Steelers Report Card/Week 7: Champs Flex Muscles, Pass Muster

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIOctober 25, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 25: Santonio Holmes #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a play against the Minnesota Vikings  at Heinz Field on October 25, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.Pittsburgh won 27-17. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Here’s my take on the Steelers’ 27-17 victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.

1. I’m not ready to concede the champs are back to their Super form, but they needed this one badly for a number of reasons.

At 5-2, the Steelers kept pace with the Cincinnati Bengals, who appear to be their biggest obstacle in the AFC North race. They also proved that they can stand toe-to-toe with a legit contender.

Better yet, for the first time this season, the defense displayed the grit, determination, and big-play ability that was its trademark a year ago. Raise your hand if you had a James Harrison flashback when linebacker LaMarr Woodley zigged and zagged his way to the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Uh-huh, thought so.


2. The defense took away the Vikings best player, Adrian Peterson, who was limited to 69 yards in 18 carries. That put the outcome in the hands of Brett Favre, who threw 51 passes. Teams rarely win when they throw that many times, especially ones with 40-year-old quarterbacks.

Take a bow, coach Dick LeBeau.


3. Whether you like Favre or not, it’s hard not to admit that the league is a whole lot more interesting when he's a part of it.


4. The Steelers’ most difficult opponent this season? The Steelers themselves. Once again, they were guilty of a mental meltdown that allowed an opponent to stay close late in the game.

This time feature back Rashard Mendenhall lost his grip in the red zone, not that it came as a surprise, really. The guy has been known to handle the ball like it’s a live grenade before.

But hurdle 6'3", 317-pound tackle Pat Williams at the four-yard line? What was Mendenhall thinkin’, anyway?


5. Clone Mendenhall’s agility, Willie Parker’s speed, and Mewelde Moore’s strength and discipline, and the Steelers have their perfect back.


6. The defense continues to take its share of hits on the health front. Two weeks after end Aaron Smith was sidelined for the remainder of the season, linebacker Lawrence Timmons limped off the field with another ankle problem.

Keyaron Fox is more than capable as a replacement—it’s only a matter of time before he starts for this team. But if Timmons is lost for any amount if time, it further weakens team depth, which has been a strength of the unit for years.


7. Free advice for Jeff Reed: update resume. Soon.

The kickoff team was torched for a touchdown for the second time in as many weeks, and Reed was largely to blame for this one. His attempt to tackle Percy Harvin near the sideline was weak for lack of a printable word.


8. Should Reed have been suspended for his run-in with Pittsburgh police last week? No. But should he have been stripped of his special teams captain role until further notice? Absolutely.

If I’m head coach Mike Tomlin, then that’s on my to-do list this week.


9. Safety Ryan Clark has been as consistent as any Steelers' player this season, and the soon-to-be free agent should be a top priority for the team after the season.

At 30, Clark should be good for a couple, or three more years.


10. I’m not ready to say the o-line is Canton-bound, but I’ve put away their Five Blocks of Putty nickname until further notice.


The grades:



Offense regulars


WR Hines Ward: D

          Weekly grades: B/B/C/B/A/A/D

          Season average: B


LT Max Starks: B

          Weekly grades: B/F/C/B/C/C/B

          Season average: C


LG Chris Komoeatu: C

          Weekly grades: D/C/B/A/B/B/C

          Season average: C+


C Justin Hartwig: C

          Weekly grades: F/C/B/A/B/B/C  

          Season average: C+


RG Trai Essex: C

          Weekly grades: C/B/C/B/D/D/C  

          Season average: C


RT Willie Colon: A

          Weekly grades: D/B/C/A/C/C/A

          Season average: C+


TE Heath Miller: B

          Weekly grades: A/B/B/A/A/A/B

          Season average: B+


WR Santonio Holmes: C

          Weekly grades: A/D/F/C/B/A/C

          Season average:  C+


WR Mike Wallace: A

          Weekly grades: B/C/A/B/B/B/A

          Season average: B  


QB Ben Roethlisberger: B

          Weekly grades: A/B/A/A/B/B/B

          Season average: B+


RB Rashard Mendenhall: D

          Weekly grades: C/B/INC/A/A/D/D

          Season average: C+


RB Mewelde Moore: C

          Weekly grades: C/B/B/A/C/B/C

          Season average: C+  



Defense regulars


LE Aaron Smith: DNP

          Weekly grades: A/B/C/B/B/DNP/DNP

          Season average: B


LE Travis Kirschke: B

          Weekly grades: C/B/C/C/B/B/B

Season average: C+


NT Casey Hampton: C

          Weekly grades: B/B/B/C/B/A/C

          Season average: B


RE Brett Keisel: A

Weekly grades: A/B/C/B/B/A/A

          Season average: B+


LOLB LaMarr Woodley: B

          Weekly grades: D/D/D/D/C/B/B

          Season average: D+


LILB James Farrior: A

          Weekly grades: B/A/C/B/C/A/A

Season average: B


RILB Lawrence Timmons: B

          Weekly grades: DNP/B/B/D/B/A/B

          Season average: B


ROLB James Harrison: A

          Weekly grades: A/B/A/A/A/B/A

          Season average: B+


LCB William Gay: D

          Weekly grades: C/C/B/B/B/C/D

          Season average: C+


RCB Ike Taylor: B

          Weekly grades: C/B/A/A/B/D/B

          Season average: B


SS Troy Polamalu: A

          Weekly grades: A/DNP/DNP/DNP/DNP/A/A

          Season average: A


FS Ryan Clark: B

          Weekly grades: B/B/A/B/A/B/B

Season average: B+



Special teams regulars


PK Jeff Reed: D

          Weekly grades: B/F/C/A/B/B/D

          Season average: C+


P Daniel Sepulveda: B

          Weekly grades: A/A/A/A/B/B/B

          Season average: B+


KR Stefan Logan: B

          Weekly grades: B/D/A/C/B/B/B

          Season average: C+


PR Stefan Logan: C

          Weekly grades: C/C/C/F/C/INC/C

          Season average: D+





HC Mike Tomlin: B

          Weekly grades: B/C/D/A/C/B/B

          Season average: C+


OC Bruce Arians: C

          Weekly grades: C/D/C/A/B/A/C

          Season average: C+


DC Dick LeBeau: A

          Weekly grades: A/B/C/B/B/A/A

          Season average: B+