Taken from the grade book of a teacher who wonders if the manic-depressive performance of his star pupil doesn’t simply indicate that the said student is destined to be mired in mediocrity for yet another year, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report for the embarrassing loss at Heinz to Tampa Bay.
Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 touchdown passes and for 314 yards, without an interception. Yes he was sacked 5 times, but all of those came in the first half. The one that really hurt was the one where he put the ball on the ground. Combine that with a couple of other missed receivers and his grade comes down. Grade: B+
Le’Veon Bell only managed 63 yards on the ground, but it was not all his fault. LeGarrette Blount had a better average with limited carries. Will Johnson got nothing on his single attempt. Bell did his damage as a pass catcher, converting several “should have been” short gains into long ones. Dri Archer had 1 catch for 1 yard. Grade: B
Heath Miller started slow and suffered a drop early on. But he fought back with a vengeance, and arguably had his best game since injuring his ACL. Heath made ever catch count, and in the process he passed Lynn Swann on the team’s overall receivers list. Matt Spaeth did not get a catch but did some in on blocking downs. Grade: B+
Antonio Brown and another record breaking performance, and added two touchdowns to his total. He even completed a pass for 17 yards. But he had a drop on a sure touchdown which hurt. Markus Wheaton helped spark the Steelers by making an incredible catch, but was quiet the rest of the day. He also got stuffed on a reverse. Justin Brown dropped a touchdown. Lance Moore got his first catch as a Steeler. A strong showing by the receivers, but the drops hurt. Grade: B-
After the Panthers game, BTSC editor Neal Coolong quibbed that Cody Wallace might have Wally Pipped Ramon Foster out of a job. That’s not happening, as Wallace was completely dominated. Kelvin Beachum also struggled. Marcus Gilbert also had a strong game. The line did a better job in pass protection than 5 sacks indicate, but the Steelers still failed to control the line of scrimmage. Grade: C-
Cameron Heyward started the game like a house of fire, tackling people in the backfield, sacking Mike Glennon but then disappeared. He also drew a penalty for arguing a non-holding call with an official. Cam Thomas got a QB hit in but his facemask penalty essentially gave Tampa its first field goal. Brett Keisel recorded no stats. The line held Tampa’s rushing attack in check, but overall the unit was too uneven. Grade: C
Arthur Moats and James Harrison alternated series and both drew holding calls but did little else. Lawrence Timmons led the team in tackles and was solid, but he did get beaten on a couple of key throws. Jason Worilds has yet to show anyone why he’s worth what he’s making. Sean Spence got his first start was fairly non-descript. The linebackers failed to generate sufficient pressure in the second half, and had too many errors in the second half. Grade: D
Troy Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage and made some plays. He also got hit with some penalties. Cortez Allen got his first interception, but then almost looked like he didn’t know what to do with it. William Gay made some good plays, but was out of position on the final touchdown catch. Mike Mitchell made a lot of tackles, but has yet to really show much. The Steelers secondary probably did better than the stat sheet indicates, given the absence of a pass rush. But they were still below the line. Grade: D
This group must share in the blame as well. Too many penalties. Miscommunication between the kick return team. A 29 yard punt in a situation that calls for the punter to boom one off. Don’t look now, but Tampa had a decent day returning punts. Shaun Sushiam missed a 50 yarder which proved to be costly. Grade: D
it’s now a simple fact. Mike Tomlin teams get tripped up by trap games. The opening drive is a perfect example of the types of lapses that have hit his team in these games, lapses with leave Pittsburgh in a hole which it then cannot come out of.
- Tomlin has proven himself to be an excellent coach, but trap games remain his Achilles heel until proven otherwise.
While the fire “Dick LeBeau” brimstone will not be found here, the truth is that Tampa Bay, like Cleveland, found a way to effectively adjust to his defense in the second half. Perhaps this is simply a case of LeBeau using smoke and mirrors to milk all he can out of his talent, but it does not bode particularly well here.
Todd Haley earned a firestorm of his own for his play calling on the Steelers final drive. Honestly, if there is no penalty and the Steelers rush their way to a first down, Haley’s play calling quickly becomes the work of a genius. Haley’s play calling was sound throughout, although RedZone efficiency could have been better.
The other outstanding issue is of course penalties. The Steelers have a legit shot at the NFL record, having suffered 125 yards of them. You can’t spot a team 75 extra yards in the NFL, just as you can’t spot them 10 extra points, which the Steelers essentially did.
Ultimately, it comes down to discipline, as Mike Tomlin has admitted. It needs to improve as foolish mistakes cost Pittsburgh a game. Grade: D
Unsung Hero Award
For obvious reasons, this moment will quickly be forgotten, but when the Steelers defense walked off the field with 1:44 left and Tampa turning over on downs at Pittsburgh’s 14, the game looked to be sealed. The player who helped defend the final pass was someone whose name was seldom heard during the first 3 weeks, and he was one of the Steelers basement bargain hunts. The player who defended that pass didn’t just do it then, but had played a solid if imperfect game, and certainly couldn’t have been pin-pointed as Pittsburgh’s weak link, and for that Brice McCain win the Unsung Hero Award for the loss to Tampa.