Pittsburgh Steelers: Positional Grade Report for Win Against the Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium proved to be a hostile environment fueling an aggressive Chiefs’ defense which put pressure on the Steelers all night and in typical Steelers fashion, the played down to their competition.
Multiple turnovers, failures in the red zone and ill-advised time outs all aided to Pittsburgh’s struggles. On top of their performance, or lack thereof, Pittsburgh also lost Troy Polamalu to a head injury and Maurkice Pouncey to an illness.
When all was said and done, Pittsburgh snuck out of Kansas City with a 13-9 victory.
Though it wasn’t pretty, the win helped the Steelers keep pace with the top teams in the AFC.
Here's the positional grade report for the Steelers win against the Chiefs.
Ben Roethlisberger was running around the pocket virtually all night with pressure coming up the middle and from the edge from Tamba Hali. He did a great job creating time to positive plays out of nothing. In other words, he was his typical self.
In the second quarter, he did a fantastic job avoiding a pass-rusher to throw a beautiful touchdown pass to Weslye Saunders. He did it with a fractured thumb as well (Thanks Al and Chris!).
Roethlisberger did not get much help from his receivers either as Mike Wallace dropped two passes, including an easy touchdown, as well as Heath Miller.
For as well as Roethlisberger played, he also made an ill-advised throw in the third quarter while the Steelers were driving that was intercepted.
Roethlisberger finished 21-for-31 and 193 yards. It was not his best effort, but considering his lack of help from his line and receivers, he had a solid night.
Season GPA: 2.87
Running Backs: B-
For as porous as the offensive line was Sunday night, especially after Pouncey left, the running backs did a fair job.
All three running backs were used as receivers, and each was a factor on the ground.
Mendenhall ran more physical that he had been in previous weeks as he picked up 57 yards on 17 carries, though he was shut down in the fourth quarter when they needed him the most. He had two receptions for 10 yards as well.
Isaac Redman made several nice plays as well, including a couple which looked to be going no where. He had 22 yards on three carries and caught both passes thrown his way as he continues to show he has solid hands with his physical style of play.
Mewelde Moore got his touches as well, and they were productive for the most part. However, on his first carry of the game, after a nice run, he fumbled the ball which the Chiefs recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Moore had two carries and three receptions on the night.
This turnover proved to be costly as the Steelers could have scored an early touchdown to create separation from the Chiefs. Instead, the game remained close throughout.
Season GPA: 2.51
Wide Receivers: C+
Roethlisberger spread the ball around, hitting four different wide receivers, but it was not their best effort.
Antonio Brown continues to be a star as he had a couple of huge third-down conversions and had two carries as well. Brown averaged 20.3 yards on four receptions as he further develops into one of the better playmakers in the league.
Hines Ward was the most active he has been in several weeks. Though he did not pick up a lot of yards, he was effective at moving the ball up field as he inched closer to his career milestones with four receptions and 21 yards on the evening. He had several nice blocks to free up runners as well.
Mike Wallace did not have his best game with two drops, including one in the end zone. He also was pretty well defended on the deep ball, something we are not used to seeing.
The Steelers need Wallace to do better and to make the plays that he missed out on if he is to be their top receiver. He only had two receptions for 17 yards, and that's not enough for one of the most dangerous players in the league. Brown has clearly become the go-to receiver over the past few weeks.
In his return, Emmanuel Sanders made one of his two receptions on a possible turnover saving catch on a deflected ball.
Season GPA: 3.06
Tight Ends: C+
Heath Miller was effective over the middle but was unable to capitalize at getting open. He only had one reception for 20 yards and let a pass bounce off his hands. Though he was well defended, they are plays that you expect Miller to make.
He also had a holding call negating a good play, though it could be argued that it was a weak call
Despite the negatives, Miller did have a solid day blocking along with David Johnson on running plays.
Saunders made a tip-toe catch at the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Season GPA: 2.95
Offensive Line: D
Let’s just say this was not their best night.
Roethlisberger was under pressure for much of the night, and there were several runs stuffed at the line.
Not all was bad though. There were, at times, huge holes for the running backs, and they gave Roethlisberger a lot of time on a couple of deep balls.
Pittsburgh gained 108 yards on the ground with a fair 3.9 yard average, and Roethlisberger was sacked only once, though that does not include the countless times he was pressured.
Despite this, they took too many penalties on the evening. Part of the problem may have been the shuffling with Doug Legursky stepping in at left guard and then Pouncey leaving the game.
