Steelers vs. Jets: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Pittsburgh
It is always better to hand out postgame grades after a win. And for the Pittsburgh Steelers, this day has been far too long in coming. The Steelers squeaked out a 19-6 win over the New York Jets, and they did it on a very balanced effort in all three phases of the game.
So let's hand out some grades for the Steelers win over the Jets.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.
Once again, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was spot on. It wasn't about overpowering stats or huge fantasy numbers. It was more of a series of tactical strikes against a talented Jets defense.
It is clear that Roethlisberger is doing his best to work within the game plan offensive coordinator Todd Haley is putting together. However, at times you can see the gunslinger in Roethlisberger come out.
And on Sunday, that's where almost all of his best throws came.
It's also important to note that while Roethlisberger threw for only one touchdown, he didn't turn the football over, and that was a huge tipping point in this win.
Running Backs: C+
The Steelers did a solid job of committing to the running game, posting the highest number of carries all season. The yardage wasn't anything great; it was more about the fact that the Steelers stuck with the ground game even during stretches when it wasn't working.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell again showed some flashes of the speed and agility that prompted the Steelers to draft him in the second round. The offensive line gave him very few lanes to run through, but he made the most of his limited opportunities.
Wide Receivers: A
Brown might not be able to maintain this sort of pace for the entire season, but it won't be a shock if he approaches 100 receptions by the end of the year.
The only other Steeler wide receiver with a catch was Emmanuel Sanders, who again flashed his speed when he got behind the Jets secondary for the lone touchdown of the game.
Brown and Sanders make a dynamic one-two punch.
Tight Ends: B+
How great is Heath Miller?
This entire offense has improved with his return. His six-reception, 84-yard performance has all but cemented him as the second-best pass-catcher on the team.
The rest of the Steelers' tight ends got the weekend off. They either didn't get on the field, or when they were on the field, they had no impact at all. This team needs to address the position this offseason, because Miller can't play forever.
Offensive Line: C-
What started off as a potential nightmare turned out to be very serviceable.
Just minutes before the start of the game, the TV announcers let everyone know that newly acquired offensive tackle Levi Brown injured his triceps and would not play.
This forced backup lineman Kelvin Beachum into duty as the starting left tackle and essentially drained the unit of any real depth.
And while this unit won't win any awards for how it blocked—giving up four sacks and failing to produce 100 yards rushing—things could have been much worse.
The Jets' defensive front is huge and talented, and a completely overmatched Steelers offensive line did just enough to win this game.
For that they get high marks from me.
Defensive Line: B-
This unit was carried on the strength of defensive ends Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. All three did a very good job of clogging up running lanes and pushing the pocket enough on passing plays to disorient rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
Even nose tackle Steve McLendon gets a solid grade this week. A nose tackle's presence should be felt not in the box score but in the kinds of plays his teammates are able to make around him.
That's what McLendon did on Sunday.
Of all the units who played well on Sunday, the Steelers linebackers get the gold star.
Pittsburgh rotated five linebackers, and all of them did their jobs well.
On the outside, the trio of Jarvis Jones, LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds harassed Geno Smith to the tune of two sacks and four hits. The Jets' offensive line struggled all game to handle them.
Nonetheless, the stars were on the inside. The Steelers have a great duo of former Florida State linebackers in Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams. Both of them were very disruptive against New York—Williams primarily in the running game and Timmons in both phases.
Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark had solid games.
Polamalu was once again utilized more in and around the line of scrimmage. Polamalu is healthy this year, and even if he has lost a step, he is still better than most DBs when it comes to making plays.
Clark was used in deep coverage, and not only did he get a key interception, he did a much better job filling in run support. There were still lapses in coverage that must be addressed, but Sunday was a bit of a bounce-back game for Clark.
Overall, this group didn't have a great day, but when your front seven plays this well, a lot can be forgiven.
The Jets don't have tremendous weapons in the passing game, but the Steelers still left far too many New York receivers open.
Fortunately, Smith was unable to get them the football, so the net result fell in Pittsburgh's favor.
Special Teams: A
Sunday was a solid performance for the Steelers' kickers and punters. Placekicker Shaun Suisham was perfect again with four more field goals and an extra point, and punter Zoltan Mesko was much improved this week.
Mesko had six punts on the day with a solid 45.5 yard average. Likewise, coverage teams were solid in not allowing the field-position advantage to swing in the Jets favor.
Return teams didn't get much work this week, but overall, their performances were decent. Highlights included an 11-yard punt return by Antonio Brown and a 23-yard kickoff return by Felix Jones.