Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Win over San Diego Chargers

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who hopes that his pupils have learned the vital lesson that with teamwork the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the Monday Night win over the Chargers.

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No, Michael Vick is no Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, he was 8 for 16 for 63 yards in the first three quarters. No, he still hasn’t managed to connect with Antonio Brown. Yes, Mike Vick threw three should have been interceptions not pick sixes. Honestly, none of that matters here. Grade in the Steelers Report Cards are based on results, first and foremost. And Vick quite simply delivered when the game was on the line. Grade: A-

Running Backs
Is it possible to say enough good things about Le’Veon Bell? On another night when the defense knew it was coming, Le’Veon Bell took the ball, tucked his shoulder, and ran with it. And to great effect. Time and time again, including when it was all or nothing at the end of the game. DeAngelo Williams got 5 carries and made the most of them. It was a stellar night for Steelers running backs. Grade A+

Tight Ends
Heath Miller’s 3 catches on 3 targets does not do him justice. His 16 yard reception on third down with the game on the line personified toughness. Steel Curtain Rising has long lamented that Matt Spaeth’s pass catching talents are under utilized, but he dropped a ball the one time his number was called on a night when the Steelers needed catches. Will Johnson played at tight end, and helped with the run blocking. Grade: B+

Wide Receivers

Mike Vick and Antonio Brown’s inability to get on the same page is worrisome. Nonetheless, Brown did have 3 catches. If nothing else, Mick Vick is showing that the Steelers do have quality receivers not named Brown. Markus Wheaton only had one target, but he hit pay dirt with that and in the process kept the Steelers in the game. Darrius Heyward-Bey came up with two clutch catches on the Steelers final drive. Grade: B

Offensive Line
Lost in all of the focus on Michael Vick’s 3 quarters worth of struggles is the fact that the Steelers offensive line did put in one of its better performances, particularly early on. Mike Vick was sacked three times and was under early and often. Likewise, there were many instances when Le’Veon Bell turned what easily could have been a loss into a minimal gain. The line play did improve and no one should underestimate their role in helping Bell get that ½ inch he needed to for the final score. But overall the Steelers offensive line put in an uneven performance. Grade: B-

Defensive Line
One of the biggest surprises to come out of the Steelers and Chargers game is that if one goes solely by the stat sheet, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt had mediocre games….. Well, number may not lie, but statistics sometimes fail to tell the full story. Heyward and Tuitt might not have had any splash plays or put up high tackle numbers, but both men were disruptive forces in the Charger’s backfield and left the Chargers with no where to run. Grade: B

Lawrence Timmons again led the team in tackles and also dropped two Chargers behind the line of scrimmage, defended a pass and generally was there making plays when they were needed. Sean Spence didn’t make a lot of “noise” so to speak, but he was the team’s second leading tackler. Jarvis Jones has been playing well but somewhat under the radar in 2015, but he wasn’t flying low vs. the Chargers with a sack and a forced fumble. Bud Dupree also recorded a sack and showed off his considerable athleticism in doing so. Grade: B+

Antwon Blake converted his first interception of the year into a pick six, although the young cornerback needs to be more mindful of ball security. Blake along with Ross Cockrell provided excellent run support. William Gay’s name wasn’t heard all night, and that’s a good thing. Will Allen was lost early in the game and he was replaced primarily by Robert Golden. Allen’s absence wasn’t noticeable. Mike Mitchell was the Steelers third leading tackler, and he quarterbacked the defense through the on-going chess match with Philip Rivers. Grade: B+

Special Teams
How many special teams penalties did Danny Smith’s unit commit in the first half? 4? 5? It is hard to know. While none of these penalties took points off the board, they did cost the Steelers dearly in terms of field position on a night when the Steelers offense needed any advantage it could get.

But there were positives too. The Steelers got some traction both with their punt and kick return games, while Jordan Berry landed 6 punts inside the 20, and the Steelers special teams did a good job of downing them. And of course there were mercifully no place kicking mishaps. Grade: B

During the season opener Keith Butler’s defense did nothing but confirm preseason worries, but since then the Steelers defense has turned in 4 straight solid performances and has arguably been the difference in the wins at St. Louis and at San Diego.

  • Butler’s defense might give up a lot of yards, but the unit refuses to concede a blade of grass.

Against the Chargers, the Steelers defense contained the run, pressured the quarterback, negated the big play and produced turnovers. Yes, the Steelers still appear helpless against quality tight ends, but the Butler boys turned in a very, very above the line performance.

Todd Haley’s inability to ensure that Mike Vick can get Antonio Brown the ball is a bit puzzling, but part of being a good coach is knowing when to step out of the way, which is what Haley did when Roethlisberger and Markus Wheaton drew up a play on the sideline that turned out to be a game-changer.

Knowing when to step out of the way…. That’s something that Mike Tomlin did extremely well vs. the Chargers. He never waivered in his support of his quarterback and when the game was on the line, Mike Tomlin didn’t bat an eye in putting it all on the shoulders of the best man on the field for the Steelers. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
On offense, Le’Veon Bell, Mike Vick, and Markus Wheaton got a lot of attention for their in lifting the Steelers over the Chargers. On defense the cheers are going to Antwon Blake, Jarvis Jones, and Bud Dupree. These men earned their accolades.

  • But their exploits were made meaningful because of contributions from others.

Chris Boswell kicked 45 yarder outdoors, on grass in a hostile stadium. Shamarko Thomas had the presence of mind and the dedication to playing until the whistle to recover the ball knocked loose by Jarvis Jones. Roosevelt Nix laid down several crushing blocks for Le’Veon Bell, including on the game winner. James Harrison only had one tackle for a loss, but it came on third down when he read a screen perfectly.

Few of the plays made by Boswell, Thomas, Nix and Harrison will make highlight reels, but each were necessary for the Steelers to beat the Chargers, and for that they are the Unsung Heroes of the Monday Night win over San Diego.

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