Steelers vs. Ravens: Final Positional Grades for Pittsburgh

Dan SnyderCorrespondent INovember 18, 2012

Steelers vs. Ravens: Final Positional Grades for Pittsburgh

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    For one reason or another, this year's Steelers/Ravens matchup didn't seem to have the same allure as the games in years past.

    Boy how wrong that statement was.

    In another classic, defensive battle, it was the Ravens who topped the Steelers 13-10, mostly due to their special teams dominance. Two Steeler turnovers contributed, but at the end of the day, this brawl went Baltimore's way for the third straight time now.

    So let's check out the final game grades for the Steelers at each position.  

Quarterbacks -- D

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    The only thing that may have been worse than the Steelers uniforms on Sunday night was their quarterback. 

    Byron Leftwich may have been a first round pick, but there's a reason this guy hasn't won a football game since 2006. Leftwich had plenty of opportunities and started the game off very well with a 31-yard touchdown scamper, but failed to hit open receivers and looked lost on the field at times. 

    He finished the game hitting 18 of his 39 pass attempts for 201 yards and a really poor interception. 

    The Steelers offense sputtered pretty much all night long and a lot of that had to do with their inability to throw the football. Pittsburgh's coaching staff will have to look long and hard at this tape because they may want to give Charlie Batch a look in practice this week. 

    With Leftwich running the show, the Steelers have a slim chance of winning. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Byron Leftwich: D

    - Leftwich gets a D because he did score the only offensive touchdown for the Steelers. He might also be the reason they only had one. 

Running Backs -- B

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    Coming into this matchup with the 27th ranked rush defense in the NFL, we expected that the Steelers would become a little run-heavy in an attempt to expose the Ravens banged up front. 

    The ended up with 27 total runs and 39 passes. I would have liked to see a lot more runs, considering they moved the ball pretty well on the ground. 

    As a team, the Steelers rushed for 134 yards and averaged 5 yards per carry, but they seemed to get away from the ground attack too early on drives and put the ball in Byron Leftwich's hands. 

    Jonathan Dwyer may have solidified his spot as the go-to back for the Steelers. He led the way with 12 carries for 55 yards and pounded away for extra yards after contact. He played so well, it prompted Al Michaels to compare him to Steelers legend Jerome Bettis. 

    Mendenhall returned to action, but you may not have really noticed. He ran the ball 11 times but managed only 33 yards. Isaac Redman and Baron Batch each carried once and both left with injuries. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Jonathan Dwyer: A

    - Clearly been the best back the team has and should draw the start from here on out. 

    Rashard Mendenhall: C-

    - Had a few nice runs, but got caught up too much at the line of scrimmage and couldn't break through. 

Wide Receivers -- C+

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    A lot of the lack of production by the wide receivers can be attributed to the lackluster play of Byron Leftwich, but the unit had their own struggles on Sunday night. 

    Against a secondary that is as banged up as any in the league, Mike Wallace could barely find any room to operate. He also added a major fumble in the 1st quarter that basically gave the Ravens a field goal. 

    Emmanuel Sanders managed to find a lot of room down the field and drew a big helmet-to-helmet call on Ed Reed that moved Pittsburgh into scoring range. Jerricho Cotchery had two catches before leaving the game after a big hit by Bernard Pollard. 

    Like I said, a lot of what the Steelers receivers could do was limited to the quarterback. The receivers managed to get open a lot in the Baltimore secondary and, had Ben Roethlisberger been in this game, they could have had a field day. 

    A lot of this cannot be attributed to the receiving corps. 

    Notable individual Grades

    Mike Wallace: C+

    - Seemed to get open a lot in this game but Leftwich couldn't get him the ball. Fumble really hurt.

    Emmanuel Sanders: B+

    - Best pass-catcher of the day for the Steelers worked well down the field.

Tight Ends -- B

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    It was a quiet night for Heath Miller and the rest of the Steeler tight ends. 

    Miller was held in to block a lot throughout the game and managed to haul in just 2 passes for 22 yards. Even down in the redzone, Leftwich didn't glance his way. 

    Miller was great in blocking and even held up Terrell Suggs long enough for Leftwich to get the ball down the field, but you would have loved to see more production in the passing game. Leftwich needs to find his tight ends, especially if he'll be without Brown and Cotchery. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Heath Miller: B

    - Biggest impact came as a much-needed blocker. 

Offensive Line -- C-

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    A week after getting their starting quarterback knocked out of the game, it seemed like the Steelers line was determined to do the same to his backup. 

