Pittsburgh Steelers: Positional Grade Report for Victory Over the Titans
Now this is exactly what I expected from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The offense was balanced with a solid mix of rushes and passes as they were able to roll up 38 points. The defense was stout against the run and pressured the quarterback into poor throws.
It was also the type of game that the Steelers needed. After three poor performances on the road this season, they came up big at home, but this time it was against a quality opponent.
What made the game even more impressive was that the Steelers did it without James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Kemoeatu.
On top of these injuries, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a foot injury which had him limping around the field during the pre-game warm ups.
Rather than make excuses, the Steelers came out and won big with their best team performance of the year.
The offense stayed committed to the run and Roethlisberger was superb through the air. This was in part due to the strong performance by the offensive line boosted by the signing of Max Starks.
Pittsburgh’s defense was back to their normal selves with a suffocating effort on Chris Johnson and big plays from their linebackers.
Even the special teams came through with big returns and a brilliant fake punt.
All in all it was a great performance by the players who were set up perfectly by an outstanding game plan from Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff.
Foot injury? What foot injury?
"I told ya, I was just faking it," Roethlisberger said. "I'm a wimp."
The same quarterback that could barely jog prior to the start of the game threw for five touchdowns.
Roethlisberger, who was forced to stay in the pocket with his injury, finished 24-of-34 for 228 yards. His lone interception was on a miscommunication with Emmanuel Sanders at the end of the first half.
Besides this one play, Roethlisberger was nearly flawless.
He got the ball out quickly and completed passes to seven different players. Getting the receivers, tight ends and running backs all involved kept Tennessee’s defense off balance all game.
With his five touchdown passes, Roethlisberger now has 152 for his career, becoming only the second quarterback, besides Terry Bradshaw, in team history to surpass 150 for his career.
Season GPA: 2.40
Running Backs: B
Isaac Redman got the starting in place of Rashard Mendenhall and had a strong performance.
While he only had 49 yards on 15 carries, Redman was able to move the pile and gain positive yardage more often than not. It felt like he had more yards than what he actually gained.
He showed that he is multi-dimensional as well catching all three balls thrown his way.
The surprise of the day, however, was Jonathan Dwyer.
Dwyer gained 76 yards on his first carry and finished with 107 yards only 11 carries and added one reception.
The long run by Dwyer helped spark a running game that had been struggling.
The only downside is that the long run by Dwyer inflated the overall stats by the running backs. But, it still was a positive sign to see the Steelers commit to the run.
Season GPA: 1.84
Wide Receivers: A-
Earlier in the week, Hines Ward proclaimed it was time for the offense to step up to help out the defense.
"It's time for the offense to step up and carry this team," Ward said, "because the defense has carried us for many years now. And now they're going through this situation. We need to be there for our teammates and for this organization, we have to go out and make more plays."
Ward backed up his words with his best game of the season.
He finished with seven receptions for 54 yards. The important stat, though, was his two touchdowns.
It was vintage Ward going over the middle of the end zone for the first and leaping over Michael Griffin for the second.
Mike Wallace continued his outstanding season with 82 yards on six receptions. He added a 40-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
Antonio Brown had two receptions while Emmanuel Sanders appeared to not get a message from Roethlisberger prior to the half which resulted in an interception.
Season GPA: 2.89
Tight Ends: A
Heath Miller had a very productive day with three receptions for an impressive 46 yards and a score.
This is the type of impact that fans expect every week from their star tight end and Pittsburgh finally went to him.
David Johnson also got into the mix with two receptions for five yards, but did make a touchdown reception.
Wesyle Saunders had one pass thrown his way and he was unable to come down with it.
Season GPA: 2.88
Offensive Line: B
Team MVP, Max Starks? It sure looked like it on Sunday.
It is amazing what a competent left tackle can do for a team.
Roethlisberger felt no pressure from the left size as Starks, playing in his first game in about a year, looked like a season veteran. Well, that makes sense as that is exactly what he is.
Maurkice Pouncey was dominant in the middle and Marcus Gilbert played well before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
Doug Legursky had a key block on Dwyer’s 76-yard run, but at times was overpowered.
