Steelers Report Card/Week 9: Glass Is Half Full in Denver Boot

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IINovember 10, 2009

Here’s my take on the Steelers’ 28-10 victory against the Denver Broncos on Monday night.


1. The defending champs showed flashes of their Super Bowl form in recent weeks, but they came at home. What their season has lacked was an impressive victory against a quality opponent on the road.


Consider it nearly done.


The Steelers hemmed and hawed for awhile, then they put together their most impressive fourth quarter of the season. Sure, the Broncos aren’t as good as their 6-2 record, but they are a wild-card contender at the very least. And we know how difficult it is for the road team to elevate its game at 5,280 feet above sea level.


What has to encourage coordinator Dick LeBeau is that the defense put an opponent away for the second time in as many games. And it happened with safety Ryan Clark and linebacker Lawrence Timmons on the sidelines.


2. Head coach Mike Tomlin wisely instructs Clark to take a seat because of health concerns, and the guy who replaces him (Tyrone Carter) picks off a pass and scores the first touchdown of the game.

You know, just like Tomlin planned it.


3. All you need to know about the difference between Tomlin and predecessor Bill Cowher took place in the final two minutes.

On third-and-3 at the 3-yard line, with a 21-10 lead, Cowher would have played for a field goal. Tomlin went for the haymaker, and the result was a quick pass to Hines Ward for six points.


4. Clearly, the offense was out of sync in the first half, which begs this question: Was the no-huddle offense hidden under a rock in Boulder or what?

It’s obvious that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a lot of faith in the scheme and his teammates have a lot of faith in him to run it. When the unit bogs down for a couple or three series in a row, the no-huddle should be a given.

Statistics indicate that the best way to contain Roethlisberger is to send everyone except the beer vendors after him. In the no-huddle scheme, however, opponents cannot make personnel changes and are less likely to blitz as a result.

When coordinator Bruce Arians finally called for the no-huddle in the second half – ta-da! – the offense moved the ball at will.


5. If not for the so-called hidden yardage, the offense would be that much better.

Subtract 31 yards in sacks and 59 more in turnover returns, and offense totaled only 143 net yards in 32 pass plays.


6. Memo to the tube boobs who try to make Roethlisberger out to be a streetball player and little more: Stop it. Please.

Anyone who has watched the games knows that Roethlisberger has developed into a highly effective passer in the pocket this season. Big Ben doesn’t have to stray nearly as much as he did in the past, but he still can do that when necessary, and that makes him a matchup nightmare.


7. The emergence of feature back Rashard Mendenhall and rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace has been the most positive developments on offense this season.

Now about that Limas Sweed guy . . .


8. By the way, I own the patent to Wallace’s nickname – Sixty Minutes – so don’t even think about it.


9. As well as Mendenhall has played recently, there's something about free agent Larry Johnson that intriques me.


The jury is out on Mendenhall as a reliable closer near the goal line, a role that Johnson has handled capably for much of his career. The Penn State product wanted to be a Steeler years ago. If L.J. can convince the coaches that he will be a team guy  – and that's a big if – then he's worth a dice roll, it says here. If (when?) Willie Parker leaves after the season, Johnson could be a reasonable fall-back plan.


Something else to consider: Mendenhall has lost a fumble once every 65 ball touches the last two seasons, while Johnson coughs it up once every 174.5 tries.


10. Think James Harrison has a Super Bowl hangover? Fine. You tell him. Leave me out of it, OK?



The grades:


Offense regulars


WR Hines Ward: A

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

          Season average: B


LT Max Starks: A

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

          Season average: C+


LG Chris Komoeatu: D

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

          Season average: C+


C Justin Hartwig: A

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

          Season average: B-


RG Trai Essex: B

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

          Season average: C


RT Willie Colon: A

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

          Season average: B-


TE Heath Miller: C

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

          Season average: B+


WR Santonio Holmes: A

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

          Season average:  C+


WR Mike Wallace: B

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

          Season average: B  


QB Ben Roethlisberger: B

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

          Season average: B+


RB Rashard Mendenhall: A

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

          Season average: C+


RB Mewelde Moore: B

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

          Season average: B


RB Willie Parker: INC

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

Season average: C-




Defense regulars


LE Aaron Smith: DNP

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

          Season average: B


LE Travis Kirschke: DNP

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

Season average: C+


NT Casey Hampton: A

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

          Season average: B


RE Brett Keisel: A

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

          Season average: B+


LOLB Lamarr Woodley: B

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

          Season average: C


LILB James Farrior: B

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

Season average: B


LILB Keyaron Fox: B

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

Season average: B


RILB Lawrence Timmons: DNP

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

          Season average: B


ROLB James Harrison: A

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

          Season average: A-


LCB William Gay: C

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

          Season average: C+


RCB Ike Taylor: C

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

          Season average: B-


SS Troy Polamalu: A

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

          Season average: A


FS Ryan Clark: DNP

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

Season average: B+


Special teams regulars


PK Jeff Reed: B

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

          Season average: C+


P Daniel Sepulveda: A

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

          Season average: B+


KR Stefan Logan: C

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

          Season average: C+


PR Stefan Logan: B

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

          Season average: C




HC Mike Tomlin: A

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

          Season average: B


OC Bruce Arians: B

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

          Season average: C+


DC Dick LeBeau: A

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

          Season average: B+


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