Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Overtime Loss vs. Ravens @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is watching his class struggle to find their way with the star pupil out, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the overtime loss to the Ravens.

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Michael Vick was starting for Ben Roethlisberger after being on the team for only one month and having essentially one day of practice to get ready. Therefore some rustiness was to be expected. On the positive side, Vick did not turn over the ball, completed a good percentage of his passes, and showed he could still run with it. On the downside, the Steelers passing game was almost entirely horizontal and Vick was clearly out of sync with Antonio Brown. He also gave up 4 sacks. Grade: C-

Running Backs
Le’Veon Bell did something no Steelers back has done against the Ravens since Jerome Bettis did it in December 2004 – he rushed for over 100 yards. And he ran with authority. There were any number of runs where Bell had no room to run yet made something happen. DeAngelo Williams got two carries for 5 yards. The Steelers lost to the Ravens, but the running backs did their part. Grade: A

Tight Ends
Heath Miller had one pass on two targets, but did not appear to be on Vick’s radar screen. That must change. With Matt Spaeth nursing an injured hand, Will Johnson lined up at tight end and blocked well for Bell as did Miller. Grade: B-

Wide Receivers
This was not a good night for Antonio Brown. Clearly it wasn’t his “fault” but he still dropped a very catchable ball in the end zone. If Brown holds on there, the outcome is likely different. Markus Wheaton had one nice catch and then was done with an injury. Sammie Coates saw his first NFL action and had one catch, but missed another in a critical situation. The Steelers wide receivers need to get on the same page as Michael Vick. Grade: D

Offensive Line
The Le’Veon Bell only rushes for 100 yards against the Ravens if offensive line is doing something right, at least some of the time. And while it is tempting to look at Vick’s high sack number and critique the line, the truth is that some of those were coverage sacks. With that said, the Ravens recorded 10 tackles for losses, which is high. It was a solid, but far from spectacular night for the Steelers offensive line. Grade: B-

Defensive Line
Just how good can Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt be? Against the Ravens they were a two man wrecking crew, ganging up on Joe Flacco. In addition to sacks, both men also recorded tackles for losses. For as strong as the defensive line performed, the Raven’s 191 yard rushing total shows they were far from perfect. Grade: B

Linebackers
Sean Spence is showing he can be something special in Ryan Shazier’s absence. He had another outstanding game, as did Lawrence Timmons, who put in an All World performance with 11 tackles, a sack, and a QB hit. James Harrison was likewise a force, getting his first sack of the season. Arthur Moats missed a key tackle. Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones did make many splash plays. Like the defensive line, the Steelers linebackers made plenty of noise, but they too share in the blame for breakdowns in the run defense. Grade: B

Secondary
Kevin Colbert record of picking up players discarded by other NFL teams continues to get better with the play of Ross Cockrell, who accounted for two first half turnovers that the Steelers transformed into 10 points. The Steelers secondary did its part, with Michael Mitchell and Antwon Blake delivering big hits that broke up passes. Will Allen also had a pass defensed. Grade: B

Special Teams
This is a particularly hard area to grade this week. ON the plus side, Dri Archer returned an overtime kick 31 yards. That was not a game changer, but it was nice to see. As was Antonio Brown’s 29 yard punt return. Danny Smith’s special teams also snuffed out a fake field goal attempt and executed it perfectly.

On the downside, Michael Campanaro returned a punt 14 yards. And of course, when it matter, the Steelers special teams came up short, very short. Josh Scobee missed not one, but two field goals, either of which could have won the game for the Steelers. Yes, they were longer field goals, but you still have to make those.

The report card grades on results, and at the end of the say the Steelers special teams didn’t get it done vs. the Ravens. Grade: F

Coaching
IT is hard to fault Todd Haley for not begin able to tweak his offense to perfection with just one day of practice with Michael Vick. And while 20 points doesn’t exactly equal “rocking it” in today’s NFL, the offense did work well, at times. Still, the Steelers failed to convert a third down on following their first drive in the third quarter, and that does not represent an above the line performance.

Keith Butler’s defense was, in effect, almost asked to win the game in the second half. And Butler’s defense delivered in situational football several times over. It also secured two turnovers in the first half, which will be critical, and is something that has been missing in Pittsburgh for a long time. The Raven’s success rushing the ball must be considered a concern. It does little good to harass a quarterback and drop players behind the field if you turn around and give up 5 double digit runs.

Mike Tomlin is taking a lot of heat for his end of the game decision making. It is easy to second guess the decision to run Vick on 4th down, yours truly called the play as did my Chilean counterpart at the Buenos Aires Sugar Bar. So did John Harbaugh.

  • Still, if the play works, Tomlin looks like a genius.

At the end of the day, the Steelers game plan had holes but was overall sound, as was the game day decision making and would have worked all for two errant kicks. Grade: C

Unsung Hero Award
There was one receiver who did appear to be on the same page as Michael Vick throughout the game, one who caught all but one pass thrown at him, including a touchdown pass, and including another tough catch in traffic. The fact that this receiver is essentially a number four receiver playing at the number two slot speaks even more to the quality of his performance, and for that Darrius Heyward-Bey wins the unsung hero award for the Steelers overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

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