Taken from the grade book of a teacher who watched his student take two steps forward and is now trying to calculate just how many backwards, here is the Steelers report card for the loss in Oakland’s Black Hole. As a caveat, no other report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Ben Roethlisberger played under severe duress, and had to play from behind from the get go. And Roethlisberger deserves credit for getting this team back into the game. But he was far from flawless. His interception was poorly thrown, even if the defense got the ball back immediately. And there is the issue of a time out. Being alert enough to know officials might call a penalty amounts to veteran savvy; delaying the execution of your play and burning a time out is a rookie mistake. It did not cost him the game, but it was a below the line play. Grade: D+
This group may have started the game behind the eight ball, but 35 yards on 19 rushes does not cut it in the NFL, not by a long shot, even if Le’Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer, and Felix Jones looked good on individual runs. Grade: D
Stat sheets can mislead. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown had decent games looking soley at the box score. But both players had drops, and in Brown’s case they were critical. Play calling is certainly at issue in the Red Zone, but the wide outs need to make more plays down there. Sanders solid showing aside, the Steelers needed more form this unit. Grade: C-
Heath Miller dropped a sure touchdown pass. Two weeks, two major errors from one of the most consistent members of this team. Moreover Miller did little with his other opportunities. Grade: D
The Steelers dressed 8 offensive lineman, and ended up using all of them. First Ramon Foster fell. Then it was Guy Whimper. Then Finally David DeCastro, forcing Kelvin Beachum back to guard , Mike Adams to tackle, and Cody Wallace at guard. How did they do? 5 Sacks and 1.8 yards rushing. “The Standard is the Standard.” Injuries will not be an excuse. And this unit’s play was below the line. Grade: F
Cameron Heyward had another passed defensed and six tackles. Brett Keisel had a sack, recovered a fumble, another tackle for a loss, and he got to Terrelle Pyror on one other occasion. But Oakland’s offense ran the ball with relative ease in the first half including two rushing touchdowns. Grade: C-
Lawrence Timmons lead the group, and was the only player to have any notable play, at least on the stat sheet. LaMarr Woodley was invisible. Jarvis Jones’ play earned himself a spot on the bench. Vince Williams continues to play like a rookie. During the first half the Raiders completed a lot of check down passes to convert key downs, and the linebackers must bear some responsibility for that. Grade: D
Troy Polamalu lead the group with a sack and an interception, and was all over the field. IT was a wasted effort. Ryan Clark bit on the run fake although he did come back to lead the defense in tackles. Cortez Allen had an interception. The secondary’s play was above the line, particularly in the second half. But they too share responsibility for an awful first half. Grade: C+
Two missed field goals. Two punt returns for negative yards. A blocked punt. An 18 yard return by the Raiders. An on-sides kick that had zero chances of being recovered. Yes, Brown did have a nice punt return that helped provide a mini-spark, but this until was terrible. Grade: F
Like the rest of the team, the Steelers defense looked listless in the first half. But to Dick LeBeau’s credit, he made halftime adjustments that completely shut down the Raiders offense in the second half, and his unit produced 3 turnovers which have been in short supply this year. But it was too little, too late. This is true in part to the special teams failures, as well as the offense coming up again woefully short on third down and in the Red Zone.
After starting 0-4, Mike Tomlin managed to get his team to stop doing things that were costing his team the game. But by his own admission, his team started slowly, and at least his offense and special teams continued with very slopping, if at times spirited play. Everyone in Steelers Nation knew what the stakes were going into this game. But the intensity and focus required of the situation was absent all afternoon. If the Steelers took two steps forward vs. the Jets and Ravens, they took at least three back vs. the Raiders. For that the coaching staff must be held accountable. Grade: F
Unsung Hero Award
He didn’t and hasn’t been making game-changing plays this season like he has before. Perhaps that is a thing of the past. But Troy Polamalu was all over the field, and he played a huge role in a defensive effort that completely shut down and shut out the Oakland Raiders in the second half and for that he gets the Unsung Hero Award.