Steeler Report Card for Victory Over Colts @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher whose student just greatly outstripped his expectations, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers report card for the victory over Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis Colts.

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Terry Bradshaw. Joe Montana. Tom Brady. And now, Ben Roethlisberger. Ben made history in a number of ways vs. the Colts. He joined the exclusive 100 wins in 150 starts club. He became the first NFL quatarterback to throw for 500 yards twice. He threw 6 touchdowns. He completed 81% of his passes (with at least 3 drops). He threw no pics, and was never sacked. Really, you can’t get better than that. Grade: A+

Running Backs
Le’Veon Bell had another 100 plus yards from scrimmage game. Sure his rushing average along what LeGarrette Blount’s might have been “low” but the fact is the Steelers ran the ball when they needed to. And both backs, in addition to Will Johnson, caught it when thrown to them. Grade: A-

Tight Ends
Heath Miller had 7 catches for 112 yards, and was old Mr. Reliable. His 45 yard reception set up the Steelers 3rdtouchdown. And of course Miller iced the game on 4th and inches. Miller did have a drop, which could have been costly, but other than that he was pretty damm good. Grade:  A-

Wide Receivers
Here’s a telling stat. Ben Roethlisberger had cracked the century mark in passing by the end of the first quarter and he had yet to target Antonio Brown. Martavis Bryant, in just his second NFL game, is already making opposing NFL defensive coordinators take note as he now has 7 catches and 3 touchdowns. Markus Wheaton redeemed himself with 5 catches on 5 targets and 1 touchdown. Lance Moore caught balls for 2 catches for 33 yards including a critical third down conversion. Darrius Heyward Bey had a nice catch, but coughed up the ball. Of Ben’s 522 yards 455 went to the receivers. Grade:  A

Offensive Line
49 pass attempts zero sacks. The Colts tried everything they could to pressure Ben Roethlisberger, from sending 3 men to rushing 7. Nothing worked. The Steelers offensive line turned in a pass blocking performance that was as solid as anyone has ever seen. Perhaps run blocking could have been better, but 49 drop backs and zero sacks? Let’s not nit picky. Grade: A

Defensive Line
The first task of a Dick LeBeau defensive line is to shut down the run. The Colts rushed 10 times, and three of those were from Andrew Luck. No one on the defensive line put up gaudy stats, but Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward

both got their hands on passes, and Heyward appeared to have two sacks negated by penalties. Grade:  B+

James Harrison had his first sack for the Steelers since the closing day of the 2012 season. Lawrence Timmons stumbled early, but was key in getting pressure on luck. Jason Worilds had a monster game, and completely dominated the right side of Indy’s line, even if the stat chart doesn’t give him full credit. Ryan Shazier looked good in his first game back from injury.  Grade:  B+

From a pure statistical perspective, it seems almost impossible to say that the secondary was anything but bad on a day when the opposing quarterback threw for 400 yards. But while numbers do not lie, they sometimes fail to tell the full story, and this is one of those. Yes, the Colts moved the ball well and scored a lot of points. But William Gay’s interception put 6 points on the board for the defense. Troy Polamalu helped pressure Luck, and Antwon Blake’s leaping end zone interception ended any chance of a comeback. Grade:  B-

Special Teams
The Steelers continue to get little out of their return game, although Brown did have one nice run back. The coverage units gave up one long punt return and some decent kickoff returns. While neither of these were a factor in the game, this is something to keep an eye on. Beyond that, a solid afternoon for the special teams. Grade: B

Perhaps this game should serve as a lesson to fans. Calls from Steelers Nation for the Rooneys to fire Todd Haley, Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin have been frequent and loud.

Clearly and thankfully such negativity isn’t reaching the locker room.

Todd Haley deployed his best game play to date as Steelers offensive coordinator and his players executed it to perfection. The Steelers dominated time of possession, protected their quarterback, went vertical when they needed to, ran enough to keep the defense honest, and put up 51 points on the scoreboard.

Dick LeBeau was far more aggressive in rushing the passer than he’s been all year, and while Luck did do damage with his arm, there were numerous occasions where he was hurried and/or his pass disrupted and those occasions resulted in big differences in the final outcome.

Credit Mike Tomlin for keeping his team focused enough to pull this off, and for keeping his foot on the gas pedal till the very end. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
SO many players could qualify for this. The Unsung Hero Award is reserved for the player who does “the little things” which often get missed by the press and public at large, but ultimately prove to be difference makers. The Steelers beat the Colts largely because they were the more physical team, and one player who helped establish that, and establish that early was none other than Vince Williams, who actually lead the linebackers in tackles. And for that Williams is the Unsung Hero of the victory over the Colts.

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