Steelers Report Card for Loss to Saints @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher of suspects is star pupil partied instead of studying during his spring break, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the loss to the Saints.
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Let’s not pull punches. Ben Roethlisberger was terrible vs. the Saints. Late in the first half he was only completing 40% of his passes. He did ding his arm, but he was off before then. His passes were high or otherwise off target. His two interceptions were deadly, and he was lucky he did not have at least two more. Yes, on paper he brought the team to within 3 points, but there’s no reward for garbage time glory here. Grade: F

Running Back
Le’Veon Bell led the Steelers with 95 yards rushing. He got stuffed plenty of times, but made something out of nothing plenty other times. He also lead the team in receiving with 8 catches of 159 yards. Will Johnson did an excellent job in run blocking. Dri Archer, surprise, got nothing on his one carry. Grade: A+

Tight Ends
Roethlisberger targeted Heath Miller 14 times and Miller came down with 8 of those. While that doesn’t look great, some of those passes were barely catchable. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown had a strong game, as usual catching 8 passes for just a hair under 100 yards and the team’s two touchdowns. Markus Wheaton was next, with 5 catches for 61 yards, while Martavis Bryant had 1 catch for 23 yards. Lance Moore had 2 catches for 16. Those are all respectable numbers, and while Ben was throwing bricks for much of the day, part of that at least appeared to be being out of sync with his receivers. Once again, not enough. Grade: C-

Offensive Line
Roethlisberger was only sacked once and only hit a few others times. The pass protection was reasonably strong, although Mike Adams struggled, per Neal Coolong’s post game analysis on Behind the Steel Curtain, and that caused problems for Ben. The run blocking was overall sound. Grade: B-

Defensive Line
Let the record reflect that in what was probably his last game as Pittsburgh Steeler, Brett Keisel had 3 solo tackles and 2 assists in about two quarters. Cam Thomas came up with 2 stops. Daniel McCullers isn’t quite ready for prime time as his snap count was in single digits. Stephon Tuitt and 1 tackle and 1 assist. This kid needs to grow up fast. The Saints had over 100 yards rushing, and Drew Brees had too much time to throw. Not good enough. Grade: D

Jason Worilds quietly led the team in tackles and had the Steelers only sack and two tackles for losses. James Harrison had 7 tackles, but was not a factor in the pass rush. Lawrence Timmons and Sean Spence struggled against the passing game, as the Steelers defense appeared to focus too much on stopping Jamie Graham. Vince Williams had a nice looking sack nullified by a penalty. Overall, a below the line performance. Grade: D

The good news? Drew Brees only threw for 257 yards and went 4-10 on third downs. The bad news? The Saints had 13 passing first downs. Worse news? Brees threw for 5 touchdowns. The Worst news? Another nobody torched the Steelers secondary for a long touchdown. Ike Taylor was terrible in his return, and William Gay was not much better. Antwon Blake’s play will do little to keep Cortez Allen on the bench should Brice McCain’s hamstring keep him out next week. Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu committed no grave errors – Polamalu even made some noise behind the line of scrimmage, but neither man made much of a splash. Grade: F

Special Teams
For a second straight week, Markus Wheaton looked good returning kicks. Brown was OK as a punt returner, returning one for 13 yards. Coverage units were solid. Shaun Suisham made field goals of 47 and 49 yards, but missed one for 54 yards, which is pretty much beyond his range. The Steelers had another awful on-sides kick, which simply doesn’t seem to be one of Suisham’s skills. Grade: B-

Another game against a team with a losing record, another Steelers loss. Mike Tomlin declined to talk at length about the issue, but he did seem to at least acknowledge it is an issue.

Tomlin however, is not to be faulted for Roethlisberger’s turnovers or high passes, nor Ike Taylor getting burned.

On offense, it does seem like Roethlisberger and his receivers are not on the same page, and Todd Haley should take some heat for that. As for the defense, Dick LeBeau’s unit is average on a good day, and this was not a good day for them.

Despite the benefit of a full bye week, it was the Steelers and not the Saints who looked to be coming off of a short week; it was the Saints and not the Steelers who looked to be gunning for a double digit win season and division title. The coaches have to take heat for that. Grade: F

Unsung Hero Award
In time we’ll know if there’s symbolic meaning to this, but on the day when Brett Keisel went down for good, another player on the defensive line stepped up. He harassed the quarterback. He made stops behind the line of scrimmage. He got his hands on passes. He was in every sense of the word, a leader. That man was Cameron Heyward, and for those exploits he wins the Unsung Hero Award for the loss to the Saints.

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