The Pittsburgh Steelers did not fare well Sunday in Cleveland, turning in an ugly overall effort in a 20-14 loss that could prove very costly in the long run. On the day, the Steelers had more penalties (nine) and turnovers (eight), than points the offense scored (seven).
While it was an ugly day offensively, the Steelers’ defense didn’t play very bad – it was at least good enough to beat the basement-level Browns. Let’s take a look at how the Steelers graded out in my weekly report card.
Quarterback: Not much was expected from third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, but the 38-year-old did much worse than most thought he would. He didn’t have a ground game to lean on but Batch threw three picks and was constantly throwing behind and underthrowing receivers. The Browns committed to stopping the run and would live with Batch beating them, something he couldn’t do. They went 1-of-9 on third down as Batch had major problems moving the chains. Grade: F
Running Backs: All four running backs lost fumbles and they ran for a season-low 49 yards on 20 carries. The longest run of the day was an eight-yard gain by Jonathan Dwyer. It was the day that the Steelers needed the ground game the most and they turned in their worst performance. Grade: F
Wide Receivers: It’s hard to fault the wide receivers when the ball isn’t being put where it is supposed to, but overall it wasn’t a good day for the playmakers. Mike Wallace didn’t make a catch until the end of the game and had his hands on the ball which resulted in Batch’s second interception, although that was a horrible throw and would have been a tough catch. Plaxico Burress wasn’t used very much, but drew a big pass interference penalty that led to the Steelers lone offensive touchdown. Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders had the only productive days of anyone on the offensive side of the ball, combining for 11 catches and 138 yards. But it’s hard to make plays consistently when the ball isn’t getting there. Grade: D+
Offensive Line: Mike Adams got hurt during the game and Willie Colon got hurt in warm-ups. From there, it just got worse. The line allowed only one sack, but they averaged a paltry 2.5 yards per carry and took some costly penalties. Grade: F
Defensive Line: Brett Keisel had a sack and tipped the pass that led to Lawrence Timmons’ interception return for a touchdown. They also played a big role in holding the Browns to only 3.2 yards per carry. Grade: B+
Linebackers: Timmons continues to make big plays (10 tackles, INT) and James Harrison showed up to play and had nine tackles and a sack. Even Jason Worilds stepped in for an injured LaMarr Woodley and was a beast, recording four tackles, a pair of sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. Larry Foote got beat on the touchdown catch and the seas parted on Trent Richardson’s touchdown run, but overall it was a very good day for the linebackers. Grade: A-
Secondary: The streak the defensive backs has been on is fantastic as that marked the sixth consecutive game that they held the opposing quarterback to under 200 yards passing. Weeden didn’t have many options down the field after the first play of the game and Ryan Clark and Keenan Lewis continue to also play well against the run. Grade: A-
Special Teams: The coverage units were very good as Joshua Cribbs was a non-factor, but the Steelers got nothing out of their return game. Drew Butler had a nice day punting the ball, but the offense couldn’t even put together small drives to get Shaun Suisham involved in the game. Grade: C
Coaching: This team wasn’t prepared. Fumbling eight times and throwing three interceptions is inexcusable. So are the nine penalties and averaging 2.5 yards per carry. You can’t let a guy like Batch throw the ball 34 times and expect to win a game. I understand what Tomlin was doing benching the running backs, but where has that punishment been all season when guys like Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown cough up the rock? The bottom line is that Tomlin doesn’t know what he wants to do with his running backs. The Steelers have scored a whopping two offensive touchdowns in the nine quarters since Ben Roethlisberger got injured. How about Tomlin drop the tough guy act in his press conferences and spend more time getting the team ready to play? Grade: F