Just when you think you have this Pittsburgh Steelers team pegged, they turn in a performance like they did against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, making you realize that after 14 weeks of football, we still have no idea what type of team the Steelers really are.
Sunday’s 34-24 loss wasn’t pretty for sure, especially to a team that has never won a regular-season game in Pittsburgh and was playing with a lame-duck coach in Norv Turner.
Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys beating the Cincinnati Bengals, it wasn’t as costly of a loss as it could have been, but it was still costly.
With that being said, let’s jump right into my weekly report card.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger came out rusty as expected, but he found his groove right before the half. He threw for 285 yards and here scores, but a majority of that came with the outcome already decided. He did lose a fumble and throw a pick, but overall played pretty well in his first game back. He looked healthy and made some plays. It’s good news going forward. Grade: B-
Running Backs: With a quarterback who hasn’t played in three weeks, it should have been a priority to establish a rushing attack, but Jonathan Dwyer carried the ball only eight times on the day. The Steelers rushed for only 69 yards on the day, with 31 of that coming from Roethlisberger. Grade D
Wide Receivers: Mike Wallace ended up having a big day, catching a team-high seven passes for 112 yards and a pair of scores. Antonio Brown made a boneheaded play by not kicking the ball out of the end zone on Quentin Jammer’s touchdown, but the game was pretty much decided by then. Overall, the receiving core made plays. Grade: B
Offensive Line: The Steelers offense couldn’t get going early and some of that was due to the fact that the line couldn’t set the tone. The running game was non-existent and there was some heat on Roethlisberger even though he was only sacked twice. In addition, the defensive touchdown doesn’t happen if David Paulson isn’t blown up at the line of scrimmage. I know he’s a tight end but he’s primarily a blocker, so he gets included here. Grade: D
Defensive Line: On the Chargers’ first play from scrimmage, Ziggy Hood was driven eight yards from the line of scrimmage and that pretty much describes how things went on the defensive side of the ball. But the defensive line ended up having a passable day. Hood, in particular, rebounded and had a solid game with eight tackles and a sack and the Chargers only averaged 2.6 yards per carry on 36 attempts. Grade: B-
Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons had a great game, recording 11 solo tackles, but the rest of the linebackers weren’t great. Phillip Rivers had a ton of success throwing underneath and no one could make a play to get the defense off the field. San Diego converted 12 third down opportunities on the day and the Steelers applied very little pressure on Rivers. Grade: C
Secondary: Without Ike Taylor, cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown got picked on a bit and there were a lot of completions underneath against them, especially on third down. Keenan Lewis also got beat for a touchdown. Just like the linebackers though, no one could step up and make a play. Rivers threw for 200 yards so the streak of allowing the opposing quarterback to throw for 200 yards or less now is at eight games. Grade: C
Special Teams: Drew Butler had a 79-yard punt and Shaun Suisham remained almost perfect on the season, but there were more special teams’ penalties which wiped out decent returns. The coverage teams weren’t great as Michael Spurlock had some success on returns, especially in the first half, which set the Chargers up with decent field position. Grade: D
Coaching: I didn’t like Mike Tomlin going for it in the first half on fourth down when the Steelers haven’t established a run game. It was too early in the game to gamble and it cost the team three points. In addition not going for two in the fourth quarter was a head scratcher. Even though you are getting killed at the time, it makes sense to make the game a two-possession game instead of a three-possession game. Stranger things have happened.
Overall the team came out flat, which is disappointing. The Steelers couldn’t establish a running attack, something they needed to do with a quarterback who hasn’t played in three weeks. The defense continues to not be able to make big plays, especially against a quarterback like Rivers who will make his fair share of them. Grade: D