Pittsburgh Steelers' Individual Grades for Week 1 Loss to Titans
That photo sums up the day the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans had on Sunday. In short, it was painful to watch.
Not only was it possibly the worst offensive performance they have put up in the last 40 years, but they also lost three players, including center Maurkice Pouncey for the season with injuries.
It was a disastrous start to the season, to say the least.
The Tennessee Titans marched into Pittsburgh and handed the Steelers a 16-9 loss on Sunday, their first defeat in a home opener in their last 10 seasons. Pittsburgh played well defensively but never got the offense rolling and turned the ball over twice.
Let's check out how each individual position graded out in the Week 1 loss.
All things considered, Ben Roethlisberger played a good game for the Steelers on Sunday. He was 21-of-33 passing for 191 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
Unfortunately, those numbers don't speak to the absolute beating he took behind his offensive line.
He was sacked five times on Sunday and wasn't able to show off his patented escapability due to the overwhelming Titans forces constantly standing in the backfield. He was hit or pressured on nearly every pass attempt.
Despite his line, he did manage to lead the Steelers on a late drive to pull within a touchdown. But it was too late at that point. Big Ben and his receivers were on the same page, and given proper time, the pass game can be effective this year. But that time is not a given.
Pittsburgh will have to protect its quarterback better if it wants to keep him upright for 16 games.
Ben Roethlisberger: B+
He fared well despite constant pressure. He looked sharp and on target pretty much all game.
Running Backs: Incomplete
I can't in good conscience give the Steelers running back corps a grade considering how poorly the offensive line played in front of them. Therefore, they're getting an "incomplete" for Week 1.
Both LaRod Stephens-Howling and Isaac Redman ran hard in the game, but there were no holes to be found. As a result, Pittsburgh rushed for a whopping 32 yards as a team on Sunday.
Redman did fumble twice, including one that ended a promising drive in the Titans end zone. He was benched for the remainder of the first half before returning in the second.
Steelers fans are clamoring to see rookie Le'Veon Bell get on the field. But behind this offensive line, there's not much any back in this league could do. It's not fair to grade the Steelers backs without giving them a fair chance first.
Isaac Redman: D
He may not be able to control the running lanes, but he can control his two fumbles. He ran hard in the second half and made some room where there was none, however.
LaRod Stephens-Howling: C-
He tried, so there's that. Unfortunately, his season appears to be over after suffering a torn ACL.
Wide Receivers: A-
There had been a lot of questions facing this Steelers' receiving corps heading into the 2013 season, and they did a solid job of answering them on Sunday.
Pittsburgh's receivers stepped up their game and hauled in 16 of Roethlisberger's 21 completions on the afternoon. Emmanuel Sanders led the team with seven receptions on 12 targets, while Antonio Brown had a game-high 71 receiving yards.
The receivers were one of the lone bright spots for Pittsburgh on Sunday, and despite the loss of Mike Wallace in free agency, they looked like playmakers. There will still be questions about this team's ability to strike down the field, but on intermediate crossing routes, there might not be a better unit in the NFL.
Antonio Brown: A
He caught five of the seven balls thrown his way and led the team in yards. He showed good separation and may be developing into a true No. 1 receiver.
Emmanuel Sanders: B-
He did a great job of getting open, and Big Ben was clearly looking for him. He had a few balls go right through his hands, however. He needs to catch the ball more consistently.
Jerricho Cotchery: A
The only other Steelers receiver to catch a pass, Cotchery was a third-down machine, picking up three and a touchdown on his four catches. He may again become a relevant pass-catcher in 2013.
Tight Ends: F
Boy, do the Steelers miss Heath Miller already.
Pittsburgh got almost no production (one catch, 11 yards) from the tight end position in the receiving game, and the tight ends were a wash when run blocking.
Pittsburgh will have to survive a little longer with David Paulson and David Johnson shouldering the load until Miller gets healthy. The team may try to incorporate more of fullback Will Johnson in the tight end role given how poorly they played.
David Paulson: F
To be completely honest, I wasn't even sure if he played. He had zero impact on the game.
David Johnson: D
He caught the only pass for a Steelers tight end. It's all about those silver linings.
Offensive Line: F
The Steelers have had a bad offensive line for years now. On Sunday against Tennessee, they hit rock bottom.
