Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is wondering if the parental signoffs on the student’s summer reading project might just be a little fishy, here is the Steelers Report Card for the Thursday night loss to Baltimore. Remember, no other Steelers Report Cards have been consulted prior to this posting.
Since at least the 1970’s, quarterback has been an NFL team’s most important position. That’s more true today than ever, and the Baltimore game shows why. Ben Roethlisberger put in an off night. On the face of it, 22-27-0-1 doesn’t look that bad if you consider the interception was meaningless. But the fact is Roethlisberger missed quite a few open receivers throughout the night, and that as much as the penalties and turnovers contributed to the lopsidedness of the loss. Grade: C-
Why wasn’t Le’Veon Bell drafted in the first round? On a night when the team was forced to throw and when he often had little room to run, Bell still managed 5.4 yard per carry, and was the team’s second leading receiver. LeGarrette Blount hasn’t done much, but hasn’t been given many opportunities. Grade: B+
Heath Miller made a couple of key catches early on, and didn’t to much to get himself noticed, except for the wrong reasons. His fumble essentially ended the game. Matt Spaeth did not get a catch. Overall a below par night for the tight ends. Grade: D
Antonio Brown missed large portions of the game yet still managed to make plenty of noise nearly breaking the 100 yard mark again. Markus Wheaton continued to do well in his second start, which included making a good sideline catch. Both men ran reverses which gained yardage. Justin Brown had one catch which he fumbled away, and that knocks the group grade down. Grade: B-
Some of the stats are deceiving here. Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked twice. Rushing averages were good. But the truth is the line play was inconsistent, with Marcus Gilbert getting dominated by Elvis Dumervil. As Neal Coolong of BTSC has observed, Maurkice Pouncey was solid vs. the pass rush, but struggled in run blocking, and Ramon Foster struggled enough that coaches took him out for a few plays. The Steelers offensive line has been a whipping boy for a long time, but in this case their performance was on par with the rest of the team – in other words, not good enough. Grade: C-
Take out Joe Flacco’s 5 runs and the Ravens almost averaged 5 yards a carry. That’s not all on the defensive line, but responsibility begins there. Cameron Heyward led the group, but graded out poorly by Pro Football Focus. Steve McLendon made some plays as did Brett Keisel. Cam Thomas struggled, and appears to be the unit’s weak link. The unit failed to generate any pass rush. Grade: C-
Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier led the group, with Shazier giving up some big completions. Jason Worilds was invisible. Jarvis Jones was around the field a lot, but didn’t make any splash plays. Baltimore rushed the ball well and Joe Flacco tore up the Steelers with short passes. The Steelers generated zero pass rush and the linebackers need to shoulder the load for the blame. Grade: D
Ike Taylor had a rebound of sorts, holding Steve Smith in check while covering him. Cortez Allen’s play was slopping, giving up a long catch and dropping another interception. Both Troy Polamalu and Michael Mitchell were flagged on the same drive, allowing a score which essentially ended the game. In total, the defensive backs were flagged four times, all on scoring drives. Covering downfield is getting more difficult, but Seattle has shown it can be done. The Steelers defensive backs remain behind the curve. Grade: D
Shaun Suisham was perfect kicking, and his kickoffs were deep with none being returned. Brad Wing continued to punt well. Neither Brown nor Wheaton did much in the return game. Baltimore did have one strong punt return, which while not a difference in this game, is nonetheless a negative. No major special teams mistakes is a positive, but the unit really failed to add anything to the Steelers chances. Grade: C
Mike Tomlin was animated after the game, particularly by the penalties. As well he should be. Baltimore took advantage of penalties to score two touchdowns and the Steelers turnovers robbed them of twin scoring opportunities.
It is possible that officials (unintentionally) single out the Steelers defense for aggressive play, but coaches must find a way to compensate.
On offense, Todd Haley’s game plan produced some respectable numbers, but not on the scoreboard. Overall it seemed to be more of an execution issue than a game planning issue. Despite the low grades, LeBeau’s defense did some things well, but there were also occasions where guys flat out missed assignments. Corrections must be made. That what coaching is about. But word does need to be done. Grade: C-
Unsung Hero Award
As a rule, the unsung hero goes to the player’s making under the radar contributions. In this case, it is hard to single someone out given so many below the line performances across the board. The Steelers did have one unquestionable bright spot in Le’Veon Bell, and that earns him Unsung (or perhaps Sung) Hero status for the loss in Baltimore.