Steelers Report Card/Week 12: Headaches Extend Beyond Final Score

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IINovember 30, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 29:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Here’s my take on the Steelers’ 20-17 overtime defeat against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night:

1. In terms of chemistry and leadership, this team isn’t in the same zip code as the one of a year ago. But who would have thunk that team captain Hines Ward would be part of the problem?

In an NBC television interview, Ward claimed that the locker room was divided about whether Ben Roethlisberger should play one week after the quarterback had suffered the third known concussion of his career. According to the report, Roethlisberger wanted to play despite exercise-induced headaches late in the week, but on the recommendation of medical personnel, head coach Mike Tomlin wisely decided against it. The inference was that Roethlisberger should have kept his mouth shut and played the game, which Ward likened to a playoff encounter. 

Look, I admire Ward and his competitive spirit, but if I made a list of players in the league most likely to turtle in a big game, Roethlisberger might be the last one on it. That Ward of all people would throw the QB under the team bus kind of makes me wonder if he has taken too many blows to the head himself.


2. No head coach talks a better game than Tomlin, who promised that his team would “unleash hell in December” after the game.  

What Steelers World wants to know is, why didn’t the defending champions unleash hell in October and November? Even purgatory would have been nice.


3. Linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley combined for 12 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble, but one monster game doesn’t atone for so many forgettable ones at the start of the season. It only makes them worse, in fact.


4. The inability of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to make the necessary adjustments reared its ugly head again. Emergency fill-in Dennis Dixon played a solid first half, but the Ravens defense read him like a book in the final two-plus periods.

Dixon is not a drop-back passer, so why make him into one? His legs are his greatest asset at this point, but he wasn’t allowed to use them on draws, bootlegs and the like. Dixon and feature back Rashard Mendenhall excelled at the option play in college and the Ravens would have been hard-pressed to defend against it.


5. Because there was no proven back-up available, it was important to keep Dixon in one piece. But given the choice between a healthy back-up quarterback or a 7-4 record, I’ll take the 7-4 record and worry about who plays quarterback later.


6. Before the season, there was a concern that the d-line had grown a bit long in the tooth. Sure enough, the Ravens ran the ball down its throat for 132 yards on only 29 carries. That’s 4.6 yard per attempt.

Nosetackle Casey Hampton and ends Brent Keisel and Travis Kirschke played like they were 30-something years old, probably because they were 30-something years old.


7. Farrior and nickelback Deshea Townsend have been frequent targets on third-and-medium situations this season, so it came as no surprise that the Ravens would pick on one of them on the biggest play of the game. Required to cover Ravens feature back Ray Rice by himself on fourth-and-5 late in the fourth quarter, Farrior was toasted for 44 big ones.

James Farrior versus Ray Rice? I’ll be the last guy to tell defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau what to do, but he may want to rethink that one.


8. Want another bad matchup? How about cornerback William Gay versus wide receiver Mark Clayton? Clayton caught so many balls (a dozen for 129 yards), I thought Lenny Moore had made a comeback.


9. Halfback Willie Parker was born 40 years too late. If he had played at a time when guards weren’t the size of tackles, his 4.3 speed would have been hell on sweeps and pitchouts, which have been phased out of professional football practically.


10. Oh, to be a fly in the mind of Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt when he looks at the standings and sees his former team in third place with a lousy 6-5 record.

You know, the guy who was the most qualified candidate to become Steelers head coach three years ago.


The grades:


Offense regulars


WR Hines Ward: C

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

          Season average: B


LT Max Starks: B

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

          Season average: C


LG Chris Komoeatu: DNP

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

          Season average: C+


C Justin Hartwig: C

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

          Season average: C+


RG Trai Essex: C

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

          Season average: C


RT Willie Colon: B

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

          Season average: C+


TE Heath Miller: C

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

          Season average: B


WR Santonio Holmes: A

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

          Season average:  C+


WR Mike Wallace: D

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

          Season average: C+  


QB Ben Roethlisberger: DNP

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

          Season average: B


RB Rashard Mendenhall: B

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

          Season average: B


RB Mewelde Moore: D

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

          Season average: C+


RB Willie Parker: C

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

Season average: C



Defense regulars


LE Travis Kirschke: B

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

Season average: C+


NT Casey Hampton: D

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

          Season average: B


RE Brett Keisel: C

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

          Season average: B


LOLB LaMarr Woodley: A

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

          Season average: C+


LILB James Farrior: B

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

Season average: B


LILB Keyaron Fox: B

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

Season average: C+


RILB Lawrence Timmons: A

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

          Season average: B


ROLB James Harrison: B

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

          Season average: B+


LCB William Gay: F

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

          Season average: C


RCB Ike Taylor: C

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

          Season average: B


SS Troy Polamalu: DNP

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

          Season average: A


FS Ryan Clark: C

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

Season average: B


Special teams regulars


PK Jeff Reed: A

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

          Season average: C+


P Daniel Sepulveda: B

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

          Season average: B+


KR Stefan Logan: C

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

          Season average: C+


PR Stefan Logan: B

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

          Season average: C




HC Mike Tomlin: C

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

          Season average: C+


OC Bruce Arians: C

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

          Season average: C+


DC Dick LeBeau: B

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

          Season average: B+