Not only did they look outmatched physically, they couldn't even pick up simple crossing stunts. That's the kind of stuff that kids learn in pee-wee football. The cherry on the sundae was guard David DeCastro absolutely burying his helmet into Maurkice Pouncey's knee, virtually ending his season.
The writing was on the wall all preseason long as this unit could barely block other team's second and third stringers. Yet, the Steelers stood with the status quo.
Big changes need to be coming for Pittsburgh's offensive front. If not, kiss this season goodbye.
Mike Adams: D
He has no business on the left side in the NFL, but the Steelers are determined to play him there. He wasn't the worst of the bunch on Sunday.
David DeCastro: D
I was very tempted to give him an "F" solely for his boneheaded play that ended Pouncey's season, but he was the team's best blocker.
Ramon Foster: F
Overmatched, confused, blown by. It was an awful, awful, awful day for Foster.
Marcus Gilbert: F
I really just don't think he gets it. He could be the first offensive lineman headed to the bench.
Kelvin Beachum: C-
All things considered, the backup tackle, guard and tight end didn't fare too poorly in his first game at center.
Defensive Line: B+
Defensively, the Steelers played a darn good game as a whole. That all started up front.
Tennessee ran the ball 42 times with Pittsburgh's defense holding the Titans offense to a pedestrian 2.7 yards per carry. It was not a bad day for the big uglies in the trenches.
If Week 1 is any indication of this season, the Steelers are going to need their defense to keep them in a lot of games. The only gripe with the defense line is it could have had a better push on passing downs, but that's nit-picking.
Ziggy Hood: B
I've been as hard as anybody on Hood, but he played a good game on Sunday. He was very stout against the run.
Brett Keisel: B+
Racking up six tackles from a 3-4 end position is no small task. It was another good outing for the aging veteran.
Steve McLendon: A
Racking up six tackles from a 3-4 nose position is even harder. McLendon was all over the field on Sunday. He continues to impress me every week.
Al Woods: B
He had a solid day in the rotation and even made a tackle about eight yards down the field.
Pittsburgh's linebacker corps came out and performed on Sunday, both against the run and pass.
LaMarr Woodley was again the team's best pass-rusher, recording his 53rd career sack to end the first quarter. He was a constant fixture in Locker's face.
Rookie Jarvis Jones supplied some big plays as well, nearly knocking the helmet off Chris Johnson's head in the backfield.
On the inside, both Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote continued to do the dirty work, piling up a combined 13 tackles. Unfortunately, Foote suffered a ruptured biceps and will miss the rest of the season.
The Steelers looked solid at linebacker on Sunday, but they'll have to find a way to replace Foote in the middle. That won't be an easy task.
LaMarr Woodley: A-
He looked to be back in shape and brought in the Steelers' only sack. He needs to get back to his Pro Bowl form for the Steelers to be successful this year.
Jarvis Jones: B+
He was used surprisingly infrequently in the pass rush but made impacts on the field. He finished the day with three tackles, two for a loss.
Jason Worilds: D
I saw him get washed out of the play multiple times on Sunday. It's time for head coach Mike Tomlin to cut the cord on this experiment.
Lawrence Timmons: B
It was another solid effort for Timmons inside, but he has a big workload ahead of him with Foote gone.
Defensive Backs: A-
The Steelers secondary was on point on Sunday, holding the Titans to 117 yards passing on just 11 of their 20 attempts.
Safety Troy Polamalu looked to be back to form as he was all over the field and was constantly around the ball. He picked up six tackles including a line leap in which he brought Jake Locker down in the backfield.
Ryan Clark led the Steelers with a whopping 13 tackles on Sunday, while Ike Taylor had a solid game shutting down Kenny Britt. Cortez Allen left the game with an injury, and William Gay replaced him in the lineup.
In all fairness, Tennessee's passing attack is nothing to write home about. But the secondary did its job and did it well. Again, if I'm nit-picking, the defensive backs could have done a little better on third downs. Tennessee converted six during the game.
Troy Polamalu: A-
He looked young and spry again on Sunday, making some big plays. If he continues that trend, the turnovers will follow.
Ryan Clark: A
He may have had the best day of any Steeler, and all while getting hurt twice during the game.
Ike Taylor: B+
He held Kenny Britt to just one catch and was relatively silent all afternoon. That's the way he likes it.
William Gay: B-
He was not a starter but filled in well for Allen. He had two pass deflections in the game.