. Tomlin failed to refocus his team after was clearly a deflating injury. Todd Haley likewise could not get into any sort of a groove with his play calling. Dick LeBeau’s unit did better, but the success of the Titans running up the middle will be noted in the AFC North and parts elsewhere. Danny Smith was supposed to revitalize the special teams. Steelers Nation continues to wait. Grade: F
Unsung Hero Award
When times get tough teams look to an unselfish player who simply steps up to make plays. They might be game changing, they might simply convert a third down, or they might simply involve doing what was asked of them. Such characteristics made Hines Ward one of the NFL’s best kept secrets until 2001 or so. Jerricho Cotchery is on the other end of his career, he only made four catches but he came up with them when the Steelers needed him to, and for that he is Steel Curtain Rising’s Unsung Hero of the Titans game.