Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Win over Chiefs

Quarterback

Coming off two less than stellar performances (to say the least in the case of the Eagles game), Ben Roethlisberger was simply magnificent, Sunday night. Not to act too over-the-top and hyperbolic in my praise, but if any quarterback has a more impeccable game this season than the 21 of 27 for 300 yards and five touchdowns performance Roethlisberger put on the Chiefs at Heinz Field, I’ll be surprised. For  whatever reason, Kansas City elected to play man-to-man coverage against the Steelers receivers, which played right into Roethlisberger’s hands. Needless to say, if the majority of defenses play that coverage the rest of the season, No. 7 will be a legit MVP candidate. Grade: A+

Running Backs

Many wondered how head coach Mike Tomlin would use Le’Veon Bell in his first game back after serving a three-week suspension. The answer: almost exclusively. Bell carried 18 times for 144 yards, while adding another 34 yards on five receptions. He showed the world why he is considered maybe the best running back in the entire league. Grade: A

Wide Receivers

Cris Collinsworth said it best when speaking of second-year receiver Sammie Coates: “He’s becoming a bit of a star for the Steelers.” On his very first pass of the evening, Roethlisberger connected with Coates for 48 yards (the youngster’s fifth reception of at least 40 yards so far this season). After that, Coates caught just another five passes for 31 yards, but it was clear that he’s becoming more comfortable working with his quarterback and learning how to adjust and ad-lib with one of the best improv passers in the business. As for Antonio Brown, he was Antonio Brown. I’m sure he probably wanted more production than the four passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns, but considering five of Roethlisberger’s 21 completions went for scores, there simply was no need for more production. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton only caught one pass each, but sticking with the theme of Roethlisberger’s crazy efficiency, they went for scores of 31 and 30 yards, respectively. Grade: A

Tight Ends 

Much like the Bengals match-up in Week 2, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble didn’t have many opportunities in the passing game, but they sure made the most of the ones they had. Grimble caught one pass, but it went for 19 yards, while one of James two receptions was an eight-yard touchdown late in the first half. Even David Johnson got in on the act, catching one pass for 26 yards. Throw in their contributions in the blocking department (Pittsburgh rushed for 149 yards), and it was a respectable night for the tight ends not named Ladarius Green. Grade: B

Offensive Line

Roethlisberger was taken to the turf twice, but considering B.J. Finney was filling in at left guard for the veteran Ramon Foster, and that Marcus Gilbert suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Ryan Harris, the hogs up front had a truly exceptional night. Roethlisberger mostly had a clean pocket and, again, the running game was supreme. And to see Maurkice Pouncey leading Bell all the way down the field on that 44 -yard run late in the game was to see a true superstar center in action. Grade: A-

Defensive Line

The Steelers came into Week 4 with just one sack, but they left with five, thanks mostly to defensive end Cameron Heyward, who had three in one of the best performances of his career. In addition to his three sacks, Heyward also tipped a pass from Alex Smith that was intercepted by Jarvis Jones and set up Pittsburgh’s second touchdown. Speaking of forcing turnovers, Stephon Tuitt may have only recorded one tackle on the night, but it came against Chiefs running back Spencer Ware and also forced a fumble. Along with making Smith’s life miserable most of the night, the Steelers defensive line did a great job in stuffing the run, as Kansas City finished with just 87 yards on 18 carries. Grade: A

Linebackers 

The Steelers were without their most dynamic defensive player, in one Ryan Shazier, who missed Sunday night’s game with a knee injury. Reserve Vince Williams filled in at inside linebacker and, well, was Pittsburgh’s most dynamic defensive player. Williams recorded 16 tackles (14 solo), two tackles for loss and one sack. As for fellow inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, he played his best game of the young season, totaling eight tackles–including one tackle for loss. Outside linebackers Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats were very active on the night, even if they didn’t get to Smith. And what can you say about the 38-year old James Harrison? He didn’t get a sack, but it was not for lack of effort. Grade: A

Secondary 

Missing starting strong safety Robert Golden and slot corner Sean Davis, Sunday night could have been a disaster for a Steelers defense that started the game ranked 31st against the pass. However, thanks in-part to a more aggressive and effective pass-rush, the defensive backs collectively enjoyed perhaps their finest 60 minutes of the season, thus far. Smith passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns, but a great deal of his “damage” came late in the game, when the outcome was long-since decided. Fact is, the biggest passing play allowed on the night was a 20-yarder to Jeremy Maclin, and the tackling on all fronts–especially the defensive backs–was superb. Furthermore, while he certainly has room to grow, first round pick Artie Burns continued to show flashes of why Pittsburgh drafted him so high, when he broke up a deep pass late in the game that looked like it was destined for a big gain. Grade: A

Special Teams

Following Pittsburgh’s first two touchdowns, the Chiefs’ Knile Davis attempted to return the ensuing kickoffs, only to be stopped at the 12 and four-yard line, respectively. In a driving rain, things could have gotten ugly trying to contain extraordinarily fast punt-returner Tyreek Hill. And while he did return one for a score, it was brought back by a penalty. Officially, Hill only totaled 20 yards on two returns.

As for Steelers punter Jordan Berry, it wasn’t his best of nights, as he averaged 42.4 yards per boot. But, again, he did have to work in a pretty steady rainstorm, and maybe a pre-ordained avoidance of Hill had something to do with his low average.

Kicker Chris Boswell didn’t attempt a field goal on the night, but he did make five extra points; considering that they’re 33-yards now and, again, the rain, that was pretty impressive. Grade: B+

Coaching

According to the NBC announcers, Mike Tomlin challenged his team after its abysmal performance against the Eagles a week earlier, and his team met that challenge and then some. To say his players were prepared to play would be an understatement.

The Chiefs defense was said to have a secondary ripe for exploitation, and Todd Haley sure did devise a game plan to take advantage of it. When your quarterback averages 11.1 yards per pass attempt, and when five of his 21 completions go for scores, that’s the epitome of a perfect game plan.

Kudos to defensive coordinator Keith Butler for deciding to be more aggressive in the face of a weakened secondary. Also, credit to him for taking advantage of a Chiefs offensive line that wasn’t nearly as talented as the previous three his charges faced.

They say coaches get all the blame after a loss and none of the credit after a win, well, here’s some major credit for the entire coaching staff. Grade: A+

Unsung Hero 

Starting in place of Ramon Foster at left guard, B.J. Finney performed so well, he was pointed out by NBC’s Cris Collinsworth numerous times.

 

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