Sunday afternoon wasn’t a must win for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was close and while it wasn’t a pretty performance all-around, the important thing for the black-and-gold was that it was a win.
By doing so they remain 2.5 games behind the Baltimore Ravens, as falling over three games back, even this early in the season may have been too big of a hole to dig out of.
But this wasn’t just a win as the Steelers showed a little bit of a running game and a much better defensive effort, something that has been missing for most of the season.
With that being said, it’s time for my weekly Steelers’ report card.
Quarterback: It wasn’t Ben Roethlisberger’s best statistical day of what has been a great season to this point, but Big Ben was still very good despite getting off to a slow start. However Roethlisberger’s play in the second quarter helped loosen up the Eagles’ defense so the Steelers could run. His receivers dropped five passes on the day, but once again Big Ben was excellent on third down, especially when he engineered the game-winning drive. It’s the first time this year that Ben doesn’t grade out as an A, but he was very good nonetheless. Grade: B
Running Backs: Rashard Mendenhall’s return sparked the best day of the season on the ground. Coincidence? Mendenhall averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored a 13-yard touchdown. As a team, the Steelers averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but ignore the numbers. For the first time this season they were able to grind out tough yards consistently. Several times this game they were able to move the chains on second and third-and-short situations. That didn’t happen early in the season. Grade: A-
Wide Receivers: Five drops were crucial and Mike Wallace was a non-factor. Antonio Brown dropped a sure touchdown but finished with a game-high seven catches for 86 yards. Jerricho Cotchery also cost the team a touchdown when he slipped and went down untouched. But Brown and Emmanuel Sanders made big third-down catches on the game winning drive to help the Steelers get a win. Grade: C-
Offensive Line: As mentioned before, the Steelers averaged a season-high 4.4 yards per carry and they didn’t allow Roethlisberger to be sacked although he was under pressure all game long. Willie Colon alone got called three times for holding. It was a better performance, but the line still has a long ways to go. Grade: C
Defensive Line: Overall a solid performance. They held LeSean McCoy to only 53 yards and got sacks from Ziggy Hood and Steve McClendon. They did allow the Eagles to convert a pair of fourth-and-one situations to take the lead, but overall they kept Michael Vick’s athleticism from being a factor. Grade: B+
Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons (nine tackles) was outstanding early. he was all over the field and recorded four hurries; two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble in the first half. Larry Foote had eight tackles and recovered a pair of fumbles. James Harrison made his return and applied a ton of pressure and Jason Worilds made an impact filling in for an injured LaMarr Woodley and had a sack, two tackles for a loss and two hurries. Great game by this unit. Grade: A+
Secondary: Troy Polamalu made his return but was back on the sideline in the first quarter, but the secondary didn’t play bad. Ike Taylor took an interference call that could have led to an Eagles touchdown had Ryan Clark not forced a Vick fumble that the Steelers recovered in the end zone. Their job was made easier by the fact the Steelers got four quarter of pressure on Vick. The Eagles longest pass play was for 24-yards but it came on the drive in which they took the lead when DeSean Jackson left Taylor in the dust. Grade: B-
Special Teams: Shaun Suisham went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and remained perfect on the season. Drew Butler made up for a bad game against Oakland by averaging 46.3 yards per punt. Rookie Chris Rainey had a nice return and the coverage units were very solid. Grade: A+
Coaching: Mike Tomlin’s team is very undisciplined taking 106 yards in penalties, including stupid personal fouls by Clark and Ryan Mundy that led to an Eagles touchdown. That is something that has to stop. But the game plan was good as offensive coordinator Todd Haley was finally able to lean on the run. The end result for Dick LeBeau’s defense was good but they surrendered another double-digit second half lead. Grade: C