In keeping with the school analogy theme, the Steelers performance against the Ravens must be graded the way Engineering or Physics professors dole out marks on tough exams – the mean score might be low, but all that matters in the end is whether you pass or fail.
As usually, we’ll provide the caveat that no other report cards were consulted in prior to this posting.
The stat sheet says that Ben Roethlisberger only posted a 75.9 passer rating – forget about that. Ben was off early in the game, missing some makeable throws and of course he tossed the interception. But once he accustomed himself to throwing with a broken foot and a broken nose, he did what Ben does. Make plays. On the Steelers second, time-consuming field goal drive, Ben only had two incompletions. Grade A-
Rashard Mendenhall did not have room to run, and he hesitated a little too much at times, but otherwise ran hard. But both Mendenhall and Isaac Redman made key plays in the passing game, sustaining drives, and ultimately bagging the win. Grade B
Not a lot of pyrotechnics out of this group, just some solid play, with the exception of Hines Ward’s drop. David Johnson tripled his receiving total for the year on a week when Mike Tomlin singled him out for his blocking ability. Both rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders had key long catches, as did Mike Wallace. Grade B+
Would a game on the Steelers 2010 schedule be complete with out a line up change on the offensive line due to injury? And so it was in Baltimore, with Flozell Adams falling to the dreaded “high ankle” sprain. Trai Essex has now probably played in four different positions. The line did not run block well, and Ben was sacked 3 times and knocked down many more. But they did the best they could do. Grade C
Ziggy Hood got his first sack and the Ravens rushing total was only 43 yards – perhaps one reason why they were attempting to pass while trying to kill the clock. Brett Keisel also return, batting down a pass and leading the unit in tackles. Ziggy Hood also and another tackle for a loss. A solid effort all around from the men up front. Grade B+
James Farrior has now had three sacks in consecutive games for the first time in his career. The rest of the unit either registered tackles for losses to got pieces of the quarterback. LaMarr Woodley also recovered Flacco’s fumble after Polamalu’s sack-strip. Compared to Buffalo and New England, Baltimore had less success nickeling and diming Pittsburgh, and the linebackers were a big part of that. Grade A-
Byrant McFadden made several mental errors and Ryan Clark also blew coverage on Baltimore’s big plays. But the Ravens were 4-13 on third downs, and that does not happen if the secondary is not doing its job. And of course, Troy Polamalu made a game saving change. Grade B
Shaun Suisham made a tough, long field goal, plus another chip shot while doing double duty as a punter. Despite predictions made here, the Steelers return units were not a factor, but Baltimore’s punt return unit did average 15 yards on their returns. Grade B
The coaches came into this game intent on running a ball control offense with a downfield shots sprinkled in to keep the defense honest. For the most part they stuck to it, even when it wasn’t working terribly well. Despite giving up a few big gains, the defensive game plan kept Baltimore out of the end zone, and got pressure on Flacco when it counted. Grade B
How about David Johnson? For a guy that never caught anything, to come in to the number two tight end position and bring down three catches including a 25 yarder that was the Steelers first long gain of the night. The Steelers continue to win in the face of so many injuries because David Johnson and players like him are stepping it up.