In keeping with the scholarly theme, the Steelers report card for the AFC Championship of the Jets is sort of like that of a student who Aces the essay section, slips up on the short answers, but does well enough on the oral section of the final to pass to the next level. As always I add the caveat that no other grades were consulted prior to this posting.
Numbers, in this case, do not tell the tale. Ben Roethlisberger’s running for several 3rd down conversions was key element to winning as was anything else. Quarterbacks of course, are paid to throw not run, and Ben did not have a good day throwing the ball… except when the game was on the line, and then he delivered. Grade: C
Was this his breakout game or was Rashard Mendenhall simply a man on a mission for the night? Time will tell, but Mendenhall’s performance against the Jets certainly ranks up there with some of the Steelers other top post-season rushing efforts. Isaac Redman was also a force and should have gotten more carries. Mewelde Moore had one catch for 9 yards. Grade: A
Last time the Steelers faced the Jets without Health Miller – Cudos to Gerry Dulac for warning that if Miller’s play was to be the deciding factor in the game then it would be a tough night. Tough night it was as a lot of throws were off. But each receiver made his catches count, especially at the end. Grade: B
Has any other offensive line suffered more turmoil and more instability this season? Regardless, the AFC Championship brought more as the unit lost its lone pilar of stability – rookie Maurkice Pouncy. The line blocked well and gave Ben protection, but the fumbled snaps hurt. Grade: B-
In the words of Peter King, Brett Keisel, James Farrior and Casey Hampton stoned LT at 4th and goal at the one. Still, Shonn Greene got off a few good runs and Mark Sanchez had more time than you would like him to have had in the second half. Grade: B
Lawrence Timmons led the unit in tackles, and LaMarr Woodley extended his post-season sack streak. Linebackers were key in shutting the Jets down in the first half, but failed to get consistent pressure on Sanchez in the second half and gave up some long runs. Grade: B
Ike Taylor and William Gay teamed up on the difference making sack strip of Sanchez. And although Taylor slipped and got beaten by ‘Tone, the secondary never let the Jets receivers behind them, which was crucial in making the Jets work for every yard and every point in the second half. Grade: B
The Jets averaged 10.2 yards per kick return. Antonio Brown seemed to recover some of the spark to his returns that has been missing, although he did not break one. Randle El bobbled a punt, and Suisham was 1-1. A sold effort. Grade: B
As Michael Bean from Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, credit Bruce Arians for sensing a weakness in the Jets run defense, exploiting it, and staying committed to the run. While the Steelers defense gave up yards and points during the 4th quarter, the forced the Jets to burn precious time doing it, a luxury which Pittsburgh had because of its 24 point first half scoring spree. Credit Mike Tomlin and Arians for not going conservative at the end of the first half and trusting their players. Grade: B+
He didn’t simply do damage with his two catches (although they were big) but he also played a lead role in the blocking that broke Rashard Mendenhall lose. He may be quiet, he may not get a lot of press outside of Pittsburgh, but Health Miller’s focused, consistent play helped carry the day for Pittsburgh and for that he is Steel Curtain Rising’s unsung hero.