Season GPA: 1.81
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line was pretty average against Kansas City. At times, they looked dominant against the run while others the Chiefs had no problem moving the ball forward.
Ahead by only a touchdown, the Chiefs moved the ball with ease on the ground in the fourth quarter before a Chiefs’ tight end stopped his own teammate in the backfield to end the drive.
Earlier in the game, Brett Keisel came up with a big turnover when he fell on top of a fumbled snap.
On the night, Kansas City only had 90 yards rushing, and they are one of the more impressive rushing teams. They averaged only 2.6 yards per carry.
It would have been nice to see the defensive front help apply more pressure on the quarterback.
Season GPA: 2.56
Pittsburgh’s defense is supposed to thrive around its linebackers. That did not exactly happen.
Without LaMarr Woodley yet again, Pittsburgh’s defense lacked pressure on Palko.
Jason Worilds played the best game he has had all season recording a sack, but he still has ways to go, especially defending the run as the Chiefs would often go his direction.
James Harrison made some nice plays on the backside pursuit while Lawrence Timmons overpursued too much before settling down and improving his play in the second half.
On the Chiefs final drive, Pittsburgh was finally able to get into Palko’s face. Palko just so happened to make outstanding plays. The linebackers then dropped into coverage on the final play which was a Steelers interception.
Season GPA: 2.42
Defensive Backs: B
In a strange twist of events, Ike Taylor made an interception. Granted it was on an underthrown ball that went right to him. His return set up the Steelers offense inside the 10-yard line, but they were unable to convert.
Ryan Mundy also had an interception on a ball thrown right to him. He had to step in due to a head injury to Polamalu.
Polamalu was very aggressive early on, sometimes too aggressive, missing plays because of bad angles. However, he was setting the tone for Pittsburgh’s defense.
Overall, the safeties had a fair game which is to be expected when Polamalu is out of the lineup.
To his credit, Mundy not only made an interception, he led the team with 10 tackles.
The cornerbacks were fair as well. Palko was able to hit on 18-of-28 passing for 168 yards, though several were on screens.
There was one screen in particular that should have been stopped for a loss, but William Gay took a bad angle. However, he later made a nice stick on a wide receiver screen and got pressure on blitzes.
Keenan Lewis had one nice pass defense on the sidelines and then made the interception which sealed the game.
Season GPA: 2.58
Special Teams: B-
Pittsburgh had a pretty average day returning the ball. Emmanuel Sanders was on kickoff duty and averaged just under 20 yards per return, and they did not have a punt return.
They were called for a holding penalty on what was a nice return and got caught on a fake punt which Kansas City converted for a first down.
The Steelers did hold Kansas City in check allowing only a 20-yard kick return and an average of 10.5 yards on two punt returns.
Suisham had a good day with a couple of touchbacks and nailed a 49-yard field goal just before the half.
Jeremy Kapinos was busy on the night with five punts and an average of 42.2 yards and helped pin the Chiefs back deep.
Season GPA: 2.52
Pittsburgh’s defense struggled early on but would later settle down. While they did not get a tremendous amount of pressure on Palko, it was enough to force him into making mistakes.
The run defense was hit or miss, but overall, did a solid job of shutting a good Chiefs running offense down.
The offense was another story. The offensive line looked unprepared for the Chiefs’ pass rush. This is the same pass rush that has the least amount of sacks in the league.
Roethlisberger was running around all night and even with extra defenders being sent, the receivers were blanketed. They were never able to get into a flow offensively.
Pittsburgh also used two timeouts early in the first half and wasted another in the second half on a fourth-down play which they would eventually punt anyway. The better decision would have been to take a penalty as the extra five yards may have helped prevent a touchback.
Even more concerning, Pittsburgh was shut out in the second half.
Kansas City converted on a fake punt on a 4th-and-1.
The Steelers were also very undisciplined on the night, taking six penalties and converted on only 3-of-11 third-down attempts.
Season GPA: 2.15
Study Up: What Must Improve
The offensive line was once again not up to par, but a healthy Pouncey could help that group. But considering it's a weakness, Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians need to devise ways to combat the blitz.
Earlier this year, the Steelers were very effective with a quick passing game, but that was not in the cards Sunday night.
Enough cannot be stated about the Steelers red-zone efficiency either. The Steelers were only 1-for-3 with a turnover. They must do better, especially against a team like the Chiefs.
Defensively, the Steelers only allowed nine points, but they lacked consistent pressure on the quarterback and gave an overall uneasy feeling against Palko and a bad Chiefs' passing attack.
Things get tougher next week against a solid Cincinnati Bengals team.
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