Saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers ‘ performance was ugly Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans would be an understatement. All of the fears about the Steelers offense coming into the season showed themselves as Pittsburgh dropped its first home opener in over a decade, 16-9 to the visiting Titans.
It’s never good when you have more season-ending injuries (three) than touchdowns (one) to start the season, but the Steelers were able to pull off that rare feat.
Exactly how bad were the black-and-gold on Sunday?
Let’s take a look as I return with my weekly report card.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger went over 30,000 yards passing in his career, but that was overshadowed by the fact that the Steelers could not move the football consistently. The offense was putrid and Big Ben deserves some of the blame. Scoring only one meaningless touchdown against the team that gave up the most points in the league last season is unacceptable.
But you have to consider the fact that Roethlisberger was under pressure all game and had no time to make plays. He finished the day 21 of 33 for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception that led to the Titans only touchdown right before the first half. But take away a big early drop by Emmanuel Sanders and an early fumble by Isaac Redman that was recovered in the end zone and this could have been a different game for Roethlisberger. Grade: C
Running Backs: Redman wanted to make a statement in this game. He did. That statement was one that Steelers fans already knew and that is the fact that he isn’t capable of being an every down back in the NFL. Redman gained just nine yards on eight carries, fumbled twice and failed to pick up a blitz that led to a sack.
LaRod Stephens-Howling got the start in the second half and gained 19 yards on six carries before tearing his ACL, which sadly made him the team’s leading rusher. On the day the Steelers gained only 32 yards on the ground and averaged a mere 2.1 yards per carry. Grade: F
Wide Receivers: You had to worry about the Steelers wide receivers coming in and they didn’t do much to make you feel any better about where they are at heading into the season. Sanders had seven catches, which led the team, but he let a deep pass on the first play of the game go through his arms and also failed to hold onto a sideline pass tumbling out of bounds. Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery turned in decent games, but we saw very little of rookie Markus Wheaton in the passing game.
In addition, where was David Paulson as the Steelers got no production from the tight end position and the 6-foot-5 Derrick Moye wasn’t used in the red zone which made little sense. But that’s on the coaching staff. However the performance of the Steelers wide receivers was a little below average on the day. Grade: C-
Offensive Line: Stop me if you heard this story before. The one that starts with the Steelers offensive line giving up five sacks and managing just 32 rushing yards on 15 carries, a paltry 2.1-yard average After losing Maurkice Pouncey for the year on just the eighth play of the game, the Steelers offensive line struggled in every aspect of the game, which is a likely sign of things to come.
The worst of the bunch could have been Guard David DeCastro, who had a long day with DT Jurrell Casey, allowing two sacks. That’s a bit disturbing for last year’s first-round pick, but what made matters worse is the fact that it was DeCastro’s cut block that accidentally ended up costing the Steelers the anchor of the offensive line. Grade: F
Defensive Line: The Titans didn’t put up huge rushing numbers, as Chris Johnson ended up with only 70 yards, but they controlled the game up front. Tennessee was able to control the clock by running non-stop at the middle of the Steelers defense and on their lone touchdown drive; they were able to move the chains by running on 11 of 12 plays. It wasn’t the greatest performance from the Steelers front three. Grade: D+
Linebackers: LaMarr Woodley had a sack and rookie Jarvis Jones made a huge play in the backfield, but that was it on the day. Losing Larry Foote for the year doesn’t help either. Lawrence Timmons had an especially bad performance. Timmons had only five tackle, missed a tackle on Jackie Battle’s touchdown run and was burnt for a 25-yard pass. Foote led the unit with eight tackles before he was hurt and Jason Worilds did very little when he was on the field, recording only three tackles. Grade: C-
Secondary: Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker threw for only 125 yards and never got the ball down field except on a big third-and-15 play that led to a Tennessee field goal. Losing Cortez Allen to an ankle injury hurt, but William Gay made a couple of big pass deflections. Safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu played pretty well as Clark led the team with 13 tackles. Locker was able to complete a bunch of third-down passes to keep the chains moving, but overall it was a pretty good day for the Steelers’ secondary. They played good enough to win. Grade: B-
Special Teams: Shaun Suisham was injured in pregame warm-ups, but never had to be used until late in the game. New punter Zoltan Mesko averaged 44.1 yards per punt but didn’t seem to kick the ball very well. The return game also played a role in the loss when Worilds was flagged for an illegal block that cost the Steelers 15 yards and an interception came one play later. Grade: D
Coaching: Bottom line is that the Steelers gave a horrible performance to a team they should have beat and are still showing the same problems as a year ago. Having the wrong personnel in the game at key times is also unacceptable. Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley should have this loss put just as much on them as any of the players. Grade: F