With a much anticipated long break, the Pittsburgh Steelers spent week 11 doing their own thing as they enjoyed the 2015 bye week. Next up will be a trip west to challenge the Seattle Seahawks and their 12th man in very hostile territory.
For Head Coach Mike Tomlin, his track record in games following a bye is a very successful one. Of eight games after the bye week since he took over for Bill Cowher in 2007, Tomlin’s Steelers have won six of those battles. Last season was one of the two losses as Pittsburgh dropped the game 35-32.
Prior to that loss in 2014 following the bye, Mike Tomlin coached his team to six straight wins after the bye week snapping a one-game losing streak that began his rookie season in 2007. That year, the Steelers lost to Denver 31-28 on the road. Of the eight opponents Pittsburgh has faced, Denver has been in two of those games, and the others have been Cincinnati, Cleveland, the Jets, Saints , Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Only New Orleans and Denver have beaten the Steelers when they have come off their season break.
The NFL instituted the bye a week in 1990. At that time, Chuck Noll was nearing a the end of a his historic coaching career with the Steelers. In Pittsburgh’s first-ever game following a bye week in 1990, Noll’s team lost to the Bengals 27-3. The following season, Pittsburgh defeats the Colts 21-3.
When Chuck Noll retired in 1992, in came Bill Cowher who in the next 15 seasons would win seven of the 14 games played. A .500 record with no post-break game played in 2001 because of the late start to end season because of the 911 tragedy. Cowher’s Steelers never had a streak of more than two wins or two losses from 1992-2006.
This season, the Steelers will return to action in Seattle with a historical record of 14-10 powers by Tomlin’s eight victories. Pittsburgh is coming off another victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns, the beating their division rivals two Sundays ago 30-9 to raise their 2015 record to 6-4.
The buzz in Pittsburgh and around Steelers Nation following the Browns game was why Ben Roethlisbergerd did not start the game. When Landry Jones went down with an ankle injury, Big Ben stepped in and played like he had not lost a step. Had the mishap to Jones not happened, it’s a wonder if Roethlisberger would not have played at all.
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That seems to be the case but the question centers around the fact that he was obviously healthy enough to play a near complete game so why not start the game? Regardless of that mini controversy, there probably isn’t a Black and Gold fan anywhere that will complain about Roethlisberger finishing what Jones started. In the end, Big Ben had a huge game highlighted by some big plays.
The highlight reel of that game had to be Antonio Brown‘s 56-yard catch and run that ended with a full flip into the end zone that saw Brown land perfectly on his feet. Roethlisberger was not pleased but only because he felt it was risking injury making such a move. But the fans loved it. ESPN loved it. It even made NFL Network’s top 10 plays of the week. Obviously, the flip and the stats will help in grading the Steelers victory over Cleveland.
Quarterback: With such little time spent on the field, it doesn’t make sense to grade Landry Jones’ performance. Ben Roethlisberger on the other hand added 379 yards passing to his season’s total with three touchdown tosses and just one sack. His ankle injury did not seem to hinder his success. A.
Running Back: Expected to be able to run on Cleveland’s poor defense, a very slow start finished with DeAngelo Williams rushing for 54 yards and the backfield added eight more from Jordan Todman. D.
Wide receivers: The combination of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant proved lethal with 16 receptions and 317 yards receiving between the two. Oh yes, three touchdowns to boot. A+.
Offensive line: Good job protecting the quarterback, not such a good job helping establish the running game. C+.
Kicker: Another great day for Chris Boswell. A+.
Defensive line: Solid pressure on Manziel. Fantastic job shutting down the run. A+.
Linebackers: Backed up the defensive line superbly. Great run support. A+.
Safeties: Combined with the cornerbacks, surrendering 372 yards passing to Johnny Manziel can never be a good thing. Will Allen continues to play very well as does Mike Mitchell. But there is a definite need for tighter coverage. C-.
Cornerbacks: Good run support but same analysis as the safeties. D+.
Punter: Jordan Berry had an easy day. One punt. It went for 42 yards, so this grade is somewhat complete. A.
Coaching: When your team is scoring in high numbers and the defense isn’t allowing big plays or the opposing team to get into the end zone, there isnt much need for coaching. B+.
Intangibles: in a game where the Steelers had no business losing, there was no fear of playing down to a lesser opponent. Pittsburgh dominated and won a game they should have won. A+.
Overall grade: A great way to enter the bye week. Solid performance by the offense, although the running game could have been better. The secondary still needs work. That seems like a never ending project. But the end result nullifies any criticism. A+.