Taken from the grade book of a teacher who saw his student fall flat on his face in the first quarter of the season, pick himself up and charge ahead, only to stumble badly again, then finish things off with a very respectable head of steam, here is part II of the Pittsburgh Steelers final report card for the 2013 season, covering the Steelers defense. (For part I covering the offense, click here) Note, these are overall grades for the defense, and not averages of the weekly report cards. And as always, no other Steelers report cards were consulted.
All doubts about the decision to make Cameron Heyward the team’s first round pick in 2011 died this year, as Heyward made tremendous strides. The Steelers return to winning and Heyward’s ascension to the starting line up are not coincidental events. At this point in his career Ziggy Hood is what you see is what you get. He’ll make good plays at some times, but don’t expect anything spectacular. Steve McLendon apparently graded out well against the run and better than Big Snack did in 2013… If you say so, but the Steelers were vulnerable to the run, and that usually starts up front in the middle. Brett Keisel showed himself to be a leader and, yes, a playmaker. While this unit had its moments, there were not enough of them. Grade: C
Lawrence Timmons lead the team in tackles, and was the units best and most consistent player, in addition to calling the defenses on-the field signals. Jason Worilds was the surprise of the season leading the team with eight sacks. After those two, the unit saw a drop off as Jarvis Jones struggled to learn the nuances of the position, while Vince Williams didn’t get baptized by fire – he was thrown into it. LaMarr Woodley had the makings of a solid year until injuries struck at mid season. After that he was completely ineffective. Again. Stevenson Sylvester made the most of his second opportunity with the Steelers, and Terence Garvin began to make his presence know by the end of the season. While this unit was the most consistent of the defenses, the Steelers still needed more both in terms of pass rush and run stopping. Grade: B-
For years Ike Taylor shadowed the opponents best receiver. When that practice stopped in 2013, the Steelers defense got better. Cortez Allen disappointed early on, but played better late in the season, although his play was not flawless. The biggest surprise was perhaps William Gay, who had a fine year which included two forced fumbles, a pick six, and two sacks. Ryan Clark slowed a step, but still was second in tackles – although it is the nature of his position to make tackles. Troy Polamalu played out of position for much of the year and, if he is not the Troy Polamalu of 2008 or 2010, he still is better than most safeties in the league, forcing 5 fumbles and intercepting two passes, including a pick six. Shamarko Thomas looked good, for a rookie, early on, but Will Allen took his place after his injury, and Allen again stabilized the secondary. This unit saw its ups an down, and must share responsibility for giving up long plays. Grade: C+
Thanks for visiting. Click here for other Steelers Report Cards. Or, click here to follow Steel Curtain Rising on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.