Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Raiders Win @ Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who wonders how long his absentee list can grow before classroom performance takes a permanent hit, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the win over the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.

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During the early portions of the game, Ben Roethlisberger looked to be misfiring almost as badly has he had done during the Bengals game, although he got little help from receivers not named “Brown.” He did however get a LOT of help from Brown, and when he left the field injured the Steelers were holding on to a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter. Landry Jones entered the game late and helped the Steelers regain the lead. Grade: B+

Running Back
32 year old running backs are not supposed to look this good. They’re not supposed to be threats to go the length of the field. They’re not supposed to get tough yards when the opponent knows a run is coming. Fortunately, no one told DeAngelo Williams that, as he ran for 170 yards against the NFL’s number 2 rushing defense. Jordan Todman ran for once for 3 yards. Grade: A

Wide Receivers
It was the best of times it was the worst of times. The Steelers wide receiving corps struggled early, with key drops from Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Bryant of course redeemed himself with a late touchdown run, but the other recievers were non-factors….

…Then there was Antonio Brown. Antonio Brown broke’ both Courtney Hawkins record of 14 receptions and Plaxico Burress’s 253 yards. For those of you keeping notes at home, Brown also ran for 22 yards. For as impressive as Brown was, his totals would have been higher had Roethilsberger been more on target early in the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers report card grades on results and the Brown’s performance brings up the grade for the rest of the group considerably.  Grade: A-

Tight Ends
Heath Miller only caught 3 passes on 3 targets but helped in the run blocking game. As did Jesse James, who made his NFL debut with one touchdown catch and another block of not one, but two players to spring Martavis Bryant into the end zone. Grade: B

Offensive Line
The Steelers offensive line kept Ben Roethlisberger relatively upright, his injury not withstanding. And the managed to open up some pretty impressive holes for DeAngelo Williams against a defense that does not give up much against the run. Grade: B

Defensive Line
For the first game in recent memory the Steelers failed to pressure the passer AND gave up a lot of yardage on the ground. Although the Steelers did clamp down the Raiders rushing lanes, the Raiders had games of 12, 19, and 44 yards on the grounds. That’s way too many. Cameron Heyward led the unit with one tackle, while Stephon Tuitt was less effective with 3 tackles. Grade: D

Linebackers
The Raiders game was hardly a banner day for the Steelers linebackers, as the unit failed to get in David Carr’s face, and also must shoulder responsibility for Raiders early success rushing the ball. Ryan Shazier led the group with seven tackles, followed by Lawrence Timmons who had 5, with James Harrison, recording two, while Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams clocked in at 1 a piece. Grade: C-

Secondary
Antown Blake led the team in tackles and has taken a lot of heat for his role in pass coverage, but he only gave up 74 yards in reception by one count. He also forced the first fumble, which he kicked out of bounds. argely because he was unable to cover Armani Cooper. Will Allen quietly defensed 3 passes in his return. Michael Mitchell forced the game’s first turnover with a devastating hit on Latavius Murray while Ross Cockrell made another end zone interception. The Steelers secondary gave up a lot of yards and a 4th quarter lead. However, their hard hitting helped set the tone for the day. Grade: C

Special Teams
Once the NFL’s trading deadline passed, the Steelers ended their Dri Archer experiment in favor of bringing in veteran Jacoby Jones. Jones fared worse than Archer as a kick returner, and was a non-factor as a punt returner. Which is better than Antonio Brown, who fumbled away a punt with the game on the line.

Chris Boswell missed a field goal, but made two more, including the game winner. Bud Dupree blocked a punt although the Steelers were not able to take advantage, the Steelers did however take advantage of the fumble that Roosevelt Nix forced.

Like it was for the rest of the team, it was an up and down day for the Steelers special teams. Grade: C+

Coaching
Never let it be said that Todd Haley keeps Ben Roethlisberger from connecting with Antonio Brown. Credit Haley for devising a game plan that allowed the Steelers to rush for close to 200 yards against one of the NFL’s stingiest run defenses.

The Steelers are 9 games into the season and Keith Butler’s defense has generally exceeded expectations. However, they struggled at times first the Raiders and allowed a 14 point 4th quarter lead to evaporate. Credit Butler with make the necessary adjustment to shut down the Raiders running game, but he was never able to get pressure on David Carr and, as a consequence, the Raiders almost-comeback looked easy.

Since the day he arrived in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin has vowed that injuries will not be an excuse. After the game reporters gave him a chance to feel sorry for himself again. Tomlin minced no words:

Injuries are as much a part of the game of football as blocking and tackling. It’s unfortunate, we don’t like it, but we embrace the challenge that comes with it. We’re not looking for excuses.

The Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger yet again, but didn’t bat and eye and closed out the game with a win. It’s very easy to say the words, but Mike Tomlin has his team living them. Grade: B-

Unsung Hero Award
It is often said that “Sometimes the ball just bounces your way.” And that’s true. But a loose ball is an opportunity and players who are both attentive and hustle can ensure that they bounce the way of the ball. The Steelers margin of victory over the Raiders was very narrow, and they needed all three of fumble recoveries they secured, and that’s why Jarvis Jones, Anthony Chickillo and Vince Williams are the Unsung Heroes for the Steelers win over the Raiders at Heinz Field.

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