Pittsburgh Steelers: Report Card Against Arizona Cardinals


Call it a momentum switch. Call it a change in quarterbacks. Call it VICTORY. No matter what you call it, Landry Jones is on top of Steelers Nation at the moment after leading the Steelers to an impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at Heinz Field 25-13.

You certainly can’t knock Pittsburgh’s defense for their performance in game six as they were up against one of the most prolific offense’s in the NFL this season. Holding the Cardinals to a single touchdown is a major victory for Keith Butler’s unit. On the flip side, until Michael Vick got hurt, the Steelers’ offense was stale. They had trouble moving the ball and could only get field goals not touchdowns. Vick pulls a hammy, in comes Jones, and the fireworks began. Let the grading begin.

Quarterback: F and A+. As it was in the St. Louis game, two grades must be assigned here as two quarterbacks played in the game. The starter, Michael Vick gets the big  F. No disrespect to the veteran QB, but outside of those final moments in San Diego, he has been ineffective. Given all the physical tools he has as well as experience, we would expect better. But it hasn’t happened and probably won’t now.

As long as Landry Jones remains the backup until Ben Roethlisberger returns, Vick has probably played his last down as a Pittsburgh Steeler. As for the NEW starter, Landry Jones, he looked like a seasoned veteran and has definitely earned the interim spot at QB. He earns the second grade.

Running back: A. It seems DeAngelo Williams is being forgotten after two terrific games to open the season. What would anyone expect with Le’Veon Bell in front of him on the depth chart? Last Sunday, Williams got one carry and lost a yard while Bell toted the rock 24 times and picked up 88 yards including one for 22.

Wide Receiver: B-. There isn’t much this group can do when they have a quarterback who can’t get them the ball. Once Landry Jones came in, Martavis Bryant came to life and while Antonio Brown didn’t have the numbers, he seemed more inspired with the replacement behind center.

Tight end: C. What was a potent offense has become victim of the man leading it and the receiving corps has suffered because of Michael Vick.  That includes Heath Miller who when facing Arizona, made just one reception. Miller did do his part in blocking for the running game.

Offensive line: B+. It is very unfortunate that Kelvin Beachum is now lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered during last weekend’s game. That means its time for the Alejandro Villanueva show as his replacement. Villanueva did a fine job filling in for the remainder of the game last Sunday and should remain as the starter the rest of the season. Villanueva brings a great story to the NFL as well.

A former Army product, Alejandro Villanueva is a former wide receiver who also played left tackle and defensive tackle for Army. As a military man, he served three tours in Afghanistan. His high school days were spent in Casteau, Belgium and he eventually was promoted to the rank of Captain last year.  His military honors include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal, Combat. Villanueva’s father was also a military man, having served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Spanish Navy. By the way, Alejandro Villanueva is 6’9″ and weighs 320!

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers /

Pittsburgh Steelers

Kicker: A++. Chris Boswell got his first-ever field goal in San Diego then came home to thrill fans at Heinz Field with four more field goals, three of them from long distance.  Boswell was impressive, perhaps as much if not more than Landry Jones’ performance.

Defensive line: A. Cam Heyward is evolving into one of the best defensive lineman in the league. While he does not do the type of amazing feats that JJ Watt might do, Heyward is a model of consistency always seemingly in on every play. With Stephen Tuitt learning the NFL game and getting better all the time, the Steelers’ front line is playing very well. Steve McClendon has been impressive as well. Arizona only rushed for 55 yards so some credit goes to the men up front slowing down the running game of the Cardinals.

Linebackers: B+. The four men who start here and the players who back them up are beginning to jell and the quality of play from the linebacking area is beginning to resemble again what Steelers fans are accustomed to. Lawrence Timmons is getting hot and picked up an interception while James Harrison just keeps churning. Arthur Moats makes big plays as Sean Spence is making fans forget that Ryan Shazier is not out there.

Safeties: A-. Mike Mitchell is starting to pay the dividends the Steelers expected from him last season when he came over from the Carolina Panthers. A HUGE interception which was a game a changer against the Cards and several more big hits and tackles. With Will Allen out, Robert Golden finished second on the team in tackles. Shamarko Thomas is still not where he needs to be or should be, but Mitchell and Allen as well as Golden are picking up the slack.

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Cornerbacks: B. William Gaymade three pick-sixes last year but none thus far this year. Still, he’s reliable and is playing solid again. Antwon Blake made an impressive 12 tackles, 10 being solo. Fans have to love the aggressive, hard play of Ross Cockrell. The secondary gave up a lot of yardage to Carson Palmer in the air but they held strong and aside from the first quarter touchdown, kept the Cardinals out of the end zone the rest of the game.

Punter: A. Another impressive outing for first-year Steeler Jordan Berry. There will be no change in punter in 2016.

Coaching: C. A lower grade goes to Mike Tomlin here only because he was very late in making a decision he should have made weeks ago. That decision should have been to replace Ben Roethlisberger with Landry Jones and not Michael Vick. The results when he got it right are in the books. Along with Todd Haley, it’s odd that they could not get more production out of a proven commodity like Vick but Landry Jones who never played in a regular season NFL game comes in and shines.

Intangibles: A+. As close to a “must” game as you can get, the Steelers played hard on defense, but could obviously could be seen getting frustrated on offense. That was until Jones took over. The Steelers showed lots of moxy in this game and came away with a huge victory.

Overall grade: B+. The Vick fiasco keeps this from being a perfect grade. But the way the Steelers played, the heart they showed, the excitement and momentum change with Landry Jones was thrilling.

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