Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is pleased with the student’s work on the final exam, even if they didn’t quite qualify for the next level, this is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the victory over the Browns at Heinz Field. As a caveat, no other Steelers Report Cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Mike Tomlin went into the game saying 2013 had been Ben Roethlisberger’s best year. It may have been. But the Browns game wasn’t his best game, it wasn’t even one of his better ones. Roethlisberger threw one touchdown pass after several tries, but Roethlisberger was off often on Sunday, and threw two very ugly interceptions. Late in the game he suffered from several drops. A winning effort, to be sure, but nothing special. Grade: C
Perhaps the training camp comparisons with Franco Harris were fair after all. Le’Veon Bell did not have a hundred yard game, but he came close and he caught a pass, and in doing so he broke Franco’s rookie total yards from scrimmage record. Bell completely owned the Browns on the Steelers second touchdown drive; such as it was, it put Cleveland away. Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones did what they’ve done all year, run hard and make show that they’re excellent supporting cast for the feature back. Will Allen blocked well and caught a pass. Grade: A
A mixed bag for the wideouts, Antoino Brown tied the single season record for games with 5 or more catches and generally did what was asked of him although he had a drop late. Much can be said for Jerricho Cotchery, who caught his 10th touchdown of the season. In what was probably his last game of the season, Emmanuel Sanders caught two passes for 26 yards. Grade: B-
Heath Miller only caught two passes, but one started the Steelers first touchdown drive and the second kept its first field goal drive going. Matt Spaeth was not targeted in the passing game, but he was a force as a blocker. Grade: B
Marcus Gilbert gave up a sack on a play where there was a miscommunication. But that was the only sack of the game, as Ben Roethlisberger had plenty of time to throw, and the running backs had space to run. Grade: A-
Cameron Heyward continues to come on like a one man wrecking crew, disrupting everything in his path. Brett Keisel had a strip sack in what might be his final game as a Steeler. Al Woods batted down a pass. Ziggy Hood registered a tackle and Steve McLendon was in on 3 before getting hurt. Grade: B
Lawrence Timmons may have gotten a Pro Bowl snub, but Steelers Nation knows what it has in 94 as he intercepted a pass, recorded a sack, and otherwise disrupted the Browns backfield. Chris Carter got his second start and recovered a fumble. Stevenson Sylvester also got plenty of playing time, and probably got himself an invitation to Latrobe next summer as a result. All in all a solid day for the linebackers. Grade: B+
Troy Polamalu didn’t have any “splash plays” but was all over the field. Ryan Clark put in a solid game as did Will Allen. Cortez Allen defensed a pass and along with Ike Taylor, they helped contain Robert Gordon. Although this unit did have a good day, they must take some responsibility for the late Browns touchdown, where no one in the secondary was in position. Grade: B
After several weeks of sound and fury, it was a quiet day on special teams. Shaun Suisham was 2-2 and none of his kickoffs were returned. Brown was solid in punt returns. More importantly, the Steelers did not allow a long pick or punt return. Grade: B+
The Cleveland Browns amassed a lot of yards vs. the Steelers in the first outing. Granted, some of that was glorified garbage time, but not all of it. Either way, Dick LeBeau ensured that it did not happen again. Todd Haley’s offense only put 20 points on the board, but that would have been higher had it not been for drops. Such was the tempo of the game that the Steelers only held a slight advantage in time of possession – but the Steelers offense dictated the tempo of the game, and the defense ensured that it stayed turning back four Brown 4th down attempts.
Mike Tomlin kept his team focused. Watching the sideline he continued coaching until the very end and took nothing for granted. His team didn’t dominate, but it delivered. Grade: B+
Unsung Hero Award
This young man entered the season facing a seemingly impossible situation. First round picks are expected to start as rookies. Rookies are not supposed to start in Dick LeBeau’s defense. This man was asked to do both, and when he lost his starting role it appeared that he might have made a step back. But this young player has learned and steadily, if not always visibly, gotten better during the season. Vs. the Browns he lead the team in tackles, defended a pass, got a tackle for a loss and and otherwise looked every bit like the rookie who’ll make the big second year jump. And for that Jarvis Jones wins the Unsung Hero Award for the victory over Cleveland.