Complete Report Card Following Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 2 Win

Nick DeWittAnalyst IAugust 21, 2011

Complete Report Card Following Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 2 Win

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    With two of their four preseason games in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 1-1. Still, it's clear that a lot of progress has been made in a very short time. Some players have stood out while others have faded. As the team takes shape, it's time to grade out their first performance at home this season.

    Here's a look at the report card for the Steelers' Week 2 game against Philadephia.

Quarterbacks

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    Overall Position Grade: A

    Steelers quarterbacks have been very good this preseason and were nearly perfect against the Eagles.

    Ben Roethlisberger started the game and threw two touchdowns in the first half against most of the Eagles' starting defense. Roethlisberger seemed to have a great rapport with his receivers and looked in form for the regular season.

    Byron Leftwich took over and was also very effective. Leftwich even showed some great mobility behind a patchwork offensive line and also displayed excellent accuracy. I get the idea that Leftwich could still start for a few teams in the NFL, so he's an extremely valuable backup.

    Dennis Dixon, who put together an awful debut, was much better directing the team in the fourth quarter. While his snaps came against mostly rookies and career backups, he looked sharp and mobile. Dixon is the favorite for the third quarterback spot right now, and the team is giving him every opportunity to showcase his skills.

Running Backs

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    Overall Position Grade: B+

    The Pittsburgh running backs looked mostly good, but none produced a standout performance on Thursday.

    Rashard Mendenhall looked strong and even flashed some nice receiving skills with a one-handed grab in the first quarter. Mendenhall was able to gain a lot of yards on the edges and even was able to pound up the middle behind the weakened offensive line.

    Isaac Redman might have been the star of the position with some excellent tough runs. Redman looked like a guy who could carry a heavy load this season and help Mendenhall stay fresh. With work like that, it makes you question whether or not the team would need four backs.

    Mewelde Moore was pretty much a non-factor, but produced some yards in his opportunities. Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay acquitted themselves well also, but neither had any carries against the top defenders.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Overall Position Grade: A

    Like the quarterbacks, the Steelers' receivers looked in midseason form on Thursday night. There were even some surprising performances from this area.

    Jerricho Cotchery, in his first game action with Pittsburgh, looked like he'd been around forever and seems to be trying to lock up the fourth receiver spot. His work could push Friday's other surprising veteran performer, Arnaz Battle, off the roster. Both guys looked great and played throughout the game with success.

    Tyler Grisham continues to look tough and, although he's a long shot to make the team, is turning some heads with his work. The same goes for tall Wes Lyons, who looks like a developing weapon that the team might be wise to hang on to.

    The starters and tight ends didn't do much, but they also didn't spend a ton of time on the field. Hines Ward, Anthony Brown and Cotchery caught touchdowns for the Steelers.

Offensive Line

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    Overall Position Grade: C-

    The offensive line continues to be a massive question mark. At times on Thursday, they looked good. Sometimes, however, they looked very weak.

    The big problem continues to be injuries. Both Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert had hyperextended knees, and the rest of the tackles looked poor. Among the more impressive of the bunch was Tony Hills, who seems to be poised to claim a backup spot.

    On the interior, the centers looked fine and the guard spots looked solid regardless of who was manning them. Ramon Foster had a nice game for Pittsburgh and seems like a lock for the right guard spot if he continues his play.

    The offensive line has to be settled soon. Gilbert and Scott are both inconsistent when healthy, so injuries to both are bad news as they try to develop a groove with the rest of the offense. The good news is that Willie Colon looks healthy and stable on the right side.

Defensive Line

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    Overall Position Grade: C

    The defensive line didn't register much activity on Thursday. Only two players made the final stat sheet (Ziggy Hood and Chris Hoke). Still, they had a decent game.

    The thing to watch for has been the development of Hood and of rookie Cameron Heyward. Both players looked solid in their snaps against the Eagles. Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel also looked in good form against Philadelphia.

    The watchword for this unit is going to be health. All three of their starters are over 30, and all three have missed at least some time with injuries in the past few years. If they can stay healthy, they will give their young players time to develop.

Linebackers

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    Overall Position Grade: A

    The linebackers have always been a strength for the Steelers, and they received some excellent play from that position on Thursday night.

    Larry Foote is in a fight to remain the top backup on the inside. So far, he seems to have gained the edge. He had a standout game against the Eagles, nabbing an interception and racking up two tackles. He looked like a guy who could still start if called upon.

    The starters looked solid but, like the defensive line, did not have any major contributions. Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester looked better in this game after slow starts against Washington. Both players likely have roster spots locked up, but Sylvester could play his way into the top backup spot if he can get on track.

Secondary

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    Overall Position Grade: A+

    What a relief. The secondary was a huge bone of contention in the offseason after a Super Bowl performance that saw them get exposed by Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. Against the Eagles, however, they looked like quite the group of shutdown artists.

    Troy Polamalu looked like he was in midseason form with an interception and some great athleticism. The real star, however, was Keenan Lewis.

    Lewis has endured some tough seasons and was likely in his last chance to make the team this season. He's likely put a lock on that and could be putting pressure on William Gay to step up his game. Lewis nabbed an interception and also seemed to be all over the field on Thursday. He looked like a guy who could start, and he may eventually earn that job if his play progresses further.

    William Gay was the lone disappointing performer in the secondary, as he continues to struggle when asked to assume one of the top two spots at corner. Gay was slow and ineffective for much of the game.

Specialists

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    Overall Position Grade: C-

    Swayze Waters kicked this week instead of Shaun Suisham and looked awful. He was one for three on field goal attempts, missing some easy kicks. He's only in camp to keep Suisham fresh, but he's not doing himself any favors with a performance like that.

    Jeremy Kapinos and Daniel Sepulveda each punted once on Thursday. Neither had far to kick, so their yardage numbers are slightly skewed. Kapinos did fail to hang one inside the 20 and instead ended up with a touchback, which doesn't help matters.

    Overall, there wasn't a lot to look at coverage wise. Kickoffs continue to be a joke league-wide and, with only two punts, there was limited work for the coverage units. What I did see there looked pretty solid.