´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers vs. Ravens Report Card III - AFC Divisional Playoffs

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Steelers vs. Ravens Report Card III - AFC Divisional Playoffs

In keeping with the snappy scholastic analogies from previous Steelers Report Cards, the Steelers game against the Ravens was a kin to a sharp student getting an “A” on the take home section only to pull an all nighter before a big exam, fall asleep on his books only to wake up when he’s already supposed to be at school. Arriving at the exam when time is halfway expired, he nails the balance of the exam in the time he has left!

Here's the Steelers report card for the Steelers playoff game against the Ravens with the normal caveat that no other grades were consulted prior to this posting:

Quarterback



Ben Roethlisberger's overall numbers of 19-32-226-0-2 might appear pedestrian, but there was nothing pedestrian about his performance. Despite facing a veritable onslaught from the Ravens and taking six sacks, Ben Roethlisberger stood his ground fearlessly and took control of this game. Grade: A

Running Back

Another case where numbers fail to tell the tale. Rashard Mendenhall's 2.4 yards per carry average makes it appear he had a mediocre night, but Mendhenall did what he had to do -- get the ball into the end zone. Isaac Redman also had a key third and one conversion, and Mewelde Moore ran for twice for 12 yards. An “Above the Line” effort Grade: B

Wide Receivers

This is exactly what we all saw coming when the Steelers dumped 'Tone and drafted Sanders and Antonio Brown in the 2010 NFL draft. Right? With the exception of a drop by Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers wide outs and Heath Miller made plays all game long. Each member of this receiving corps distinguished himself either by the quantity or the quality of his work, and the Steelers were victorious because of it. Grade: A

Offensive Line

To say that musical chairs on offensive line has been a theme throughout the season might be corny, but it is true. But despite playing back up tackles (who are really backups themselves) the Steelers lineman gave Ben time, at least on enough crucial plays, and provided enough push on running plays to move the chains and get the ball in the end zone. Grade: C+

Defensive Line

Ziggy Hood is beginning the post-season the way he ended the regular season -- with a bang, coming in third on the team 5 tackles, a QB hit, a tackle for a loss and one sack on Flacco's final drive. Brett Keisel recovered Flacco’s fumble. He and Casey Hampton did not pile up gaudy numbers, but made their presence known as Ray Rice gain only 18 more yards after his 14 yard scoring scamper. The rest of the Ravens rushing game netted a half yard. Grade: A

Linebackers

James Harrison had gone since 5 games without a full sack, but he set the tone by sacking Flacco on Baltimore's first two second half possessions. LaMarr Woodley had a sack and a recovered fumble, a QB hit and a tackle for a loss. Lawrence Timmons “quietly” led the team in tackles with support from James Farrior, who defensed a pass. Grade: A

Secondary

Losing Bryant McFadden early on was not good, but William Gay stepped up and Ike Taylor neutralized his man throughout the game. Troy Polamalu made no splash plays, but if nothing else, Polamalu’s presence had to have impacted Flacco’s decision making. Raven receivers made innumerable drops – that that happens sometimes when you’re worried about getting KOed from behind.

But Ryan Clark stole the show, causing the two turnovers that sparked the Steelers resurgence in the second half. Grade: A

Special Teams
Let’s start with the positive. Justin Kapinos BOOMED off four punts for 194 yards, and Shaun Suisham’s kick offs were deeper. But the Steelers gave up a long opening return, and benefited from a, questionable call, that nullified a punt return for a TD. Outside of those gaffes coverage was good, but as Al Everest says, it is the screw ups that sting. Special teams play was above the line. Barley. Grade: C-

Coaching
Critique Mike Tomlin for being unfocused and out hustled in the second 16 minutes of the first half. Credit Tomlin for disavowing the emotional roller coaster since the day he was hired. Make no mistake about it: This level headed approach and steady hand at the wheel are what allowed the Steelers to regain focus and unleash fury upon the Baltimore Ravens in the second half. Still the second quarter and inconsistent special teams knock the coaches grade down. Grade: B

Unsung Hero

Who to choose in a game where so many stepped up? How about Doug Legursky? You won’t see his name on the stat sheet, but the man played multiple positions on the offensive line, helping provide stability or at least sanity to a unit under assault. He also did some road grading from the fullback position leading to the first touchdown.

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