The Pittsburgh Steelers managed to do something they haven’t done all season on Sunday afternoon- beat a good football team.
Before erasing a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to win their third consecutive game, the combined record of the teams the Steelers beat was 12-18. That wasn’t necessarily their fault as before facing the Giants on Sunday, the Steelers played a very soft schedule to that point, facing only one team over the .500 mark (Denver).
However we learned a lot about this team going forward as they lined up against good competition for the first time since Week 1.
Much was made about the travel, the quarterback matchup and the two defenses, but when it was said and done; the Pittsburgh Steelers simply went out and beat a good football team.
How did they do that? Let’s take a look position-by-position to see how they fared.
Quarterback- For the first time in a long time, Ben Roethlisberger had a pair of costly turnovers. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on the strip sack that resulted in Michael Boley’s 70-yard fumble return. I still don’t see how that call isn’t overturned. But he was under some pressure in this one and forced a throw that was intercepted and the Giants got three points out of it. However it was what Roethlisberger did after that interception that speaks volumes. Trailing by 10 entering the fourth, Big Ben completed 7-of-9 passes for 117 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace. He outplayed Eli Manning and came through with the game on the line again. Grade: B+
Running Backs- No Jonathan Dwyer, no problem. Isaac Redman carried the ball 26 times for 147 yards (both career highs) and had four runs of 11 or more yards in the first half. Redman scored the game winning touchdown and broke a 28-yard run late to help the Steelers run out the clock. Grade: A+
Wide Receivers- Antonio Brown was lost in the first quarter, but Jerricho Cotchery replaced him and had a team-high four catches for 50 yards. Emmanuel Sanders continued to make big plays, including the first touchdown of the game. Heath Miller was also his usual solid self, but it was Wallace’s catch-and-run that was the biggest play of the game and turned the game around. Grade: B+
Offensive Line- Outstanding run blocking for the third consecutive week. They showed that if they continue to play that way, it won’t matter who the running back is. However they played against a good pass rush for the first time since Week 1 and struggled in pass protection, allowing four sacks. Rookie right tackle Mike Adams allowed two of those in the first half. But overall it was another strong performance for the guys up front. Grade: B
Defensive Line- Steve McLendon had the pressure on Manning that resulted in Ike Taylor’s first-quarter interception and they did a great job shutting down the Giants rushing attack. The G-Men had just 68 yards on 22 carries (3.1 average) and Ahmad Bradshaw had only 17 second half yards. Grade: A-
Linebackers- LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons had huge sacks and this unit played their best game of the season, allowing only 13 offensive points and 182 yards to a team that came in scoring 33.3 points per win. As mentioned before, they stuffed the Giants ground game and in the fourth quarter New York had the ball four times and went three-and-out each time. The only negative from this unit is that James Harrison continued to not make an impact, although he did have five tackles (four solo). Grade: A-
Secondary- There were two huge pass interference calls which cost the Steelers 87 yards, but they held Manning to only 125 yards passing, his lowest total since 2008. Ike Taylor had an interception, which is newsworthy by itself because it doesn’t happen very often. Taylor also dropped another gift-wrapped pick, but overall it was an outstanding day for the Steelers’ secondary. Grade: A+
Special Teams- Shaun Suisham’s field goal at the end of the half was big, but the story here was the return game, which was nothing short of outstanding. Chris Rainey had returns of 32, 50, and 68 yards and Sanders had a 68-yard punt return. They didn’t end up resulting in points, but it was a great day for this unit. Grade: A+
Coaching- The fake field goal call was awful. Take the points and extend the game. But the Steelers’ defense forced a three-and-out there and they ended up taking the lead. If you aren’t going to kick the field goal, either use your big quarterback or give the ball to Redman, who was carving up the Giants’ defense. I’m also not a fan of how Mike Tomlin challenges to save a yard, which never works in his favor as the Giants got the first down on the next play anyway. But overall, Tomlin had his team ready to play again and it showed.
Both Dick LeBeau’s and Todd Haley’s units performed very well and considering the fact that they traveled the day of the game and had a few calls go against them, this was a big win. But they got lucky the fake field goal didn’t come back to bite them. You can’t excuse that, especially trailing by three in that situation. Grade: B-