Steelers Report Card for Road Win Over Rams

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who saw his star pupil stricken with injury and who now prays that his investment in an understudy pays off, here is the Steelers Report Card for the win over the St. Louis Rams.

Ben Roethlisberger’€™s numbers prior to his MCL injury look good at 20 of 24 with one interception. Still, when Roethlisberger left the field the Steelers had only 9 points on the board in two trips to the Red Zone. The first responsibly of any back up quarterback coming off the bench in the middle of a game is to not lose it, and Michael Vick proved up to the task. Still, Vick’s five of six passing day is a little deceptive, as the Steelers offense was forced to punt on three of four possessions. Overall the Steelers quarterbacks performed well enough to win, but Roethlisberger’s interception was costly. Grade: B-steelers, report card, grade, Rams,

Running Backs
Le’Veon Bell made his return. How triumphant was it? He did lead the Steelers in total yards from scrimmage with a combined 132 yards. His 3.3 rushing average might not look like much, but he didn’t always have a lot of room to run. He did run with authority later in the game, which helped burn precious time off the clock. DeAngelo Williams ran once for two yards. Grade: B+

Tight Ends
Heath Miller caught two passes on three targets. Matt Spaeth did not have a target but broke a hand at some point and perhaps his absence impacted the Steelers run blocking. Grade: B-

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown continues to play at a Jerry Rice like level, with 11 catches for 108 yards on 13 targets. He did not however, catch a pass from Vick. The Steelers new signal caller and their star wide out must get on the same page. Darrius Heyward-Bey had catches on three targets and you can’t ask for more than that. Markus Wheaton had 2 catches on 3 targets. The recivers did what was asked of them on a day when the Steelers game plan was to focus on the short passing game. Grade: B

Offensive Line

In many parts the Steelers offensive line is winning accolades for its play vs. the Rams defensive line. To some degree, these are justified, as the Rams hardly dominated the game. But they did record five sacks, 8 tackles for losses and 4 QB hits, showing that Rams did get penetration enough times to make it count. The Steelers offensive line did well in in the early going, and again late in the game when the Steelers needed to close out a win. But this unit was tested. They were above the line but only that. Grade: C

Defensive Line
Stephon Tuitt was on a tear, recording another sack and stuffing runners behind the line of scrimmage. Neither Steve McLendon nor Cameron Heyward put up similar numbers on the stat sheet, but make no mistake the Steelers defensive line was a disruptive force as evidenced that the Rams running backs had NO WHERE to run. Grade: B+

With Ryan Shazier out, it fell to Lawrence Timmons to lead the unit, which he did, making 7 tackles. Timmons is widely given credit for helping force the late, game sealing interception. Sean Spence started in place of Shazier and his tackle total was second among linebackers, but his tackle behind the line of scrimmage was key on helping force the Rams to settle for 3 early on. Jarvis Jones only made two tackles, but he looked good in run support. Arthur Moats had the team’s other sack and helped ensure that the Ram’s first possession in the second half ended in a punt. James Harrison laid in a hellicous hit on Nick Foles, although he was beaten on a would-be touchdown pass that was dropped. The Rams were held to 6 points and that only happens if the linebackers make plays. Grade: B+

The Steelers had a difficult decision to make in the off season over whether to keep Will Allen or Troy Polamalu. Polamalu retired and the Steelers signed Will Allen the next day. Against the Rams, Allen showed why the Steelers are lucky Polamalu made it easy for them, as he lead the team with 7 tackles and the game sealing interception. Outside of Will Allen, the individual numbers of the Steelers secondary don’t appear all that sexy.

But here’s a stat that is sexy. The St. Louis Rams were 2-10 on third down conversions and 0-1 on 4th down conversions, the later of which was helped along by a hard hit made by Antwon Blake. Grade: B+

Special Teams
Benjamin Cunningham returned two kicks on the Steelers and averaged 22 yards. While that’s far from alarming, that’s a little higher average than you’d like to see. Tavon Austin also had one 20 yard punt return which, while damaging is not something you like to see. The Steelers return game was neglible, and Jordan Berry continued to boom off punts with regularity. The most important special team statistic is Josh Scobee making a 41 yard insurance field goal that put Nick Foles behind the eight ball. Grade: B-

It is tough to know how Todd Haley’€™s game plan would have played out had Ben Rothlisberger not been injured in the Steelers first series of the second half. As it stands, his intent appeared to be to spread the Rams defense and attack with quick, short passes. The approach netted the Steelers nine points in the first half.

The Rams 2015 offense is hardly the Rams offense of 1999, but just two weeks ago, Jeff Fishers team put up 34 points on the Seattle Seahawks defense. Keith Butler’€™s defense held that same offense to six points. And for the second straight week the Steelers were faced with a 1st and goal situation and the answered the challenge by forcing 3. No one is ready to elevate Keith Butler’€™s unit to 1976 proportions, but Steel Curtain Rising argued that the 2015 Steelers defense need not struggle, and thus far that argument appears to be well founded.

After a gritty win in which his team lost its franchise quarterback Mike Tomlin chose to emphasis the positive. And while the “€œFire everyone”€ crowd will find fault with this, the truth is that a year ago Mike Tomlin’s teams were finding ways to lose games like this. Vs. the Rams they found a way to win. That’€™s a positive. Grade: B+

Unsung Hero Award
The St. Louis Rams most explosive offensive play against the Steelers came when Pittsburgh could least afford it, let in the 4th quarter. Chris Givens ran a perfectly executed reverse, turned the corner and romped for 24 yards. But Givens was stopped short of a touchdown.

The same player who stopped Givens was behind stopping several other double digit gains that could have gone for more. They they didn’€™t. Keeping nice gains from transforming themselves into big plays is a critical part of winning a game like this, and Steelers safety Michael Mitchell made several crucial stops as his position dictates, and for that Mike Mitchell wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers win over the Rams.

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