Taken from the grade book of a teacher who wonders if his star pupil is finally living up to his potential, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for for the Sunday Night win over the Ravens at Heinz Field.
Ed Bouchette suggested that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might reaching his professional peak and his performance bears that out. It was another 6 touchdown performance by the Steelers signal caller, and the office controlled the tempo from about the 20th minute onward. Ben did fumble a snap, which has been an issue of late, and his grade must reflect that. Grade: A-
The Steelers only managed 2.2 yards per carry vs. the Ravens, although that stat doesn’t quite do justice to some of the tough yards that LeGarrette Blount ground out. Le’Veon Bell was less effective rushing, but did catch 5 passes, including a touchdown. Bell was quite effective as a blocker. Dri Archer managed four yards on his run. Grade: C
Heath Miller caught one pass for 14 yards and contributed blocking. Matt Spaeth scored a touchdown on his only target and caught a 2 point conversion. Grade: B+
A few weeks ago, Mike Tomlin opened the call for someone to take heat off of Antonio Brown, and the rest of the Steelers receiving crops responded. Martavius Bryant now has 5 touchdowns in 3 games, and now is a downfield threat in his own rite. Markus Wheaton has bounced back from his bad game in Cleveland and caught 2 passes including a 47 yard touchdown run. Neither Wheaton nor Bryant’s reverse attempts look like much on the stat sheet, but they’re not at fault for the way the blocking evolved. In fact, both did well to avoid losses. Overall, a strong night for the wideouts. Grade: A
The offensive line’s run blocking was not up to snuff, and early on Big Ben felt the heat. But the line raised its level of play, and kept their quarterback clean when it counted. Grade: B-
For as poor as Pittsburgh was rushing the ball, Baltimore was worse. Cameron Heyward hit Flacco once, and had a nice tackle for a loss where he dished out the extra shove backwards that he executed so well last year. Stephon Tuitt also got some pressure on Flacco. Cam Thomas did his part. and Brett Keisel had 3 tackles. Grade: B
James Harrison claims that he doesn’t think he’s playing very well, his tape says otherwise. Harrison terrorized Joe Flacco all night, sacking him twice, pressuring him into an interception, and hitting him four times. Lawrence Timmons was all over the field, leading the linebackers in tackles, stopping people behind the line of scrimmage, and getting to Flacco let, helping prevent a comeback. Arthur Moats forced the fumble which turned the tide for the Steelers, and Jason Worilds brought down the interception that Harrison forced. Sean Spence filled in for an injured Ryan Shazier. Grade: A
Baltimore was 3-13 on third down conversions and the Steelers secondary created a turnover. Will Allen came in for Troy Polamalu, and was third on the team in tackles and played a key role in knocking back a 2 point conversion attempt. He also got to Flacco once. Michael Mitchell‘s name wasn’t heard very often, but with a deep safety that’s often times a sign that other poeple are doing their jobs. Vs. the Ravens, it was so. Grade: B+
Let’s credit Brad Wing and Danny Smith’s extra point unit for responding quickly and turning a negative into a positive. However, that’s the second time in four weeks that Wing has bumbled a snap. This cannot continue. The unit also gave up a 25 yard punt return. Those are all negatives but none are as damming as Jacoby Jone’s 108 touchdown return which give Baltimore new life, at least momentarily. Grade: D
How bad was Todd Haley supposed to be? A lot of the earlier criticisms of Haley were legit, but the truth is the Steelers offense has been “scary good” for two weeks straight. Game plans have been solid, exploited match ups well, and the team has executed.
This Dick LeBeau defense isn’t going to dominate the way others have or even limit yardage the way his ’11 and ’12 units did. However, the change in the aggressiveness of the Steelers defense over the last two to three weeks has been remarkable. This has resulted in pressure on the quarterbacks, and more importantly turnovers.
Mike Tomlin has kept his team focused and was wise to keep his foot on the gas pedal late in the game. He’s also guarding against a letdown, which is a good sign. It was a strong night for the coaches, but unfortunately the poor special teams play drops the overall grade. Grade: B
Unsung Hero Award
Mere weeks ago the prospect of going into week 9 game vs. the Ravens with Ike Taylor AND Cortez Allen out of the lineup would have been conjured up nothing short of a doomsday scenario. Yet the Steelers did just that, and not only came out on top, but neutralized Steve Smith in the process, and for that Brice McCain and Antwon Blake win the Unsung Hero Award for the victory over Baltimore.