    Baltimore's pass rushers were all over Byron Leftwich in this game and forced what looked to be an early injury to his shoulder or ribs. The Ravens piled up 3 sacks on Leftwich and got in some really hard shots to top it off. 

    In the run game, however, the offensive line was an entirely different story. 

    The inside players for the Steelers moved the Ravens off the ball well and opened up some good lanes for Dwyer to push his way through. The Steelers continued to find success on the ground, going for over 130 yards. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Mike Adams: C-

    - Adams continues to be great on the ground and terrible when the Steelers pass. Got mowed over by Jarrett Johnson twice. 

    Willie Colon: B

    - Has been the team's best run blocker all season and continued that today. 

    Maurkice Pouncey: B+

    - No better pass protector for the Steelers. Blocked well for the backs too. 

Defensive Line -- A

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    The defensive line has been the weak link for the Steelers defense all season long. On Sunday night, they were tremendous. 

    The front three of the Steelers allowed Baltimore to run the ball for a total of 47 yards on the day and continually moved the offensive line off the ball. Brett Keisel continued his hot streak from last week and again got good penetration in the backfield. 

    The big story up front, however, may have been the rebirth of nose tackle Casey Hampton. Hampton was playing like the guy he was back in 2008 as he dominated Ravens center Matt Birk all night. 

    If the Steelers can get this kind of effort out of their defensive front every week, they're going to be a tough team to beat no matter who's playing quarterback. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Brett Keisel: A

    - A near-costly penalty at the end of the game could have brought him down, but he played one heck of a game. 

    Casey Hampton: A

    - Ray Rice had 40 yards on the ground. Casey Hampton was a big part of that. 

Linebackers -- A

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    It's about time we saw a sack dance from these two guys and boy were they on their game tonight. 

    Sunday night against the Ravens may have been the best game both LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison have played this season. Each outside linebacker recorded a sack and Woodley was instrumental in shutting down Ray Rice. 

    Inside, the backers were equally as good. 

    Lawrence Timmons continue to play well and finished with 9 total tackles while Larry Foote kept up his fantastic season. 

    The Steelers need this kind of play from their linebackers week in and week out. The linebacking corps is really what makes the zone-blitz defense work and without the pass rush, the defense falls apart. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    LaMarr Woodley: A+

    - Woodley played a near-perfect game against both the run and pass. Fans hope he can keep this up. 

    James Harrison: A-

    - Harrison got good pressure late in the game and scored his first sack in weeks. 

    Lawrence Timmons: B+

    - Didn't make any outstanding plays, but was efficient and effective. 

Defensive Backs -- A+

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    I don't think the Steelers defensive backfield has played a better game against better passing weapons then they did tonight, especially cornerback Ike Taylor. 

    Taylor was lights out, holding Torrey Smith to just once catch in garbage time and didn't allow him to get even remotely close to the end zone. Smith had just 7 receiving yards on the night. 

    Smith wasn't the only guy held in check. Baltimore threw for just 164 yards in the entire game and Joe Flacco struggled to find open receivers in the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh needs more performances like this out of their defensive backs. If they get that, they'll almost surely walk away with a win. 

    Notable Individual Grades

    Ike Taylor: A+

    - Since the Tennessee game, he's been nearly flawless. 

    Keenan Lewis: B+

    - Struggled at times with Boldin, but didn't give up anything major. 

    Ryan Clark: A

    - Even after 2 concussions in 3 weeks, Clark is still playing at a Pro Bowl level. 

Special Teams -- D

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    I'm not sure if the special teams unit could have played any worse on Sunday night and it may have cost the Steelers a big win. 

    The only Ravens touchdown of the game came on a Jacoby Jones punt return in the first half. That play ended up being the difference in this game. 

    The Steelers had trouble covering kicks and punts all night and were awful in the return game as well. They need to upgrade there and fast. 

Coaching -- C-

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    The coaching was a tale of two different sides of the ball. 

    Defensively, the Steelers had the perfect scheme to shut down the Ravens offense. They held Ray Rice to 40 yards on 20 carries and rushed Joe Flacco pretty well all game long. Baltimore had trouble doing anything offensively and scored only 3 points on that side of the ball. 

    The offense, however, was a different story. The Steelers got away from the run too early and put the ball in Byron Leftwich's hands too much. 

    That's not good if you want to win. 

    Leftwich never looked settled and Todd Haley didn't adjust accordingly. If he's going to start next week, Haley has to run the ball.