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.


    Players Under the Most Pressure at Minicamp

    Pittsburgh Steelers logo
    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Players Under the Most Pressure at Minicamp

    Maurice Moton
    via Bleacher Report

    Brett Favre Looking to End Youth Tackle Football

    NFL logo

    Brett Favre Looking to End Youth Tackle Football

    Green Bay Packers
    via Green Bay Packers

    Report: Winston Was Alone with Uber Driver

    NFL logo

    Report: Winston Was Alone with Uber Driver

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Gene Steratore to Join CBS as Rules Analyst

    NFL logo

    Report: Gene Steratore to Join CBS as Rules Analyst

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report