Steelers Mid-Season Report Card

Jeremy KohlmanContributor IOctober 29, 2008

Well, we are just about half-way through the season. While the Colts, Chargers, and many others are struggling, the Steelers sit majestically on top of the division and second in the AFC.

Analyzing our beloved Steelers, let's start with our quarterback play.

Ben Roethlisberger has not lived up to the hype this season. Last year he settled down with 32 TDs and 11 INTs. So far this season, he has only thrown 10 TDs and a surprisingly 7 INTs, four of them coming from the debacle Sunday afternoon with the Giants at Heinz Field.

Take that game away and he has looked pretty decent. However, "Big Ben" needs to be able to lead his team to wins. Last week against the Giants, he looked did not look anything like the QB who had 14 fourth quarter drives to win or tie games.

Part of the blame can be placed on one of the worst offensive lines in the league, but most of it comes down to Big Ben trying too hard. He needs to let the game come to him. He is forcing throws he normally wouldn't attempt.

He also needs to work on his timing. Many times this season sacks have resulted in Ben not getting rid of the ball quick enough, particularly on three-step drops.

I give him a B.

Next, let us move onto our running backs.

Willie Parker has been out most of the season, although he looked good in the first two games, he couldn't get anything going in the Eagles game. No one could.

Mendenhall looked good in his debut versus the Ravens, but is now out for the season.

Now on the best off-season move for the Steelers: Mewelde Moore. This guy has just been great in his last three starts. He ran for 99 yards in the Jaguars game, over 120 in the Bengals game, and 89 against the Giants.  He has 5 TDs through the last three games.

Pittsburgh has the best depth in the league.

I give them an A.

Now for the tight ends.

Both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth are not utilized enough in the passing offense.

Miller is a great receiving target that Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians refuses to accommodate.

Spaeth needs to work on blocking. 

TE/FB Sean McHugh can block. He is the best blocker among the TEs and might even give Ward a run for his money. He can catch and he is big lead blocker. Makes me wonder why FB Carey Davis even is on this roster still.

I give them a B until they can get more involved.

Second to last, the wide-receivers have been good.

Hines Ward continues to prove why he is a known commodity around the NFL. He can catch anything thrown his way and is the best run blocking WR the NFL can showcase. He is facing issues with his age and his speed, though.

Santonio Holmes is the "big play" weapon, but cannot be utilized fully when the Steelers offensive line can't give him time to stretch the field. He cannot boast, especially with this new marijuana charge.

On to Nate Washington, who has really stepped up his play. He has simply been 100% effective. He is an apt temporary replacement on the big play in the Steelers offense.

Rookie Limas Sweed finally got some action this past last week and provided two catches for two first downs.

I give them a B+.

Finally, the offensive line.

I would like to say that our O-Line been an upgrade from last year's unit, but I would be lying.

The best lineman the Steelers have starting right now is Darnell Stapleton. Despite his size, he is effective in both run and pass protection, something that does not describe injured Kendall Simmons. He has been an upgrade. He may not have the experience, but he is playing close to mistake free football.

Now, the worst lineman the Steelers have is RT Willie Colon.

It amazes that week in and out Tomlin and company continue to start him over Max Starks. Neither are good in pass protection, but Starks offers so much more in the run game. Both Max Starks and Marvel Smith are not great LTs, but both are serviceable. They each struggle against speed rushers.

C Justin Hartwig is definitely an upgrade over Sean Mahan, but he still struggles.

Finally, I get to Chris Kemoeatu. I see why so much hype surrounded him in the off-season. He is a monster in the run game and gets push no matter what.

His liabilities, though, are not physical. Week after week we see him either get the wrong guy or just let a guy right past him to get the sack. He is not the most intelligent player, perhaps.

Overall, this unit has given up 25 sacks already. That means Ben is on pace to get sacked over 50 times this season. The bottom line is that the Steelers need make a heavy attempt in free agency or the draft to repair this horrible unit.

For what I was expecting, they get an C-.

At last, I get to the defense.

This unit is the best defense in football and one of the best defensive units the Steelers have fielded in years.

The line is just outstanding.

Not only do you have a great starting group with Aaron Smith (the best 3-4 DE in football), Casey Hampton, and Brett Keisel, but they also boast the best depth with Chris Hoke (who could start elsewhere), Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason, and Orpheus Roye.

The DL has sustained multiple injuries this year, and yet they have not allowed any significant running attack.

This is simply the best DL in football. A+.

The secondary is more complete than it has been in years, as well.

Not only do they boast the best strong-safety in the NFL with Troy Polamalu, but free-safety Ryan Clark has been starting and playing well.

The emergence of Bryant McFadden also give the Steelers solid depth now that Deshea Townsend (former starter, 11 year vet) is playing in the nickel where it can make up for his speed. McFadden may just turnout to be one of the best CBs the Steelers have drafted in a decade.

The quiet veteran Ike Taylor has become one the more solid CBs in the NFL.

This group also leads the NFL in the least amount yards thrown on them. This unit will not get an A+ until they improve their 3rd and long situations.

So they get an A- at the moment.

Lastly, the LBs have just been outstanding.

Both LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are on pace to set the Steelers single season sack record and the best tandem record. These guys are simply unblockable. They each can drop into coverage easily, and they both play the run excellently.

Now, the group is led by 11-year veteran James Farrior, who anchors this defense. He is all you can ask out of a middle-LB in this league. He is strong at supporting the run and providing coverage.

The Steelers also boast two solid LBs in Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons, both currently splitting time at LB. Foote remains in the base defense while Timmons is employed in the special packages.

Timmons is an explosive pass rusher whose speed is quite incredible. He can drop back and cover elite receivers like Chad Johnson or stop the run just as effectively. He is going to be a star.

Foote is above the average in every one of those categories. While he may not boast the tangibles of Timmons, he is still solid as ever. I have to give these guys an A due to their physical nature and dominance so far this season. They will not get an A+ because they did not register a sack against the Giants.

The special teams coverage unit is greatly improved.

They have not allowed a game changing return this year. However, they are close to the bottom league in returning punts and kicks. They need to find a good return man to help the offense. The offense is already struggling with inconsistency. If they had a shorter field to work with, they would not have to sustain long drives.

Our special teams get a B.

Overall, the offense is not where it should be with all the weapons it possesses; Not even close. They should be boasting one of league's best, but instead they are getting held back by so many factors: bad blocking, not getting open, not throwing when needed, and the list goes on.

However, this team does boast the best defense in football; no doubt about it. It knows no equal. It's what keeps the Steelers in every game so far and will continue to do so all year long.

Much improvement is needed on the offensive side of the ball, but our defensive side is elite.


Overall grade: A-.



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