After every game during the regular season I offered my report card, grading the Pittsburgh Steelers performance position-by-position across the field.
Now that the season is over for the Steelers, after a disappointing 8-8 finish, it’s time to recap things and hand out final grades for the regular season.
With that being said, it is time to take a look at the final grades for the 2012 season for every position on the field.
Quarterbacks: It wasn’t exactly a great season for the Steelers’ offense, but despite having to deal with losing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Ben Roethlisberger was having an MVP season until he was injured against the Kansas City Chiefs. Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich were ineffective in Big Ben’s absence although Batch put together a good fourth quarter against Baltimore. The Steelers finished 14th in the league in passing, but in the games that Roethlisberger played they were a Top 10 passing team. Roethlisberger threw only eight interceptions all season while everyone else threw six. However a couple of those picks from Big Ben late in the season proved costly as Roethlisberger was clearly rusty upon his return. Grade: B-
Running Backs: This was the worst season of the Steelers rushing the football in quite some time. Rashard Mendenhall was injured or suspended for most of the season and while Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman had their moments, both guys proved that they weren’t capable of being a featured back in the NFL. The Steelers averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and were one of only nine teams in the NFL to not rush for 100 yards per game (96.1). Grade: D-
Wide Receivers: Heath Miller was fantastic before being injured, but Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace’s production was way down from a season ago, although it wasn’t a terrible season for both. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery had their moments, but overall there weren’t enough big plays from the “Young Money Crew,” as they like to call themselves and way too many drops and fumbles. The season that Miller had from the tight end spot bumps the overall grade up a bit. Grade: C+
Offensive Line: As usual there was constant turnover because of injuries on the offensive line, which made it hard to put together consistent performances. However despite Maurkice Pouncey making the Pro Bowl again and some good moments from Willie Colon, Mike Adams, David DeCastro and others, the injuries affected this unit’s play. At the end of the day, the Steelers couldn’t run the football and the offensive line was a big part of that. Grade: D+
Defensive Line: The guys up front are usually a strength for this team, but not this season. Brett Keisel had a pretty good season, leading all defensive linemen with 46 total tackles, and he was third on the team with 4.5 sacks. But Casey Hampton was a non-factor and teams ran at Ziggy Hood at will and no matter who was on that side of the line, they didn’t respond very well. Grade: C-
Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons had a pretty good season in the middle and showed signs of becoming a force to be reckoned with. In addition Larry Foote played some pretty consistent football. Timmons recorded 106 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions and forced two fumbles, while Foote led the team with 113 tackles and had four sacks. But while they guys inside had a pretty good year, the guys on the outside did not. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley battled injuries and when they were on the field, they were non-factors. The Steelers had issues getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and all of the linebackers struggled in coverage. Jason Worilds was a pleasant surprise when he was on the field, but overall it was a very disappointing season from the guys outside. Woodley and Harrison are counted on to make big plays and they did not deliver. The performance of Timmons and Foote bump this grade up a bit. Grade: B-
Secondary: Often a point of criticism, the Steelers’ secondary quietly had a good season and did so without Troy Polamalu for most of the season. They allowed only 185 yards passing per game, best in the NFL and went eight consecutive weeks without allowing an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis were good when they were on the field together and Ryan Clark had a big season with 102 tackles and two interceptions. The only knock on this group is that they didn’t make many big plays, but overall it was a good season. Grade: B+
Special Teams: It was another brutal year for the Steelers’ special teams. There were constant penalties that wiped out good returns and they cost them the first game against Baltimore by allowing Jacoby Jones to return a punt for a touchdown. But there were a few bright spots which included rookie Chris Rainey, who showed flashes of becoming a solid return man. In addition, kicker Shaun Suisham finished the season hitting 28-of-31 field goals including going 20-for-20 between 30 and 49 yards. But the coverage units and the punt return team set this team back numerous times during the season. Mike Tomlin fired former special teams coach Al Everest before the season and Amos Jones might not last long either. Grade: D+
Coaching: It was not a good year for the Steelers’ coaching staff. Mike Tomlin’s team was not prepared at times and undisciplined at others. They lost to Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland and San Diego, which is the reason they will be home watching the playoffs. Offensively, Todd Haley’s offense seemed to work at times but seemed to sputter at others and was often too predictable as the big play was missing for most of the season. While the Steelers’ defense led the NFL in yardage given up, they managed only 37 sacks and forced only 20 turnovers on the season. They got four of those sacks and forced four turnovers in their meaningless season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Big plays win games and they were missing on both sides of the football all season. Grade: D