From the grade book of a teacher who worries that his star student capable of authoring an epic master piece will fall prey to failure due to poor attention to fundamental nuts and bolts issues, here goes the report card for the Steelers loss to the Raiders. Caveat, no other grades were consulted prior to this post.
Has Ben Roethlisberger ever played better? You’d be hard pressed to make that argument. Ben made good decisions, bought time with his feet, spread the ball around, coverted third downs and threw touchdowns. Grade: A
Baron Batch, Isaac Redman, and Chris Rainey all had some good individual runs. But again, consistence remained absent. Remove Roethlisberger’s scramble, and Pittsburgh for 44 yards. Total. The backs caught the ball well. But rushing is their primary role and never, have I ever seen a Steelers team run the ball so poorly. Run blocking is an issue, but someone must find a way to get it done. Grade: D
The stat sheets says this was another banner day for Young Money and company, and in many ways it was. Health Miller? All he does is make tough catches and catch touchdowns. But for a strong as this unit played at times, they did commit three fumbles, one quite costly and the other two indicated a lack of focus that plagued the team. The fact that the wide receivers are the strength of the team gives them no license to take plays off. Grade: B-
Another game and no major injuries, good. Another game and a sub 3 yards per carry rushing average, bad. Willie Colon committed a holding penalty when the team could least afford it and the only sack the unit gave up was later on that same drive when the Steelers needed to score. Strong pass protection is nothing to sneeze at, but more progress in the running game and more consistency in crucial moments are needed if the unit is to transform itself into an asset. Grade: C
The Steelers run defense contained the Raiders’ rushing attack. Except for the 64 yard run. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the… You get the picture. Statistics aside, this unit fails to distinguish itself. Ziggy Hood was supposed to have a break out year, instead he’s invisible. Brett Kesiel had gotten better with age, is age now getting the better of him? Individually the defensive lineman are not winning their match ups, collectively they’re getting no penetration. Grade: D
Why are the Steelers paying Lawrence Timmons 60 million dollars? Timmons is supposed to be the unit’s athlete, but Larry Foote, the man he made expendable, is out performing him. LaMarr Woodley made some noise, but mostly in the first half. Neither Jason Worilds nor Chris Carter come close to convincing anyone he’s James Harrison’s heir apparent. Carson Palmer picked the Steelers defense apart with audiles, the no huddle and short, quick release passes. Those are difficult to defend, but that’s what linebackers are paid to do. Grade: D
Even if the Steelers win the Super Bowl this year, no one will remember that the secondary helped force a few 1st half 3 and outs, they’ll recall the Raiders scoring every second half possession. That’s the second time an offense has accomplished this feat. The secondary hardly deserves the all blame for that, but they sure could step up to contribute to a solution. Ryan Clark’s interception nudges this group’s grade up. Grade: D+
After two weeks of nearly flawless play special teams served up…. A touchdown nullified by a penalty, a 50 kickoff return, a 29 yard punt, and a facemask that puts the Steelers back to their own 8. You cannot hang all the blame for the loss here but, early on, special teams breakdowns gave the Raiders multiple chances to get back into the game when they were on the ropes. Grade: D+
The fumbles, penalties, and special teams breakdowns indicated a chronic failure to focus. That blame falls squarely on Mike Tomlin’s shoulders. Any temptation to say “yeah, well that happens” should be met with the realization that losses to inferior opponents doomed the 2009 Steelers. Its hard fault Todd Haley, but he must take some blame for the running game. On defense, the Steelers are below the line. While execution is an issue, Palmer’s familiarity with Dick LeBeau’s offense keyed his success. Grade: D-
The unit did not escape criticism above, but the fact is that Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Health Miller cannot put up a fantasy owners dream come true like numbers of Number Seven is on the Ground. Pass protection needs to hold up better on key plays, but overall Ben is getting the time he needs to thrive, and for that the offensive line is the Unsung Hero of the Raiders game.