Another week, another tough loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have now dropped four of five games.
The final result will look like a late interception from Ben Roethlisberger was the difference maker, but while that certainly played a role, there was so much more that went wrong that ultimately cost the Steelers a game.
With that being said, let’s take a look at my weekly report card following a very tough 27-24 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterback: Roethlisberger was outstanding all game. He only made one mistake and it proved costly, but his interception on the second play of overtime wasn’t the reason the Steelers lost this game. It should have ever gotten to overtime to begin with. Big Ben finished the day completing 24 of 40 passes for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including completing 13 of his final 17 attempts. The play he made on the Heath Miller touchdown was one only Roethlisberger makes and gave the team some life. Having said that, the interception proved costly and it hurts his grade this week. Grade: B+
Running Backs: Other than a tough run by Isaac Redman in the second half, the ground game once again did very little. Take away Redman’s 22-yard run in the third quarter and the rest of the day the Steelers gained only 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 ypc). In addition, Jonathan Dwyer averaged only 2.4 yards per carry on a team-high nine carries. Grade: D
Wide Receivers: There were good moments which certainly included everything Heath Miller did on the day. Mike Wallace came on strong in the second half and made a big 60-yard catch to set up a Dwyer touchdown run. Antonio Brown also had a team-high eight catches and a touchdown, but there were plenty of bad moments as well. Brown running out of bounds late in the game allowed Dallas to keep a timeout and work the middle of the field, which could have proven costly. In addition Emmanuel Sanders got away with a fumble early in the game, which even though it was reversed, he must make that catch. It was a very inconsistent day from the receivers to say the least. Grade: C+
Offensive Line: The protection was better than a week ago, but broke down during key moments in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys had back-to-back sacks attacking the right side of the Steelers line which featured rookies David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum. But again there was no running game at all. Grade: C-
Defensive Line: The Steelers needed to get some pressure from the front three to help their secondary out and that didn’t come close to happening. In addition they allowed the 30th ranked rushing offense to gain 67 of their 87 yards rushing in the first half. They did tighten that up in the second half, but given how depleted the secondary was, they needed something big out of someone up front and it didn’t happen. Grade: C
Linebackers: James Harrison had a big game with a forced fumble, stuffing Tony Romo on a run on a third-and-one play and applying a little bit of pressure. But just like the defensive line, the linebackers needed to do something big and it didn’t happen. The Steelers had only one sack, which came from Lawrence Timmons, who bit on a fake that led to Jason Witten’s touchdown. Overall Tony Romo had an easy time of things as he was able to stand in the pocket and look downfield untouched. In addition, both Timmons and Harrison were beat in coverage more than once by the Cowboys’ tight ends. Definitely not the big day the Steelers needed as no linebacker had more than six tackles (Timmons and Larry Foote) and LaMarr Woodley had only two. Grade: C-
Secondary: Tony Romo put an end to the Steelers eight-game streak of not allowing an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards, and he did it in a big way. Romo was outstanding and at one point completed 12 straight passes. He had plenty of success picking on Josh Victorian. At the end of the day, Romo completed 30-of-42 pass attempts for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Grade: D
Special Teams: Antonio Brown’s fumble on a punt return ultimately cost the Steelers the game, as did his lack of judgment to not catch a short punt that cost the team 20 yards in field position. Drew Butler and Shaun Suisham were their usual solid selves, but Brown’s head was not in this game and his three costly errors are a big reason why the Steelers lost a tough game. Grade: D-
Coaching: It is now four losses in five games for a team that everyone likes to talk about making a late charge. This came down to mental errors. You can’t have special teams and offensive breakdowns late in close games and that keeps happening to Mike Tomlin’s team. There are no big plays coming from the defense to offset those mistakes. The Steelers used to be able to get away with those types of things because they had a big-play defense. That’s not the case anymore. The sad part is that despite the way they are playing, Tomlin’s team still controls their playoff fate. But they must be better fundamentally in every area to take advantage of that. Grade: D