Ramon Foster did get beat badly on one play, but played well overall.
Jonathan Scott even played well when stepping in for the injured Gilbert.
On the day, Roethlisberger was sacked once and the ground game had some push. However, if you take away the long run, the Steelers only had 98 yards as a team with an average of about 3.6 yards per carry.
Still, much improved and it gives the team some hope as they move forward.
Season GPA: 1.20
Defensive Line: A-
There was some concern as to how the team would perform without any depth along the defensive line.
Smith was replaced by Ziggy Hood and Hampton by Chris Hoke.
Besides a 21-yard carry on the first drive, the defensive line helped shut down Chris Johnson.
Johnson only had 51 yards on 14 carries and after his first carry, was held to 30 yards.
Hoke was an integral part in shutting down the stretch play as the Steelers felt little to no drop off in the middle of their line.
In fact, Hoke may have played better today than what Hampton has this season.
Hood shared a sack with LaMarr Woodley and Brett Keisel, who returned to the lineup, in vintage style got his hands up and batted a ball which would be intercepted by Woodley.
First round draft choice, Cameron Heyward, had the best game of his short career with a sack and a forced fumble.
Season GPA: 1.94
Lawrence Timmons had a quiet game starting in place of Harrison on the outside, but that was alright.
Woodley came up big on the other side, pressuring Matt Hasselbeck and picking up one-and-a-half sacks as well as the team’s first interception of the year.
Not all was bad from Timmons, though, as he had a tackle for a loss and had one nice batted ball.
But the best effort of the day came from James Farrior.
Farrior, who has been more of a hindrance than a help recently, logged his best game of the season. He had 13 tackles and a pass defense. He also played his most physical game of the year.
Woodley said that the team got the message last week that they must play more physical and he summed up the Steelers’ performance after the game.
"We went out there and we brought it."
Season GPA: 1.84
Defensive Backs: A-
The defense played well on Sunday, but Troy Polamalu once again played on another level.
He can cover more ground than any other player in the league and showed this again with his performance.
Polamalu defended three passes and had nine tackles on the day. He also came dangerously close to intercepting a couple of passes.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Steelers defensive backs kept the ball in front of them and held Hasselbeck in check, forcing short passes.
Keenan Lewis once again had a good game and had one deflected pass. It also appeared as though he got beat for a touchdown, but Ryan Mundy was late on his coverage.
Season GPA: 2.68
Special Teams: A-
Big returns? Check.
Antonio Brown averaged 41.5 yards per kick return including his opening return of 52 yards.
Shaun Suisham consistently put the ball deep in the end zone. Tennessee only had the opportunity to return three kicks.
Fake punt? You betcha.
The Steelers pulled out all the stops. Daniel Sepulveda connected with Mundy for 33 yards on a key fourth down conversion early in the game. This helped really put the momentum on the Steelers side.
The only flaws were the Steelers did not recover a surprise onside kick, though given the context of the game it was not much of a surprise. They also allowed a blocked punt following a special teams penalty that forced a re-kick.
Season GPA: 2.24
The game plan was superb on Sunday.
Bruce Arians easily called his best game of the year.
Roethlisberger was getting the ball out of his hands quickly and there was a nice mix of passes and runs.
Pittsburgh ran a couple of reverses as well to give the defenses something else to think about.
Quite simply, it was hard to argue against 38 points.
Defensively, the plan was just as good as the Steelers held a good Titans team in check. Many of the yards, as well as a touchdown, came during garbage time.
Chris Johnson was completely shut down, despite the Steelers recent struggles in stopping the run and the pass defense once again had a solid effort.
The pass rush finally showed up as well and helped force Hasselbeck into several poor throws.
Even the fake punt call on special teams got them in the mix.
To dominate a team like the Titans with all of the injuries that they had was an impressive feat.
Season GPA: 1.79
Study Up: What Must Improve
Pittsburgh cannot get complacent after a win like this. They showed everyone what they are capable of and now have to get better.
The Steelers played to their strengths and executed nearly perfectly. Now they cannot get away from doing what was so successful on Sunday.
With that said, the Steelers cannot begin to look ahead either and must capitalize on the Jacksonville Jaguars next week.
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