Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is crossing his fingers in the hopes that he has just seen his pupils take a step beyond simply avoiding self destruction and one towards self fulfillment, here is the Steelers Report card for the victory over the Baltimore Ravens. As a Caveat, no other Steelers report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Ben Roethlisberger went his second game without an interception and without a turnover. He was sharp, on target, moved out of the pocket and ran for yards when necessary. Early in the game he executed the quick passing game extremely well. He moved the chains. Most importantly he was flawless with the game tied and 2 minutes left to play. Grade: A
During training camp, the Steelers press corps tripped over themselves to find new ways to extol Le’Veon Bell. Vs. the Ravens the rest of Steelers Nation got to see what they were talking about. Bell ran with cunning, power and determination and came in just short of 100 yards. Felix Jones was did well in relief, and Jonathan Dwyer appears to be treating every carry as if it might be his last. With Isaac Redman gone, “its what you see is what you get” with this trio. If Bell stays healthy, there’s a lot to like. Grade: B
David Paulson caught a 17 yard pass that got the Steelers going to start the second half and did well in blocking near the goal line. Heath Miller had two catches for 17 yards, including a touchdown, but showed that he was mortal, fumbling the ball which essentially gave the Ravens three. He had a drop. Grade: B-
Mike who? The comparisons between Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown must stop simply because Brown is quickly and clearly showing himself to be a far, far superior receiver. Brown simply made plays each time he touched the ball. Jerricho Cotchery also had two key catches to set up the Steelers first touchdown. Derek Moye came down with a phenoinally tough catches that begged the question as to why he was not injured, although he did have a drop in the end zone. Emmanuel Sanders had one catch, but made his presence felt elsewhere. Grade: A-
From the day the Steelers signed him, Steelers Nation, from the press down to the fans, have quaked in fear at the prospect that Guy Whimper would have to actually play. Well, Marcus Gilbert went down and in came Whimper, and the more than held his own. As did Kelvin Beachum. Ramon Foster, Fernando Velasco and David DeCastro did a masterful job in opening up holes in the middle for the running game. Pass protection was good in the first half but slipped in the second. Grade: B-
This position area is a little bit of a misnomer, because for much of the game the Steelers played one down lineman, that being Cameron Heyward. Part of that was the Raven’s plan to keep Steve McLendon off the field, as McLendon imposed his will on the Ravens while in the game. The Ravens running game had been ineffective coming into Pittsburgh. It left that way too. Grade: B
LaMarr Woodley had the unit’s only sack of the game, but he planted Joe Flacco at a critical time, knocking them out of field goal range. He also defensed a pass. Vince Williams didn’t get his name called much, but that was also a good thing. And then there was Lawrence Timmons, who was simply all over the field, leading the Steelers with 17 tackles. Jason Worilds got the start and failed to give the coaches a reason to keep him in upon Jarvis Jones return. Grade: B+
The Steelers defensive backs were out in force, with Shamarko Thomas and Cortez Allen seeing plenty of action and delivering on the tackles. Troy Polamalu shifted from essentially playing middle linebacker to deep safety, and was wreaking havoc all over the field. Ryan Clark’s play was solid. William Gay pass defensed not, one but two touchdown passes in the end zone. This entire until played a huge role in keeping the Ravens out of the end zone for 58 minutes, although the late TD must also be reflected in their mark. Grade: B+_
Antonio Brown helped set up the Steelers first touchdown with an 18 yard punt return. Felix Jones did the same with another nice kick return. Emmanuel Sanders touchdown run might have been called back, but he logged 44 yard setting the Steelers up with excellent field position. More importantly, the Steelers carried his momentum into the 2 minute drill. Shaun Suisham was 4-4 and logged another game winner. The Ravens got a just a little more in their return game than you’d like, but this was special teams finest day of the season by a long shot. Grade: A-
After serving (undeservedly) as the whipping boy of the for the first 4 games of the season, Todd Haley continues to innovate. Early on he found ways to get the ball out quickly and keep the defense off balance. Moreover, he’s using play action to the Steelers benefit and his attempts to improve pass protection via schemes and personnel are working. Dick LeBeau’s defense has had a little bit of the “break but don’t bend” element to it. But they neutralized the Raven’s in the Red Zone time after time, including after Millers fumble. Mike Tomlin would be the first to admit that the Steelers are still very deep down in the hole that they dug them. But he clearly has his team focused. Grade: B+
Unsung Hero Award
There are many many players who could stake claim to this award. The Steelers victory against the Ravens came down to the ability to adapt to the unexpected and transform disadvantage into advantage. After the Ravens scored their last field goal, John Harbaugh decided to get cute and call a surprise on sides. In years past the Steelers special teams have been caught asleep at the switch in such situations. But not this time. Stevenson Sylvester KOed his man giving Vince Williams a shot at the recovery, which he made, setting up the Steelers 3rd field goal, a score that would prove critical and for that they share the Unsung Hero Award.