Steelers: Harv’s week 13 review and grades


The Steelers defeated the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Here’s how it all happened. 

If the Pittsburgh Steelers could play the Indianapolis Colts 16 times per season, perhaps they would never lose a game. For two straight seasons the Steelers have scored a total of 96 points against the Colts.

In both games, Ben Roethlisberger finished with big-time numbers. The latest victory was a 45-10 smashing of Indianapolis on Sunday night.

In 2014, Big Ben threw six touchdown passes and finished with over 500 yards passing. In week 13’s huge win, Roethlisberger tallied 364 yards in the air, four touchdown passes, and was not sacked once. He also completed the game without throwing an interception.

Antonio Brown not only went for over 100 yards receiving with 118, he provided the highlight reel moment of the night when he returned a punt 71 yards to the house. The finish of that touchdown romp was what put him in the spotlight.

Upon reaching the end zone, Brown leaped up as though he was going to hug the goal post only to bounce off onto his back. It was a hilarious moment that brought a penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

That in itself was ridiculous. The NFL seems to want to take the fun out of the game. The Steelers are not alone in having the yellow flags thrown at them for this violation but some just seem unjustified. The flag is often thrown for what the referees deem “taunting” such as back in the game against the Bengals when Mike Mitchell had a few words for a defender and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

For the Steelers, the win pushed them to a record of 7-5. They trail the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs for the two wild card spots. Despite having identical records, those two teams hold the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh.

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be on the outside looking in. That would be unfortunate because the Steelers’ offense is perhaps the most explosive and productive in the NFL and can compete with any team in the league. In the end, the Steelers may be the best team NOT to make the playoffs. 

The Steelers will have to focus on themselves and then hope for some assistance from the teams playing Kansas City and the New York Jets.

The Chiefs are riding a six game winning streak and close their show with two straight road games in San Diego and Baltimore. They then finish up with the Browns and Raiders. For the Jets, it will be the Titans at home, Cowboys on the road, then off to New England and finishing with the Bills at home.

It is probably safer to say that the Jets will slip up as opposed to Kansas City. Keep in mind that the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans are just behind Pittsburgh at 6-6.

Having lost to Seattle, Pittsburgh came out last Sunday with one of their finest offensive performances of 2015. The Steelers finished with 522 yards of total offense and 24 first downs to Indy’s 11.

With 134 yards rushing, DeAngelo Williams had another great day at the office. One can only imagine what the Steelers would have done with Kelvin Beachum, Le’Veon Bell and Maurkice Pouncey at full strength.

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With yet another successful two-point conversion, Pittsburgh now holds the record for most conversions made in a single season. The old record was held by the 1994 Miami Dolphins and the 1997 Minnesota Vikings who each converted six. The Steelers now have seven.

It’s always a joy to grade a team when they have put on a performance as how the Steelers did last Sunday at Heinz Field. It always begins with the offense and first up is the signal caller.

Quarterback: Could there be any other grade for the show Ben Roethlisberger put on last Sunday? A+.

Running backs: The night pretty much belonged to DeAngelo Williams who made the most of his carries rushing for over 100 yards. It’s not croissant but “Toussaint.” Fitzgerald Toussaint saw his first action on the field for the Steelers and picked up 12 yards on four carries. A.

Wide Receivers: Next to Antonio Brown’s eight receptions, DeAngelo Williams had the second most catches out of the backfield. But Pittsburgh’s “Killer B’s,” Ben, Brown, and Bryant, combined to provide plenty of damage to Indianapolis’s secondary. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant combined for 12 catches for 232 yards while the wheat portion of the trio of receivers for Pittsburgh. Markus Wheaton also added three more receptions for an additional 50 yards. A+.

Tight end: With Heath Miller sidelined with bruised ribs, Rookie Jesse James got the start and played well. He had three catches for 30 yards and showed more signs suggesting that he is here to stay. B+.

Offensive line: Solid pass protection, creating holes for DeAngelo Williams to get through to the next level. Alejandro Vilanueva had another outstanding performance and was much talked about by the TV crew regarding his size and amazing military background. A+.

Kicker: There must be other Steelers fans who like me are now enamoured with the youngster Chris Boswell. Sure he missed one field goal attempt facing the Colts, but to this point in the season he has made 20 field goals, 15 PATs, and has a long of 51 yards. His attempts are almost always right down the middle and he shows a strong leg. You have to love that. A.

Defensive line: With five sacks on the day, the pressure on Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst was excellent. Pittsburgh’s front three continues to get better each week. A.

Linbackers: That James Harrison is something else. He may not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, but he has proven that he is one of the best veteran linebackers in the NFL. He had six tackles and three sacks on his own last Sunday. Simply amazing. Kudos also to Vince Williams for a fine performance in relief. The speed factor for the Steelers’ backers was on full display with Ryan Shazier and rookie Bud Dupree. A+.

Safeties: A much better game from the week before not just for the safety men but the cornerbacks. Nothing  outstanding, but very good containment. B+.

Cornerbacks: Often the focal point of criticism, the corners in this game allowed just 186 yards of passing. They were not facing what some might deem franchise quarterbacks, but they did prevent any big plays. B+.

Punter: When your team is putting a 45 spot on the scoreboard, there won’t be many opportunities to punt. That was the case at Heinz Field with Jordan Berry booting the ball just once. It was for only 37 yards. C.

Special teams: In the past I have not included a grade of the special teams, but this week, it’s unavoidable. That’s because of how newcomer Jacoby Jones played at Heinz Field. He drew boos after fumbling punts twice, one proving costly. Now he has been demoted to third string on the return team with Antonio Brown assuming the top spot. That makes sense based on Brown’s return for six.

“I think the depth chart clearly reflects that he’s a backup this week,” Tomlin said of the demotion (via “We’ll proceed with that in mind as we prepare. We’ll get Markus Wheaton ready to return kicks and Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton as punt returners and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Only Brown’s touchdown prevents this unit from a failing grade. C.

Coaching: As it is in any blowout, there isn’t much need for tough decisions. This game was all about the offense and those guys just playing their game, and the defense continually providing containment. A.

Intangibles: Pittsburgh knew they had the Colts number and last year’s big win would be in the opposition’s heads. The Steelers simply did what they do best which is march up and down the field on offense and be aggressive on defense. A+.

Overall grade: Perhaps the best played game by the Steelers all season. If this team fails to make the playoffs it will be a shame because the NFL post season would be less exciting without the weaponry of the Steelers offense which showed the world what they can do last Sunday night.

Next: Jacoby Jones demoted to third string punter

Stellar performance except that of JJ (Jacoby Jones). A.