The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 2-6 with their Sunday loss to the New England Patriots, and they did so in a rather ugly fashion. While the Steelers offense tried valiantly to keep their team in the game, the defense surrendered over 600 yards of offense and a franchise record 55 points.
Grades this week are a stark contrast. Some players were outstanding. Even against insurmountable odds, they never stopped playing and gave the Patriots all they wanted. Then, you have the group who comes and goes. And it’s really this inconsistency that is killing this team.
Even from one drive to the next, it was impossible to say how players would perform. And, of course, there is that bottom group, who consistently underwhelmed, with Sunday being no exception
So, with all that, here is the latest round of roster grades for this sinking ship.
All stats provided by ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Roethlisberger was masterful once again in a losing effort.When you are an elite quarterback, it's expected that you never make a mistake. However, that isn't how things work. It's all about making big plays and elevating the play of your teammates. And Roethlisberger excels in both areas.
Roethlisberger is elite and was again on Sunday, because, in spite of inconsistent play from his wide receivers and abysmal play from his offensive line, he still found a way to put up 31 points and 400 passing yards.
Le'Veon Bell: B
Again, it is hard to judge the play of a skill player solely on statistics when the offensive line is that bad. On Sunday, Bell did a very nice job finding creases when the line provided them and showed a nice burst in the open field. He might try and get too clever at times, but this is something he can learn and develop.
Bell finished with 139 yards of offense, but he failed to find the end zone. Fans are critical of Bell because he hasn't gotten off to the blazing start they expected, but I see improvement in his game every week, and the sky really is the limit.
Jerricho Cotchery: A
It didn't take long to realize that Roethlisberger was going to look to Cotchery in the red zone and Cotchery was going to come through for him. This hasn't been the case all season, but on Sunday, Cotchery was the man.
Cotchery finished with 96 yards on only seven catches, three of which went for touchdowns.
Antonio Brown: B+
Brown has been the principal target thus far this season. Today, he got a little lost in all the passes going around. Brown still finished with 71 yards on five catches, bringing his season total to 61 catches, and he remains on pace for around 120 catches for the season.
Emmanuel Sanders: C-
Even with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown, it was the things Sanders didn't do that got the attention. Again, Sanders displayed his softer side by not extending and making a contested catch that should have been made. Sanders was also guilty of cutting off his routes early and forcing errant throws.
Heath Miller: B-
This week, Miller didn't look 100 percent healthy. He seemed a little slow off the line and in and out of his breaks, which meant he struggled to get open in the time Roethlisberger had. Miller still finished with 43 yards on four catches, but for some reason, Roethlisberger didn't seem to be looking his way.
Offensive Line: F
Rather than break down each of the individual performances of this unit, I will keep things simple. This group gets an F. I understand that this group has been decimated with injuries, but this was a unit going against a Patriots front that was beat up as well.
However, on Sunday, this group failed to hold the line in pass protection, allowing five sacks and seven hits, and it struggled all game to create holes for the Steelers backs to run through. This group looked like extras from The Walking Dead for much of the game, and there is no relief in sight.
Cameron Heyward, Defensive End: B+
Heyward has put together two convincing performances in a row, and he seems to have turned the corner on his game. On Sunday, Heyward did a very good job filling on run plays and showed excellent athleticism when rushing the passer. Overall, Heyward was probably the best defensive player on the field for the Steelers on Sunday.
Brett Keisel, defensive end: C
Keisel had his moments, but overall, his game was very average. As the game progressed, Keisel looked gassed, and the Patriots just kept pounding the football. There wasn't anything he could do about it.
Steve McLendon, Defensive Tackle: C
Again, an average performance from a pretty middling player. That's not to say McLendon didn't do some nice things, because he did, but he also started to wear down and got overwhelmed as the game went on.
Lawrence Timmons: C+
If all you saw was the box score, you would have thought Timmons was a star on Sunday. Timmons finished the game with 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and had a great hit on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Nonetheless, on a day where the opposition put up 55 points and over 600 yards of offense, it's more about the plays he didn't make.
Jason Worilds: A-
Worilds certainly made the most of his starting spot on Sunday. Worilds was far and away the team's best linebacker on this day, finishing with five tackles and two sacks. If Worilds can continue to play this well, rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones might not see much of the field going forward.
LaMarr Woodley: B
Woodley has been enjoying a resurgence this season, and it continued to a degree on Sunday. While Woodley didn't get a sack, he was involved in multiple plays where he was just so close to several. Overall, Woodley's game was above average in all facets.
As a quick summary before I give out individual grades, this secondary was miserable. Not as bad as the offensive line, but very close. Even when the front seven found a way to get pressure, Brady was able to find an open receiver and deliver the football.
Ike Taylor: C-
Taylor did a passable job in coverage, but it wasn't the level of play that fans have come to expect.
William Gay: D
Gay looked lost on several plays, allowing receivers to make catches in front of him and failing to secure the tackle
Cortez Allen: Incomplete
Allen's play needs further review, but it appeared he did a better job of locking down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as the game went on. Allen didn't cover Gronk early in the game, and it really showed.
Not a great effort by the great safety. Untimely penalties and missed assignments marred his production greatly. I respect Polamalu's game and why he plays the way he does, but on Sunday, he let his front seven down.
Ryan Clark: F
Clark continues to be the weak link in a very mediocre unit. This week, he dropped sure interceptions, allowed long plays from missed coverages or lack of athleticism and just keeps showing his wear more and more this year.
Shamarko Thomas: C
Thomas was put in a terrible position, as he was asked to cover Gronkowski for a decent chunk of the game. This is a physical mismatch Thomas could not deal with. Nevertheless, overall, Thomas didn't have a bad game. Going forward, I would really like to see him more involved in the defense as a safety.
Shaun Suisham, Kicker: A
Suisham got back on track this week after a brutal Week 8 performance. Suisham hit his only field goal try and all four of his extra points he attempted.
Mat McBriar, Punter: B+
McBriar made his Steelers debut on Sunday and did well. He had three punts for a 46.7 yard average.