Steelers Report Card for Loss to Seattle Seahawks

Taken from the grade book of a teacher whose students have entered the “Pass-Fail” portion of the course and sadly, those students failed the first of six final units, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the loss to Seattle.

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Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger threw for record yards on the road in a venue that represents one of the toughest places to play. He, along with Landry Jones, also threw for just under 500 yards. That’s an impressive total, but the Steelers the most important number in all of those stats is 4 interceptions. OK, the final one by Jones may not have been a legit interception, and Ben’s two picks were simple slip ups rather than overt errors. But still, the quarterback needs to protect the ball, and Roethlisberger and Jones didn’t do that. Grade: C-

Running Backs
DeAngelo Williams ran only ran for 29 yards on 8 carries. In perfect 20/20 hindsight one might ask why he was not given enough carries to make a difference. However, Williams did make a difference in the air, making 7 catches for 88 yards as he made Seattle pay multiple times on simple check down plays. Roosevelt Nix had one catch for six yards. Grade: B

Wide Receivers 
Richard Sherman blanketed Antonio Brown for much of the game, and for the first time in a long time, Brown looked mortal, although he still made some solid catches. Nonetheless, he got tripped up on Roethlisberger’s second interception, and the Seahawks took full advantage. Seattle’s coverage of Brown opened opportunities for Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. Markus Wheaton took full advantage and, with his 9 catch 201 yard performance, for the first time in a long time reminded people of why the Steelers saw Markus Wheaton as a replacement for Mike Wallace. Bryant made some impressive plays, but he’s better remembered for the catches he didn’t make. OK. Not all were perfectly thrown balls, but if Bryant makes a couple of three of those catches, this is a different ball game. Wheaton’s stellar game brings this grade up a bit. Grade: B-

Tight Ends
How might this game have evolved differently had Heath Miller stayed healthy the entire game? No one will ever know, but he published Seattle heavily in the middle in just one quarter of action. Jesse James had one catch in Millers absence, but he looked smart during the game. Matt Spaeth and Will Johnson also had catches. Grade: B

Offensive Line
One of the biggest changes in this game was how control at the line of scrimmage shifted from the first half to the second half. Ben Roethlisberger faced little or no pressure during the first half, but that changed for the worse in the second half. Alejandro Villanueva missed his block on a sack early in the 2nd half to set the tone for the entire unit. Seattle was credited with four QB hits and 2 sacks. These are hardly daunting numbers, but the Seahawks got pressure when they needed to. David DeCastro made two tackles on interception returns. Grade: D

Defensive Line
On the negative side, Seattle’s Thomas Rawls ran the ball efficiently, and while he hardly took over the game, the Steelers run defense couldn’t force Seattle to be one dimensional. On the positive side, Russell Wilson did not do much damage with his feet. The Steelers defensive line contributed one of two sacks on Wilson, and Stephon Tuitt put in a solid game and Steve McLendon defensed a pass. Grade: B-

Linebackers
Lawrence Timmons led the unit with 7 tackles and one tackle for a loss. He got flagged for uncessary roughness as Russell Wilson was going out of bounds, but that was a bogus call. Vince Williams was just behind Timmons in tackles with 7. Arthur Moats followed him with 4 tackles. Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones had a tackle a piece, and Dupree got to Wilson once. The duo also teamed to force an intentional grounding call. James Harrison did not show up on ESPN’s stat sheet, but he did lose a sack on Wilson. While the linebackers didn’t appear to be a glaring weakness, Jimmy Graham had a strong day, the Steelers were vulnerable in the middle of the field for which the linebackers must take some responsibility, and the Steelers didn’t generate much of a pass rush. Grade: C-

Secondary
Five touchdowns through the air for the second time in a season. One passed defense, but a defensive lineman. Missed tackles. No turnovers. The Steelers secondary has had a “bend but don’t break” character through much of the season and has had an uncanny ability to produce turnovers in the Red Zone.

  • The Seattle Seahawks broke the Steelers secondary.

Russell Wilson and company simply made it look too easy. All of this does not fall on the Steelers secondary, but it most of it does. If the Steelers are to have any hopes of making the playoffs, let alone advancing there, Carnell Lake and Keith Butler are going to need to coax better play out of this until, or otherwise ensure they continue to produce turnovers. Grade: F

Special Teams
For the first time Jacoby Jones looked like he belonged, giving the Steelers respectable kick return and punt return games. Shamarko Thomas was flagged for making contacts on a fair catch in what amounted to a ticky-tacky penalty. Chris Boswell was 3-3. The Steelers kick return unit did give up a 54 yard return, while the Steelers defense forced a punt on that drive, that’s not the type of return you like to see. Grade: B-

Coaching
Lost in all of the sound and fury over Mike Tomlin’s decision the fake field goal and the real field goal is one salient fact. The Steelers committed one pre-snap penalty the entire game, and that was an intentional delay of game call. That’s an indication of solid preparation, especially considering the difficulty of playing in Seattle.

A word on the coaching decisions. If Landry Jones gets just a little more air on the ball, Alejandro Villanueva has a chance to catch it and Tomlin looks like a genius. Tomlin, having taken a risk once and been burned played it safe at the end of the game. Those risk-reward are dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.

  • Beyond that, Mike Tomlin didn’t drop some of those catchable balls, nor did he miss some of those makeable tackles.

There are more worrisome are things to discuss. Why was Seattle able to mount an effective pass rush in the second half? And why was Russell Wilson increasingly effective as the game wore on? Given the later fact, why didn’t the Steelers attempt to rush the ball a little more to perhaps change the tempo? Perhaps Keith Butler should have rushed more aggressively and at the expense of containing Wilson, because in hindsight the Steelers secondary wasn’t up to stopping him via coverage.

We’ll never know the answer to this question, but these are questions people ask (or should ask) of the coaches when at team loses the way the Steelers lost. Grade: D

Unsung Hero
Chris Boswell’s final field goal made it a two point game. If the Steelers defense can hold on 3rd and 9 at Seattle’s 20 instead of giving up an 80 yard touchdown pass then Boswell probably has a shot at winning it in regulation.

The Steelers have one man to thank for that almost reality. This man blocked an extra point, and stopped Seattle’s two point conversion attempt cold. That’s a 3 points taken off the board by one defender. He also had 3 tackles and sacked Wilson once, and for that Cam Heyward is the Unsung Hero of the Steelers loss to the Seahawks.

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