Steelers Report Card: Mixed Performance Leaves Questions

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIAugust 23, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 22:  Charlie Batch #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is hit by Cornelius Griffin #96 of the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field on August 22, 2009 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Forget the final score. It's as meaningless as Paris Hilton's last boyfriend. In the first two preseason games, the numbers that count are those in the first half, when the first- and second-teamers are on the field.

So give the Steelers a 10-3 victory in Washington on Saturday evening even though the Redskins were credited with a 17-13 win for the record.

Still, this wasn’t the kind of performance that head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff had in mind for the second preseason game.

The plan is to show improvement from week to week at this time of season, and the Steelers fell short in too many areas to say that they took a step forward. Thirteen accepted penalties? There's no excuse for that many even this early in the preseason.   

The good: The special teams could be as effective as they have been in years.

In his preseason debut, 5-foot-7 Stefan Logan came up big in the return game. The CFL product was a threat every time he touched the ball. Punter Daniel Sepulveda was solid as usual. Only placekicker Jeff Reed turned in an uneven performance.

The bad: The offensive line looked no better or no worse than it did last season. That's not good. Did the front office make a big mistake not to address the chronic problem more aggressively in the off-season?

The unit was without guards Chris Komoeatu and Darnell Stapleton, but none of the reserves stood out in their places. 

The indifferent: The No. 3 wide receiver position remains an open race. Early favorite Limas Sweed turned in an erratic performance. Once again, rookie Mike Wallace didn’t appear to be out of place, but can he be counted on to produce consistently this soon?

The grades:

Offense starters

QB Charlie Batch: C

Overthrew several targets. Wasn’t in rhythm, partly because of consistent pass rush. Displayed strength and agility in pocket.

RB Carey Davis: C

Executed clear-out block on touchdown run. Whistled for illegal formation penalty. Did not run from scrimmage. Appears to have won roster spot by default.

RB Willie Parker: B

Fast Willie played fast in preseason debut. Twice showed burst to perimeter, once for touchdown. Needs more contact.   

WR Santonio Holmes: B

Served as decoy once again. Caught one ball off back shoulder for first down. Expect more next week.

WR Hines Ward: B

See Holmes. Pulled down high throw for 24 yards, first down.

TE Heath Miller: B

Made one catch, picked up first down on second effort. Consistent blocker.

C Justin Hartwig: C

Failed to provide consistent push on run plays. Adequate in pass protection.

G Trai Essex: C

Adequate in pass protection, non-factor in run game. May not be mobile enough to start at inside position.

G Doug Legursky: C

Emergency starter also played center. Errant snap resulted in fumble. Versatility is plus off bench.

T Willie Colon: B

Pulled out of line to make key block on touchdown run. Held own in pass protection. Hey, look, no penalties!

T Max Starks: D

Inconsistent vs. pass, not much better vs. run. Guilty of hold penalty in pass protection.

PK Jeff Reed: C

Made 34-yarder, missed 53- and 48-yarders. Hit pylon for touchback on kickoff.

KR Stefan Logan: A

Human pinball may have earned roster spot. Carted back four kicks for 157 yards. Showed poise, quickness, acceleration.    

Defense starters

DE Brett Keisel: B

Covered well in zone blitz. Made tackle in open field.

DE Aaron Smith: C

Quietly effective against the run. Neutralized blockers well enough to get better results.

NT Casey Hampton: B

Moved well. Displayed lateral pursuit between hashmarks. Not as strong at point of attack.

LB James Farrior: B

Strong vs. run. Plugged holes quickly. Made two tackles.

LB James Harrison: B

Played better than numbers. Displayed lateral agility on run stop. Put consistent heat on passer.

LB Lawrence Timmons: D

Out of position on draw play. Beaten on third-down pass. Can his athleticism overcome his inexperience?

LB Lamarr Woodley: C

Failed to record tackle or sack. Had few chances to make plays.

CB William Gay: A

Consistent in pass coverage. Sure tackle prevented first down on third-and-2 pass.

CB Ike Taylor: A

Has yet to be seriously tested in postseason. Blanketed receiver in single coverage on deep route. Missed tackle on kickoff return.

S Troy Polamalu: A

Broke up deep pass on first play from scrimmage. Was active in run support. Made two tackles.

S Ryan Clark: C

Totaled one tackle. Wasn’t around ball enough, especially on run plays.

P Daniel Sepulveda: A

Had 42.8-yard net average on five kicks. Placed one inside 20-yard line.

PR Stefan Logan: B

Was sure-handed and decisive. Averaged 12 yards on four returns. (Pssst, o-coordinator Bruce Arians, how 'bout ths guy on offense for a few downs?)

Selected reserves

CB Joe Burnett: F

Fumbled punt for second consecutive game. Also beaten badly on lob pass for six points. Played well on special teams.

QB Dennis Dixon: D

Failed to lead touchdown drive for second consecutive game. Highlight was 16-yard scramble. Left game with separated shoulder.

LB Keyaron Fox: A

Had team-high four tackles. Stuffed ball-carrier on 3-and-1 run. Largely effective on special teams.


LB Andre Frazier: D

Was sucked in on fake punt that set tone for game. Also guilty of hold penalty on play. Sealed off on 18-yard run. Had three tackles, one assist. 

DE Ziggy Hood: B

Displayed quickness as pass-rusher. Had sack (two) for second consecutive game. Not as effective at point of attack. Could prove valuable on pass downs.

OT Tony Hills: F

Consistently beaten off edge. Required help from back on pass rush. Was guilty of illegal formation and false start.

CB Keenan Lewis: B

Sure tackler made four stops. Active in run support. Physical style is suited for bump-and-run coverage.

RB Rashard Mendenhall: B

Was quicker to hit holes inside. Lacks speed to reach perimeter consistently. Picked up blitz well as blocker.

CB Keiwan Ratliff: B

Closed quickly to pick off pass. Had two tackles. Has showed enough to claim roster spot.

WR Limas Sweed: D

Has yet to show he can be dependable No. 3 receiver. Dropped pass on third down. Showed lack of awareness on sideline route. Made difficult catch over middle.

G Kraig Urbik: C

Showed better in pass protection. Had value as drive-blocker in short-yard situations.

WR Mike Wallace: B

Made two catches, one in traffic. Might have scored if not for pass interference that went uncalled. Showed willingness to block, although flagged for hold penalty.


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