Pittsburgh Steelers Earn Failing Grade for Season Opening Loss Against Baltimore

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers Earn Failing Grade for Season Opening Loss Against Baltimore

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    The anticipation for the Pittsburgh Steelers' season opener against the Baltimore Ravens was high, but the excitement quickly wore off.

    It only took the Ravens only three plays to go 66 yards for the opening touchdown, and they would not let up for the rest of the game.

    Pittsburgh could not stop Baltimore’s attack. Not even the vaunted run defense could slow Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, who combined for 170 yards and an incredible 5.5 yards per carry average.

    The Steelers offense could not keep up either, as they were disrupted by Baltimore’s pass rush all game.

    Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times, three of those by Terrell Suggs, and the Steelers’ offense turned the ball over an incredible seven times.

    It will be back to the drawing board for the Steelers, as they have a lot to work on to get ready for their home opener next week.

Quarterback: F

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    As great as Roethlisberger looked in the preseason, that is how lost he looked against Baltimore.

    Roethlisberger did not look for the safe throws to the backs and tight ends and instead tried to make plays down field where there was no room.

    He threw two interceptions to Ed Reed, with the second going directly into his chest, as a part of his three interception day.

    Suggs stripped the ball from Roethlisberger twice, as the Steelers quarterback accounted for five of the team’s seven turnovers.

    On the day, Roethlisberger finished only 22-for-41 for 280 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Running Backs: F

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    Rashard Mendenhall ran well in the first half, but was shut down in the second half in his few opportunities.

    Pittsburgh’s running attack was only able to garner 66 yards on 16 carries with 45 of those yards coming from Mendenhall.

    Mendenhall was met in the backfield when Haloti Ngata was able to come in free, hitting the Steelers’ running back just as he was receiving the ball from Roethlisberger.

    It was just another turnover in a nightmare scenario for Pittsburgh’s offense.

    Mewelde Moore would later fumble after a long catch and run.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Wide Receivers: D-

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    Pittsburgh’s talented group of wide receivers were unable to exploit Baltimore’s inexperienced secondary.

    Mike Wallace did finish with impressive stats, with eight receptions for 107 yards, and Hines Ward added 67 yards on five receptions.

    Many of those yards came after the game was well in hand.

    Pittsburgh could not get any passes deep downfield, which was part of the reason they turned the ball over so many times. They tried to force passes that were not there.

    Antonio Brown, the star of the preseason, looked to be confused at times and was virtually a non-factor.

    Emmanuel Sanders had a nice third down reception for a first down and a touchdown catch, but it was not enough.


    Season GPA: 0.70

Tight Ends: D-

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    The tight ends were virtually a non-factor as well.

    Heath Miller did finish the day with three receptions for 42 yards and did make a couple of nice grabs.

    The Steelers needed more players open, though, in the short passing game, and better protection for Roethlisberger.

    Miller and David Johnson were the least of the Steelers problems today, but this loss was a total team effort.


    Season GPA: 0.70

Offensive Line: F

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    It was well-known that there would be problems with the offensive line, and it was quite evident Sunday.

    Roethlisberger was sacked four times, and the Steelers were only able to get 66 yards on the ground, though they did control the line of scrimmage better than usual.

    Willie Colon was called for multiple penalties, and the offensive line looked confused for much of the day.

    Doug Legursky, as I expected, look overmatched, and it is a wonder why he won the starting job.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Defensive Line: F

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    There were some concerns about the defensive line after an underwhelming preseason, and those concerns look to be real.

    Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel were getting pushed around, as were backups Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward.

    The way the Ravens ran the ball on the Steelers was almost unheard of.

    Ray Rice had 107 yards and a touchdown, and Ricky Williams added another 63 yards.

    The line was also handled rushing the passer, allowing Joe Flacco all day to throw.


     Season GPA: 0.00

Linebackers: F

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    It was imperative for the Steelers to pressure Flacco today. He typically folds under pressure, but did not have to worry about the Steelers linebackers on Sunday.

    Flacco got through the game virtually unscathed except for one play in which Woodley wasn’t going to let anybody or anything get between him and the quarterback.

    Besides that play, both Woodley and Harrison were virtually invisible.

    Harrison eventually left the game with a knee injury but did have to be spelled at one point by Jason Worilds.

    Larry Foote spelled James Farrior, and neither played well.

    Neither did Lawrence Timmons, who had trouble covering the backs and tight ends, Flacco’s main targets on the day.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Defensive Backs: F

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    Bryant McFadden was an early target of Flacco, as he was burned on a touchdown by Anquan Boldin.

    Ike Taylor took a personal foul penalty, and Troy Polamalu had no impact plays and was beat on a touchdown.

    Though Boldin was the only receiver to make a reception, the secondary did not cover the other options well and allowed big yards after reception.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Special Teams: F

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    Daniel Sepulveda was outstanding with a 52.8 yards per punt average, but it was not enough to bring up the special teams grade.

    The Ravens opening kick return went for 37 yards, though it should have been stopped inside of the 20 yard line.

    Antonio Brown had some solid kick returns but danced around too much returning punts.

    The tipping point for the special teams unit, though, was allowing a two point conversion on a fake extra point.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Coaching: F-

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    The Ravens were prepared; the Steelers weren’t. It was that simple.

    Baltimore was aggressive from start to finish in all phases of the game. They played it like the game meant something. They wanted to destroy the Steelers as some form of payback.

    The Steelers were sleep walking from start to finish. They looked completely unprepared to defend Rice and Baltimore’s tight ends in the passing game and had no answer to stop the run.

    As usual, Pittsburgh’s offensive line looked thoroughly confused by the Ravens’ blitzes, and there appeared to be no plan of attack on offense.

    Mike Tomlin had his team nowhere near prepared for the opener, as it was by far the worst coached and played game of his tenure.


    Season GPA: 0.00

Study Up: What Must Improve

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    Everything. Every player, unit and coach must get better for next week. There was absolutely no positive to take from this game.

    Pittsburgh will have to put this loss behind them, and maybe they’ll join the rest of the league in realizing that the regular season has started.


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