Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is sorely disappointed at his students’ decision to slack off for the substitute teacher, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the loss to the Eagles.
While it is true that he neither had help from his offensive line, the running game or even receivers not named Brown, Ben Roethlisberger did not play well. The late game interception might not have been Roethlisberger’s fault, but he did give up the ball at a critical period. Moreover, Ben threw several other passes which could have easily been Eagle’s interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger certainly isn’t to “blame” for the Steelers loss to the Eagles, but Pittsburgh needed its best from Number 7, and it didn’t get anything close to that. Grade: F
After week one it looked like Steelers Nation might be saying, “Le’Veon who?” at this stage of the season. No one is saying that following the loss to the Eagles. Once again, DeAngelo Williams should not be scapegoated for his 21 yard, 8 carry performance. Williams did have a long run of 13 yards, but otherwise was getting hammered at or behind the line of scrimmage. Daryl Richardson had one yard on one carry. An effective running game could have given the Steelers offense some stability against the Eagles. But the Steelers completely failed to establish the run. Grade: F
Again, following their fair showing in week 1, and their twin touchdown performance vs. the Bengals, Steelers Nation can be forgiven if they’d been ready to ask “Ladarius who?” as a way of embracing the concept of “Tight end by committee.” The landscape looks a little different this morning, as Jesse James managed just two catches on four targets. Worse yet, both the Steelers run and pass blocking were atrocious vs. the Eagles, and the tight ends could have been part of the solution. Instead, they were part of the problem. Grade: F
Antonio Brown’s numbers looked good and a cursory glance at the play-by-play breakdown suggests there’s less garbage time glory behind those statistics than one would expect during such a route. If Brown did turn in a solid game, then the same cannot be said for his counterparts. Steel Curtain Rising has been a big backer of Markus Wheaton since his sophomore season, but Wheaton failed miserably in his first game back, dropping a touchdown pass and another critical pass and otherwise looking lost. Sammie Coates logged another long catch but was hardly a “difference maker” there on the field. Eli Rogers made two catches on five targets. Darrius Heyward-Bey had a touchdown taken away from him in the end zone. Yes, the defensive back made a great play and Heyward-Bey fought for the ball but he failed to gain control or even prevent the interception.
To be fair, the wide receivers had to deal with a lot of balls that were too high, too low, or too wide, but those hardly explain all of the non-catches. Either way, Roethlisberger and his receivers didn’t get the job done. Grade: F
Who said Ramon Foster is the dispensable member of the Steelers offensive line. Again, it would be grossly unfair to finger B.J. Finney for the fact that the Steelers offensive line getting totally dominated by the Eagles front seven. But that is what happened. The Steelers offensive line couldn’t open holes for its running backs and couldn’t protect Ben Roethlisberger as Ben’s fancy footwork saved a few interceptions. Holding penalties also contributed to more than one stalled drive. A very below the line performance for the offensive line. Grade: F
Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward were actually numbers 3 and 4 in tackles for the Steelers, which is somewhat of a surprise, given the lethal effectiveness of both the Eagle’s screen passes and the number of times Philly rushers reached the second level. Again, it would be unfair to single out Javon Hargrave, but the Eagles ran straight up the middle of the Steelers defense at will. Carson Wentz had plenty of time to throw…. Grade: F
Perhaps Steel Curtain Rising erred when extoling the depth of the Steelers linebacking corps. Lawrence Timmons would miss most of the game with an injury, and Ryan Shazier would spend a lot of time rotating out. Jarvis Jones was also reported to be nicked. This meant that L.J. Fort and Anthony Chickhillo got extended playing time.
- The conclusion is the that Steelers linebacking depth isn’t as deep as we thought it was.
The linebackers must bear their share of the blame for the lack of pressure on Wentz, in ability to stop either the run or the screen passing game. Perhaps most ominously, the only linebacker to get any pressure of Wentz was 38 year old James Harrison. Grade: F
Robert Golden injured his hamstring and Mike Mitchell suffered from some sort of knee injury. Their misfortune gave more playing time to Sean Davis and Artie Burns and both looked to every bit the rookies that they are when neither seemed to be able to make a tackle on Darren Sproles 73 yard touchdown because both were waiting on the other to make a play. Going into the season, the Steelers secondary appeared to be the team’s only glaring liability. During the defensive backfield took several steps to dispel that notion in the first two games; they took several steps back vs. the Eagles. Grade: F
You know it is going to be a long afternoon when a dropped touchdown on 3rd down immediately precedes a blocked field goal. Chris Boswell made his other field goal attempt. But the Steelers return game failed to provide a spark on an afternoon when the team needed it to, and the coverage units, while not being a liability, gave up more yards than you’d like to see. It IS tempting to fail this until given all of the other F’s awarded, but ultimately, that would be unfair. Grade: D
En route to Super Bowl XIV, Chuck Noll’s Steelers dropped a 35-7 decision to the San Diego Chargers that was probably worse than the score indicated. Bill Cowher had Fog Bowl II and any number of other opening day debacles where the Chin’s Steelers played just as poorly across the board as they did vs. the Eagles.
- One ugly loss does not a failed season make.
But neither does it inspire confidence for what is yet to come. NFL teams can make it to 0-2 “by accident” but improving to 3-0 is harder to do. The Eagles 3-0 record proves Philadelphia is for real. In contrast, the burden of proof is on Mike Tomlin.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not appear to be physically or mentally prepared to face the Eagles. The misfires began on the very first drive, and continued until the end of the game. The Steelers couldn’t throw or catch well, protect the passer or open holes for rushers. The front seven failed to pressure the quarterback and couldn’t contain the run. The secondary functioned as a sieve.
If any positive is to come out of this, it is that Todd Haley should now know that he cannot simply have Ben Roethlisberger feed the ball to Antonio Brown. For Keith Butler, the equation is more complicated. For two games thus far, the Steelers defense has settled into the “Bend but don’t Break” mode. The sacks and turnovers that characterized the 2015 Steelers defense have been absent, but Butler’s boys got the job done.
- They failed miserably vs. the Eagles, sliding into a “Bend, Bust” mode.
Mike Tomlin can and should stand behind his “The Standard is the Standard” mantra, but the fact that injuries to Robert Golden, Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shaizer accompanied this defensive regression is discouraging.
Fortuantely the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with a lot of institutional memory. This is, after all, a franchise that once lost its opening two games to the score of 92-10 and ended up upsetting a bitter rival in the playoffs. Tomlin need not feel pressured to “shake things up” for the sake of doing so. But clearly, Pittsburgh cannot perform so piss poorly again. Grade: F
As Tony Defeo reminded us when he wrote about former Steelers rookie of the year Harry Newsome, when your punter is winning awards, you know things are not going well. And so it is with the Eagles game. If you want to find one player who consistently delivered during the game, then Jordan Berry is your man, who boomed off 3 punts averaging 55 yards per kick, and for that he wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Eagles loss.