Pittsburgh Steelers: Positional Grade Report for Victory over the Cardinals
The Steelers were not very disciplined, as they were called for nine penalties and only had a three-point lead in the third quarter. They turned it on, however, and pulled away behind the arm of Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger was nimble in the pocket, escaping the relentless pressure from the Cardinals’ defense, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
With that said, here are the positional grades for Sunday’s game.
Roethlisberger was in full scramble mode on Sunday, as Arizona brought everything that they had at him.
The plays that he made with his feet to escape pressure were vintage Roethlisberger. He side-stepped defenders all day en route to 340 yards on 25-for-38 passing.
Roethlisberger completed passes to eight different receivers, getting both Heath Miller and the running backs involved in both the short and mid-ranged passing game.
But the big play came in the second quarter when Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a franchise record 95-yard touchdown pass. It was his second of three touchdowns on the day.
Roethlisberger finished with a quarterback rating of 120.5.
Season GPA: 2.71
Running Backs: B-
As good as Rashard Mendenhall was last week, that is how ineffective he was for much of the game this week.
To begin the game, Mendenhall had five carries for only three yards. This was in part because he had absolutely nowhere to run but was also unable to create any yards on his own.
Later in the game he was able to get some room to the outside, but he only had 32 yards on 13 carries.
Isaac Redman had much more success in pounding Arizona’s defense. He carried the ball six times for 29 yards.
Redman, along with Mewelde Moore, were effective down the stretch to run the clock in the fourth quarter. Moore had 26 yards on six carries.
Season GPA: 2.27
Wide Receivers: A-
The receivers came up big on Sunday, catching 18 of Roethlisberger’s 28 passes.
Wallace led the way with 118 yards on three receptions, including his record setting 95-yard touchdown reception.
Antonio Brown had the best day of his career with 102 yards on seven receptions and was a major focus of the Steelers' offensive scheme.
Fellow second year player Emmanuel Sanders began the game slow but finished strong as he had five receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Prior to leaving with an ankle injury, Hines Ward inched closer to the record books with three receptions for 21 yards.
The only downside on the day is that there was a couple of instances where the receivers heard footsteps and didn’t make the play, and there was a couple of near misses on big plays.
All-in-all, though, a great day for the Steelers' passing game.
Season GPA: 2.96
Tight Ends: B+
Heath Miller had a great day in the passing game, as he was a force over the middle of the field and made a nice diving catch. Miller also had a touchdown.
However, each tight end had a penalty for a total of 20 penalty yards.
Season GPA: 3.06
Offensive Line: C-
Roethlisberger was under pressure all day, and if not for his elusiveness, he would have been sacked more than the two times that he was.
Chris Kemoeatu, who returned to the lineup this week, got beat badly for one sack, and on the very next play, he got beat again—only this time Roethlisberger was able to escape.
The offensive line also failed to get much push for the ground game. Pittsburgh was only able to gain 91 yards and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry.
Not all was bad, though. The Steelers’ line was able to give Roethlisberger time to throw on a number of plays which resulted in big plays.
Season GPA: 1.50
Defensive Line: B
Pittsburgh’s defensive line played alright considering injuries to Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke and Aaron Smith.
Steve McLendon got his first start and played pretty well. At one point he was leading the team in tackles. He finished with five stops including one for a loss.
The Steelers defensive line held Arizona to 73 yards on the ground and a 3.8 yard average.
Prior to leaving with an injury, Beanie Wells, who had been averaging just less than five yards per carry, had only 12 carries for 42 yards.
The line, including rookie Cameron Heyward, was also able to generate some pressure on Kevin Kolb.
Season GPA: 2.25
LaMarr Woodley alone would haven gotten a perfect score for the day. He led the team with seven tackles and was a disruptive force rushing the passer.
Woodley had two more sacks on the day and would have had a third, but Kolb threw the ball away. Kolb was called for intentional grounding, and the penalty resulted in a safety. It was too bad that Woodley couldn’t have been credited with a third sack, because he made the play happen.
Playing on the other side of Woodley, Lawrence Timmons had his best game in place of James Harrison.
Though he only had three tackles, Timmons was able to generate some pressure on the quarterback. It was the most active he has been since moving to the outside.
James Farrior defended a pass but was also beaten badly on a couple of plays, including the long touchdown by LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Season GPA: 2.17
Defensive Backs: B-
Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield was not beaten for a big play, but it was the worst they have played in quite awhile.
Kolb had 272 yards passing, though some of it came later in the game when the Steelers were sitting back.
Ike Taylor had an up and down game. He held Larry Fitzgerald to 78 yards, but more importantly only four receptions on 10 targets.
However, Taylor was called for multiple penalties which helped sustain drives and lead to points for the Cardinals.
Keenan Lewis and William Gay were fair on the day, while safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark had mixed results.
Polamalu, in what has become a common occurrence this season, dropped a potential interception that hit him right in the hands.
He wasn’t as active in the defense, which wasn’t a surprise considering he suffered concussion-like symptoms last week.
Clark became the Steelers first defensive back to make an interception in the first quarter off of a tipped ball. But later in the game he was slow to Stephens-Howling on what would be a 73-yard touchdown reception.
Season GPA: 2.73
Special Teams: A
It was a solid day for the special teams units.
Stephens-Howling did not hurt the Steelers on kick returns, as he had a long of only 31 yards. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ Brown averaged 22.0 yards on three returns.
Brown was better on punt returns, as he averaged 23.5 yards and had a 31-yard return. Arizona did not have a punt return.
Daniel Sepulveda only averaged 39.3 yards per punt and had two downed inside of the 20.
Shaun Suisham made all three of his extra point attempts and was 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 41, 42 and 39 yards.
Season GPA: 2.32
The Steelers were well prepared to go against a coaching staff that knew them so well. They jumped out to an early lead, and while they allowed the Cardinals to get back into it, Pittsburgh was able to pull away in the end.
Pittsburgh did a good job shutting down Fitzgerald and Wells, containing the Cardinals offense pretty well overall.
The Steelers offense was unable to move the ball on the ground and instead depended upon their passing attack.
Roethlisberger used the entire field and virtually every available weapon. Though he had four passes over 20 yards, it didn’t feel like the Steelers were trying to force things down field.
The two issues on the day were that the Steelers let Arizona temporarily get back into the game, and the team had nine penalties. They will need to play more disciplined in the upcoming weeks.
Season GPA: 2.13
Study Up: What Must Improve
Ben Roethlisberger was outstanding two out of the past three weeks and will need to continue to play at this level as New England and Baltimore come to town.
But to fully develop the passing game it would be beneficial for the Steelers to develop some sort of running game.
This does not mean they need to run the ball 25 to 30 times, but rather run the ball effectively when they do. In other words, limit the carries of two yards or fewer. It may mean running the ball with Redman more often.
On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh’s secondary, especially William Gay, will be tested early and often next week by Tom Brady.
Unlike the other quarterbacks they have faced this year, Brady has pinpoint accuracy, and the defensive backs will have to be at the top of their game.
It also means that the Steelers pass rush has to be in top form. Woodley cannot be the only linebacker getting to the quarterback.
Timmons will have to apply pressure, and when Farrior gets in, he will have to get in the quarterback’s face.
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