For better and for worse, we get to start the report card for the Steelers-Jets game with another scholastic analogy. This time around the Steelers memorized their facts, where sharp in answering the flash card, but when the oral evaluation came up they got caught flat footed in face of an opponent who was nimble and agile.
As we always do, we’ll put in the normal caveat saying that no other report cards were consulted prior to this posting.
Ben Roethlisberger was just over 50% passing, and he was off early. But throwing against one of the league’s best cover corners, he committed no turnovers. He was also efficient on third down, and moved the ball spectacularly on the final drive, even if the team came up short. Grade: B
Rashard Mendenhall ran well, notching another hundred yard game, and scoring another touchdown. Isaac Redman made the most of his lone touch. None of the backs was a factor in the passing game. This was the first hundred yard rusher the Jets had given up in eons. Grade: A-
Matt Speath had some drops, but also made some good catches, but his miscue in the end zone was costly. The other receivers did a good job of getting open and making yards, although, as Michael Bean of Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, it looked like Mike Wallace cut his route short in the hopes of drawing flags – don’t expect him to make that mistake again. Grade: B-
No holding penalties, generally good protection of their quarterback, and opening holes for the running backs. Ah, but a very, very costly slip up leading to a safety. Add Flozell Adam’s momentum killing personal foul call, tarnishing a would-be impeccable performance. Grade: C-
The Jets totaled over 100 yards rushing, and generally ran well. Sanchez also faced little pressure, although Brett Keisel defended two passes. Grade: C+
Even with Troy Polamalu in the line up, linebackers are the strength of this defense. Timmons and Harrison had double digit tackles, and James Farrior had the only sack, while LaMarr Woodley was quiet.
The Jets out foxed the Steelers on three key third/fourth down conversion attempts, and the linebackers bear some responsibility. Overall, the linebacking was good, on a day when the Steelers needed it to be excellent. Grade: B-
Santoino Holmes was not a factor. Brandon Edwards did get 100 yards, but there were no big plays – always a fear when Polamalu is not in the line up. Ryan Mundy did well breaking up a key pass on third down, but was a little off on a sack attempt on another. Still, a solid, but not spectacular performance. Grade: B
Shaun Susiam kicked another field goal, but his kickoffs were short. Justin Kapinos did boom a 45 yard punt, but his average was 38. Antonio Brown was ineffective both as a kick and punt returner. The coverage units were horrible. The Jets averaged 16 yards on punt returns, and 29 yards on kickoff returns – and of course their was the touchdown the unit gave up to start the game. Special teams was a real weak link. Grade: F
On the plus side the offensive line eliminated the holding penalties and protected its quarterback for the most part. Rex Ryan out foxed the Steelers at a number of key points, but that reflects more on the players reactions than the coaching.
Still, what is it with throwing 40 passes against the Jets in the snow? Why so little pressure on Sanchez? Why not give Redman the ball more? Why substitute packages on the final drive instead of keeping the same men in? And let’s not get started on the special teams. The coaching was well, below the line. Grade C-
Ryan Mundy. Yes, he missed on a key sack, but he also came up big with a key pass defense. Mundy was asked to step into the shoes of one of the top 5 if not top 3 defensive playmakers in the National Football League. And he was asked to do it in his first NFL start. He could have easily been singled out as a weak link, much the way that Tryonne Carter was last year. Mundy, to his credit, did not blink.