Lions vs. Steelers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Pittsburgh
Oh, happy day for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I'm not sure how many people gave the Steelers a chance against the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions, but when you mix in what was some dreadful weather, the odds were long. Nevertheless, due to what can only be described as the epitome of halftime adjustments, the Steelers pulled off the win, 37-27.
As this season heads down the home stretch, the cream is starting to rise to the crop of this roster. No matter how this season ends, it's becoming more and more evident that there are some excellent pieces to work with for the future.
Let's get right to it. Time for some grades!
All Stats provided by ESPN.com.
I feel like I am running out of ways to describe how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays. So today, I'm going to use a made up word: ridnokulous.
Going 29-of-45 for 367 yards and four touchdowns while having no semblance of a running game and being under constant duress is remarkable. The Steelers coaches were wise to hand the offense over to Rothelisberger and allow him to use his unique skill set to move the football.
If there is an area of Roethlisberger's game that is underrated, it is his ability to extend the play with his feet, always looking downfield for a target. His wide receivers and backs understand this and never give up on the play.
It is unfair to hand out a grade to Bell based on his rushing performance on Sunday. The Steelers offensive line was completely overwhelmed by the Lions front, and aside from a single 13-yard run, Bell had absolutely nowhere to go.
Having said that, Bell runs hard and never gives up on the play, and he did chip in 52 receiving yards on four catches as well, so bonus points for that.
If this team can ever find a way to run-block against a good front, we will see much greater consistency from Bell.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
Brown put on a show again on Sunday. His speed and elusiveness were on full display, to the tune of seven catches, 147 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions worked hard to try and bracket Brown, throw him off his rhythm and not give him those creases to run through. Nevertheless, Brown was once again able to exploit a suspect secondary with his quickness.
Heath Miller, Tight End
It was a welcome return of Miller to the passing game. The Steelers flooded the middle of the field with players on Sunday, and this gave Miller the opportunity to sneak out into the short and intermediate flats, where Roethlisberger found him. The Steelers would do well to try to help Miller maintain this level of productivity for the remainder of the season.
Jerricho Cotchery, Wide Receiver
Cotchery once again found himself in the end zone on Sunday. The veteran wide receiver runs excellent routes and has shown himself to be the most physical of all the Steelers wide outs. He's not afraid to make the contested catch and has become a reliable safety valve for Roethlisberger, especially in the red zone.
Markus Wheaton, Wide Receiver
It was great to see Wheaton healthy and getting significant reps as the Steelers' third wide receiver on Sunday. With speed players like Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the team, it's hard to recognize just how fast Wheaton is at times. Nonetheless, on Sunday, he flashed the skills that the Steelers are hoping will make him a starter in the near future.
DeCastro is one of the best interior linemen in the league. You'd never know it, though, and that is mainly because he is surrounded by such poor play from his teammates. The task in front of DeCastro was great on Sunday—dealing with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley—but DeCastro more than held his own, even when the help he got wasn't really helping at all.
The rest of the Steelers offensive line gets a "C-" from me. I was going to give them an "F" for how poorly they run-blocked, but upon a second watch, their pass protection gives them a bit of a bump. This unit is becoming a much better pass-protecting line, as opposed to a run-blocking group, and they showed it on Sunday.
Cameron Heyward, Defensive End
The Houston Texans have the best 3-4 defensive end in the league with J.J. Watt. However, if you are making a list of the top ends behind him, Heyward is going to be near the top of the list. Much of what a player like Heyward does is about effort, which he has in spades. However, it's his athleticism that has wowed me. Heyward was able to go up and knock down two more passes this week, bringing his season total to five.
Again, I am going to lump the rest of the unit together here. The combination of Ziggy Hood and Steve McLendon played a ton of reps on Sunday, and at times, it showed. There were stretches of the game where the front looked tired, and the Lions run game exploited it. Nevertheless, as the game went on, they rallied, and Hood's sack late in the game sealed the win for the Steelers.
Worilds made the most of his opportunity on Sunday with a tremendous performance. He not only chipped in eight total tackles, but he also had a sack and hit quarterback Matthew Stafford four times. As an upcoming free agent, Worilds is making a case for a new contract with Sunday's game.
If you get bonus points for big plays, then Timmons' fumble recovery helps his grade here. After the strip by defensive tackle Steve McLendon, Timmons snatched up the ball and took off for 29 yards. This was the cap on what was another solid performance. Timmons only finished with five tackles, but it was his coverage, especially in the second half, that stood out.
Jones got the opportunity for significant reps on Sunday and responded with only two tackles. However, he did get two pass breakups, which are just as important as a sack when you are trying to get the football back. Jones is still letting himself get way too caught up in the wash on run plays, and he still hasn't figured out the best pass-rush technique. Overall, this game was a series of highs and lows for the rookie.
If all you did was read the box score for Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Taylor would get an "F." But Johnson's great first half wasn't all on Taylor, and in the second half, Taylor rallied and was part of a shutout on Johnson. The biggest gaff for Taylor in Sunday's game was that he dropped two certain interceptions, bringing his career total to somewhere close to infinity.
Troy Polamalu, Safety
If there is a visual from this game for Polamalu, it's probably getting steamrolled by Lions guard Larry Warford. However, while Polamalu had a quiet game, his good plays on Sunday outweighed the bad ones, for the most part. He is choosing to freelance to the detriment of the team at times, but with a player like him, you have to take the bad with the good.
Ryan Clark, Safety
I have been very critical of Clark this season. However, on Sunday, Clark had a pretty solid game. He finished with seven total tackles and recovered a fumble. Again, like the rest of the secondary, he had some lapses in the first half, which he corrected in the second half, helping balance out his grade.
Shaun Suisham, Kicker
Suisham was perfect once again, hitting all three of his field goal attempts and all four of his extra points.
Mat McBriar, Punter
McBriar had a very good day. He punted five times for an average of 43.8 yards, the highlight of which was a 70-yard punt that was in the air for more than 80 yards.