Taken from the grade book of a teacher who for the first time all year, saw his students avoid those same-old self destructive tendencies here is the Steelers Report Card for the victory over the New York Jets. As a caveat, no other report cards have been consulted prior to this posting.
Ben Roethlisberger has shown he can move the ball, in spite of a terrible offensive line, but moving the ball and winning games are not the same thing. Vs. the Jets, Roethlisberger didn’t pass for as many yards, but he made each throw count, and on a day when the running game couldn’t get into second gear the Steelers racked up an enormous time of possession advantage. Clearly his best of 2013. Grade: B+
Le’Veon Bell got his second start and while he looked sharp on some runs, he struggled on others, although he did play well in the passing game. Felix Jones made the most of his carries, as did Jonathan Dwyer. While this unit’s play was “above the line” the Steelers had to punt the ball away several times while defending a lead in the second half. The Steelers will need more from this until. Grade: C-
Heath Miller really got things going for the Steelers with his 31 yard catch. Moreover, it is clear that everyone in the offense is better with Health on the field. David Paulson saw his time increase due to the injury to David Johnson, and did not attract attention to himself for the wrong reasons. Grade: B
Antonio Brown again validated the Steelers decision to choose him over Mike Wallace, although his drop in the end zone was not helpful. Emmanuel Sanders likewise validated the coach’s move to convince the front office to match New England’s offer, although the end zone backflips need to stop. Brown also executed on a fake reverse with a completion to Bell, and avoided a costly mistake on another attempt. Overall a solid performance. Grade: B+
Another week, another offensive line injury and configuration. The Steelers lost Levi Brown before the game started, and for one quarter this until looked “lost” in the first quarter of the season. But that changed after that, and Ben Roethlisberger found more time to throw as the game progressed. The improvements in pass blocking did not carry over the run blocking however. Kelvin Beachum’s holding class notwithstanding, this group put together an “above the line” performance. Grade: C
Brett Keisel led the unit in tackles despite not playing most of the second half. Cameron Heyward was making his first start, and if his stat sheet didn’t dazzle, it was his pressure that helped force Geno Smith into the Steelers first interception of the season. Ziggy Hood reacted to his demotion by getting a sack, a tackle for a loss, and a QB hit. While this unit’s play was solid, the Jets had enough success rushing the ball to suggest that Willie Colon was right in saying New York abandoned the run too soon. Grade: B-
Lawrence Timmons’ interception sealed the victory for Pittsburgh and he was a force all over the field. LaMarr Woodley recorded another sack that ended a drive, and was in the backfield all day. Vince Williams smoked out a Jets attempt at trickery and improved. Jarvis Jones pressure helped secure another turnover and played well. Splash plays have been missing from the Steelers defense for too long, and the linebackers helped bring them back in a big way, even if they must shoulder some blame for the Jets success on the ground. Grade: B+
Early in the week the word out of the South Side via BTSC was that Ryan Clark would see his time reduced and might possibly be benched in favor of Shamarko Thomas. Whether that threat was real or mere rumor, Clark responded by leading the team in tackles and securing the first turnover of 2013. Troy Polamalu played well and kept Smith confused. Ike Taylor and William Gay’s names were not mentioned much, which is a good thing for cornerbacks. The Jets were 3-13 on third downs, and the secondary had a huge role in that. Grade: B+
The Steelers did not give up a big return, but the Jets did enjoy some success in both their punt and kick returns. The Steelers return game did little of note. And there was the matter of the kick out of bounds. On the flip side, Zoltan Mesko’s punted deep, and Shaun Suisham was 4-4 including 2 from more than 40 yards out. It all balances out to an above the line performance. Grade: C+
Technically, Dick LeBeau improved his record against rookie quarterbacks. His defense, even if it did give up yards, held the Jets to two field goals and shut them out in the second half. And if the Jets did move the ball a little more easily than one would like, LeBeau’s unit stopped two of those drives cold with turnovers. Todd Haley’s game plan was solid and the execution of it was above the line. The Steelers offense didn’t put points or yards up on the board in gobs, but they did protect both the ball and their quarterback.
Then their come the “style points.” There are no manuals for NFL coaches to consult when their teams start 0-4. Mike Tomlin made roster changes a plenty, and gave his team a fire and brimstone approach, going so far as to take away their pool cue sticks and ping pong balls. Such moves are easy to make, but results are not automatic. The fact that the Steelers hung in and continued to play in spite of a poor start, and then refused to take their foot off the gas when they had a lead is to Tomlin’s credit. Most importantly, for one week at least, Mike Tomlin found a way to keep his team from losing games. Grade: B+
Unsung Hero Award
The Steelers linebackers made plenty of noise, registering sacks, tackles for losses, and pulling in interceptions. Steelers Nation heard the names “Woodley” “Williams” “Timmons” and even “Jones” aplenty. But which linebacker led the unit in tackles? It wasn’t one of the four starters. Which linebacker made a key sack that prevented the Jets from answering the Steelers first field goal? It was none other than Jason Worilds and for that he is the Unsung Hero of the Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the New York Jets.