The Pittsburgh Steelers built some momentum Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field, winning their second consecutive game for the first time this season by beating the Washington Redskins 27-12, getting over the .500 mark in the process.
From quarterback Ben Roethlisberger engineering four early scoring drives to a defense that made things very tough for highly-touted rookie Robert Griffin III, the Steelers turned in one of their more complete performances of the season.
With that being said, it’s time for my weekly report card, grading every position on the field.
Quarterback- Roethlisberger was efficient once again, despite the wet conditions, completing 24-of-33 pass attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, the offense scored on their first four drives, something they haven’t done all season. He completed 7 of 8 passes for 65 yards on the first possession that ended with a fourth-down touchdown pass to Leonard Pope. He played well enough early on to give the Steelers defense a nice cushion. In addition he didn’t throw a pick for the fourth time this season. Big Ben wasn’t typical Roethlisberger on third down, but regardless, he did everything the Steelers needed him to do too win. Grade: A-
Running Back- Jonathan Dwyer is making a statement to become the Steelers full-time starter, gaining 107 yards on only 17 carries (6.3 yards per carry). By doing so Dwyer became the first Steelers’ running back to post back-to-back 100-yard games in four years. Chris Rainey continues to become more involved in the offense as well, which is a good thing. As a team, the Steelers averaged 5.2 yards per carry and if they continue to do that they are a very tough team to beat. Grade: A
Wide Receivers- The receivers had a solid day as Mike Wallace held onto the ball this week lading the team with seven catches, but the fact that the Steelers are basically turning him into a possession receiver is a bit concerning. Antonio Brown had a couple of big catches on a scoring drive, but the playmakers on Sunday were Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders, who both keep making big plays in big situations. Grade: B
Offensive Line- Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked and they averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The guys up front get all the credit there. Suddenly, the past two weeks, the Steelers have a ferocious and bruising offensive line. Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams played very well in place of Marcus Gilbert and is making is case as well to be a permanent starter. Grade: A
Defensive Line-It’s back-to-back solid performances for this unit as they held Alfred Morris, the NFC’s leading rusher, to 59 yards on 13 carries, but they also prevented Griffin from using his legs as a weapon, holding the rookie to just 8 yards on six carries. In addition they made some big plays. Casey Hampton blew up a third-down running play to force a Redskins’ punt in the first quarter and Brett Keisel had a tackle that resulted in a seven-yard loss. The one way the Redskins could have won this game was on the ground, but holding the NFL’s top-rated rushing attack to 86 yards was a huge factor in the win. Grade: B+
Linebackers-Not a lot of tackles from this unit and James Harrison was quiet for the second game in row, but the middle linebackers played pretty well. Larry Foote had the only sack on Griffin and a big tackle for loss on the Redskins’ first series and Lawrence Timmons had three pressures that forced hurried throws and also had a tackle for loss. Overall they took Griffin out of his comfort zone, which was the gameplan coming in. While the numbers say they were good in pass coverage, they really weren’t as the ‘Skins had receivers running open underneath frequently but they couldn’t catch the football. Grade: B
Secondary- Griffin came in leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.4) but completed less than half of his passes for the first time in his young career (47 percent). Some of that was due to the insane amount of drops, officially seven, but that number is generous; but much of it is also credited to being out of his comfort zone. The secondary stuck with receivers long enough even when Griffin was scrambling, which is usually a problem for this unit. Will Allen and Ryan Clark each had seven tackles and Keenan Lewis turned in another strong game. Grade: B+
Special Teams- Kicker Shaun Suisham is now 16-for-17 on the season and punter Drew Butler had a solid afternoon. The kicking game isn’t the problem- it’s the return game and the amount of penalties the Steelers take on special teams. There have been more kick returns with flags thrown this year than returns without them. Curtis Brown helped wipe out a punt return for a touchdown by Antonio Brown, his second return for a score that has been called back this season. In addition Brown’s showboating was unnecessary. This unit can’t keep taking points off the board and costing the team field position. The return units cost the special teams an otherwise solid grade. Grade: C+
Coaching- The gameplan on both sides of the ball was executed great. Dick LeBeau is now 14-1 against rookie quarterbacks and Todd Haley’s offense methodically put together four consecutive scoring drives to open the game. That combination was all the Steelers really needed. Mike Tomlin’s team continues to be prepared well despite the rash of injuries. Grade: A+