Steelers Report Card: Preseason Debut Shows New Kids Can Play

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIAugust 14, 2009

PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 13:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs against the the Arizona Cardinals during the preseason NFL game at Heinz Field on August 13, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers won 20-10.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

If there’s anything to be taken out of the Steelers pre-season opener on Thursday night, it’s that their most recent draft is likely to turn out a heckuva lot better than the one of the year before.

While second-year players Dennis Dixon and Rashard Mendenhall struggled to find themselves in an otherwise uneventful 20-10 victory against the Arizona Cardinals at Heinz Field, rookies Joe Burnett, Ra’Shon Harris, Ziggy Hood, and Mike Wallace made good first impressions.

The grades:

Offense starters

QB Ben Roethlisberger: C

Flashed old form to avoid safety, but took few shots downfield.

RB Rashard Mendenhall: D

Gained 24 yards in nine carries, but didn’t run over or around anyone.

WR Santonio Holmes: D

The guy had done enough to the Cardinals this year already.

WR Hines Ward: C

Caught two balls for 19 yards.

WR Linas Sweed: B

Make a pair of impressive catches to atone for a drop later in game.

TE Heath Miller: C

Had one ball thrown his way in conservative game plan.

C Doug Legursky: C

Held his own in place of Justin Hartwig in middle.

G Chris Kemoetu: B

Most effective run-blocker in a fairly average bunch on this night.  

G Trai Essex: C

In place of Darnell Stapleton, did nothing to hurt bid for starter role.

T Willie Colon: D

Like old times—flagged for illegal formation penalty in first period.

T Max Starks: C

Good in pass protection, not so good in run game.

PK Jeff Reed: A

Booted 50-yard field goal in only try, spared towel dispensers.

KR Mike Wallace: B

Was his 35-yard return a shape of things to come?


Defense starters

DE Travis Kirschke: B

Replaced Brett Keisel; played strong at point of attack.

NT Casey Hampton: C

Easily moved out of position on draw play.  

DE Aaron Smith: B

Anchored line that allowed 70 yards in 16 tries on ground.

LB James Farrior: C

Veteran failed to record a tackle, but there was no need to push it yet.

LB James Harrison: A

Three tackles, one vicious takedown—and it’s only preseason.

LB Lawrence Timmons: D

Out of position on one pass play, late to line up before another.

LB LaMarr Woodley: B

Turned in solid two-way effort with one tackle, one sack.

CB William Gay: D

Tested early and often, he struggled against short routes.

CB Ike Taylor: A

Barely broke a sweat while Cardinals went other way.

S Ryan Clark: B

Typical performance—no highlights, but few mistakes.

S Troy Polamalu: B

Showed some different looks, broke up a potential big play.

P Daniel Sepulveda: A

Averaged 49.6 yard on five tries. Look Pittsburgh, an NFL punter!    

PR Joe Burnett: F

Was quick and decisive, but fumble negated positives.

Selected reserves

CB Joe Burnett: A

Flashed ability as playmaker with interception, 43-yard return.

S Tyrone Carter: D

Slow to react on pass plays, but tackled well in space.    

LB Bruce Davis: B

Made much-needed impression with one tackle, one interception.   

QB Dennis Dixon: C

Lacked touch, accuracy early, but found rhythm in fourth period.

G Ramon Foster: B

Rookie provided consistent push at left side, earned closer look.

DE Ra’shon Harris: B

Sixth-rounder had one tackle and half a sack.  

DE Ziggy Hood: B

First-rounder showed veteran poise, recorded first career sack.

CB Keiwan Ratliff: C

Shaky pass coverage overshadowed six tackles, one sack.

RB Isaac Redman: B

Undrafted free agent scored on five and three-yard runs.

RB Justin Vincent: D

Rookie did little to open eyes—nine carries, 26 yards.  

WR Mike Wallace: B

Burner had impressive debut with pair of catches, 35 yards, no drops.

LB Donovan Woods: B

Provided physical presence with three tackles, two assists.