Steelers Report Card/Week 15: Team MVP? Ben There, Done That

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws the game winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in front of BJ Raji #90 of the Green Bay Packers during the game on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Here’s my take on the Steelers’ 37-36 victory against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon:

1. OK, now can we stop the silly talk about the Steelers' most valuable player this season?

While safety Troy Polamalu watched in street clothes one more time, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for a team-record 503 yards and willed victory in the final minutes again. Yes, the defense misses Polamalu in the worst way, but to be an MVP, you have to actually play the games.

2. What went overlooked is how close Roethlisberger came to something really special. If Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, and Hines Ward don’t drop a ball apiece, then Big Ben would have threatened the NFL record for most pass yards in one game.

In the first week of the 1951 season, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards, a record that has been in the books for 58 years. For my money, it’s the most underappreciated record in pro football. Been that way for a while.

3. If Roethlisberger hadn't done his Ben-Hur impersonation, then head coach Mike Tomlin would have lots of ‘splainin’ to do about his mindless decision to attempt an onside kick in the fourth quarter.

Yeah, I know. The special teams couldn’t stop the Little Old Lady from Pasadena these days. The defense couldn’t be trusted either—it had been burned for 22 points in the fourth quarter already. If it were the first half, then I could see it. But with the lead this late in the game? No way.

Really, what message does it send when the head coach quits on his team?

4. Almost everything that the Steelers needed to happen around the league did happen, as they gained ground on the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets in the chase for the final two conference playoff berths.

Still, even if the Steelers win their final two games, it’s difficult to get excited about a 9-7 record and a wild card berth, not with their defense in such sorry shape.

5. Liked the way O-coordinator Bruce Arians went pedal to the metal on the first play from scrimmage and refused to ease up the rest of the way. Problem is, there’s so much age at the defensive side, guys such as end Brett Keisel and linebacker James Farrior simply can’t keep up with that kind of pace for four quarters.

Especially on third-and-pass situations, cornerback Joe Burnett, Keyaron Fox, and Ziggy Hood should be on the field more often. It’s also time to activate cornerback Keenan Lewis, who can provide another fresh pair of legs.

Besides, I’m convinced that a mannequin could play better than William Gay right now.

6. As usual, the secondary had more holes than a strainer, but it didn’t get much help either. The pass rush took down quarterback Aaron Rodgers only once in 48 attempts.  

I’m sure that D-coordinator Dick LeBeau has a very good reason to drop sackmaster James Harrison into pass coverage so often, but I sure as heck don’t know what it is.

7. Placekicker Jeff Reed deserves some credit here. On a day when there were no gimmes, he made good on three field goals in as many tries, while Packers counterpart Mason Crosby gagged on a 34-yarder in the second period.

Nonetheless, if the Steelers cut the cord with Reed after the season, then it’s fine with me under these conditions: 1) His replacement converts at least 80 percent of his field goal tries; and 2) said player boots a kickoff into the end zone once every game.

This season Reed has one measly touchback, eight fewer than a year ago, and that has made a lousy kickoff unit even worse.

8. Tackle Max Starks couldn’t have played much worse if he had worn a blindfold. He was repeatedly outquicked off the edge, allowed two sacks, and was guilty of hold and false start penalties.

Other than that, Mrs. Starks, how did you like the game?

9. As much as the higher-ups would have us believe that the O-line is fine and dandy, it looks no better than it was a year ago, when it was average at best.

Here’s my solution: Move Starks to right tackle where he belongs, shift right tackle Willie Colon to right guard, bench Trai Essex, and draft a stud left tackle to protect Big Ben for the next half-dozen years.  

10. Is that really Stefan Logan out there on third down? No, it can’t be!

The Grades

Offense regulars

WR Hines Ward: B

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

          Season average: B

LT Max Starks: F

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

          Season average: C

LG Chris Kemoeatu: DNP

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

          Season average: C

C Justin Hartwig: C

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

          Season average: C+

RG Trai Essex: D

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

          Season average: D+

RT Willie Colon: F

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

          Season average: C

TE Heath Miller: B

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

          Season average: B

 WR Santonio Holmes: B

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

          Season average:  B

WR Mike Wallace: A

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

          Season average: C+  


QB Ben Roethlisberger: A

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

          Season average: B+

RB Rashard Mendenhall: B

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

          Season average: B

RB Mewelde Moore: B

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

          Season average: C+

RB Willie Parker: B

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

          Season average: C

Defense regulars

LE Travis Kirschke: B

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

          Season average: C+

NT Casey Hampton: A

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

          Season average: B

RE Brett Keisel: D

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

          Season average: B

LOLB LaMarr Woodley: B

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

          Season average: C+

LILB James Farrior: F

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

          Season average: C+

LILB Keyaron Fox: D

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

          Season average: C+

RILB Lawrence Timmons: D

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

          Season average: B

ROLB James Harrison: D

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

          Season average: B

LCB William Gay: F

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

          Season average: D+

RCB Ike Taylor: D

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

          Season average: C+

SS Tyrone Carter: F

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

          Season average: C+

FS Ryan Clark: D

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

          Season average: B


Special teams regulars

PK Jeff Reed: A

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

          Season average: B

P Daniel Sepulveda: D

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

          Season average: B+

KR Stefan Logan: D

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

          Season average: C+

PR Stefan Logan: D

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

          Season average: C



HC Mike Tomlin: F

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

          Season average: C

OC Bruce Arians: A

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

          Season average: C

DC Dick LeBeau: C

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

          Season average: B