Pittsburgh Steelers' Positional Grade Report for Win over the St. Louis Rams
Pittsburgh did it without a number of starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, and with their old formula for winning—a strong running game and tough defense.
Charlie Batch was efficient in place of Roethlisberger, and Rashard Mendenhall was able to run well behind a second-rate offensive line.
Though the defense could not stop Steven Jackson, they did enough to shut out the hapless Rams to move the Steelers record to 11-4.
The victory was an important one. First, they were able to get the win with a number of injuries at key positions, and second, they kept pace with the Baltimore Ravens.
With a win next week and a Ravens' loss, the Steelers could earn the AFC North title and a first-round bye.
Here's the positional grade report for the Steelers victory over the Rams.
Charlie Batch did exactly what the Steelers needed him to do. He managed the offense and played a relatively mistake-free game to help lead Pittsburgh to victory.
Batch's lone mistake wasn't even his fault: He was intercepted on a play in which Antonio Brown slipped, allowing the defensive back to make the play.
Beyond this, Batch was solid completing 15-of-22 passes for 208 yards. He nearly had a touchdown pass, but a 46-yard reception by Mike Wallace was marked just short of the goal line.
There were times that Batch played like Roethlisberger. He looked very nimble in the pocket to escape pressure and make plays. On one play he ducked a defender and hit Mendenhall for a 35-yard gain.
Season GPA: 2.18
Running Backs: A-
Not a bad debut for John Clay. The big running back had one carry for 10 yards and a score, finishing off a drive which featured a 52-yard Mendenhall run.
Mendenhall had one of his best days of the season running against a terrible rush defense, but also behind a poor offense. Already without Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert also did not start because he missed a meeting during the week (according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), leaving Jonathan Scott to start at right tackle.
It did not seem to bother Mendenhall much as he ran for 116 yards on only 18 carries for an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. He also had a score and a 35-yard reception.
Isaac Redman had several physical carries, running through defenders en route to 35 yards on eight runs. He had a touchdown as well.
Season GPA: 2.58
Wide Receivers: B
It was not a banner day for the Steelers receivers. Granted the Steelers did not throw the ball much, but they only had one big play against a poor Rams' defense.
Wallace caught a 46-yard pass to set up a touchdown and had 82 yards on the day. However, he also dropped a catchable pass that would have resulted in a touchdown.
Antonio Brown had only 34 receiving yards, but did go over 1,000 yards for the season and set the team record for all-purpose yards with 2,048.
Of great interest was Hines Ward, who caught four passes including a 19-yard reception. He was also open on a reverse play to Brown, but he did not see him. Ward now is five receptions away from 1,000 for his career.
Season GPA: 2.91
Tight Ends: B
It should have been a big day for Heath Miller. Instead, the Steelers virtually ignored their tight ends, which I suppose is not out of the ordinary.
Pittsburgh could have gave Batch a lot of safe options with Miller, but instead only three of 22 passes were thrown to the tight ends.
Miller had a great leaping catch over a defender for an 18-yard gain to set up a score and David Johnson had one catch for five yards.
Season GPA: 2.93
Offensive Line: B+
All in all it was not a bad effort from a short-handed Steelers offensive line.
Backup center, Doug Legursky, was lost early with a shoulder injury, meaning that Trai Essex had to shift in from guard to man the position.
That meant that Chris Kemoeatu had to return to the lineup. The Steelers had backups at center, guard and tackle. Only Max Starks and Ramon Foster finished the game.
Despite the problems, Batch was not sacked and the Steelers ran for 169 yards for a 6.0 average and three touchdowns.
Season GPA: 1.77
Defensive Line: D+
Remember the days when the Steelers defense would stop a running back for no gain, or gasp, even a loss? It wasn't that long ago, but it also hasn't been this season.
The defensive line had one of their worst games of the year, allowing Steven Jackson to rush for 104 yards on 24 carries. As a team, the Rams ran for 164 yards averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh's defensive line was beat off the ball and was not very physical. It is certainly not the same line from recent years that was unstoppable against the run.
No one was particularly impressive, however it is worth mentioning that Ziggy Hood had a sack and Cameron Heyward made a nice stop late in the game.
Season GPA: 2.54
The Steelers linebackers struggled to get pressure on Kellen Clemens and were pushed around by the Rams ground game.
James Harrison returned from his suspension and had a sack and two stops for a loss, but had a surprisingly quiet game.
Lawrence Timmons led the team with 11 tackles and had a sack and one tackle for a loss. Despite the numbers, Timmons was once again relatively unimpressive. He has not been the impact player that the Steelers have needed this year.
Jason Worilds, who played for LaMarr Woodley, was virtually invisible. He was unable to generate a pass rush and was not very strong against the run.
Season GPA: 2.54
Defensive Backs: A
Brandon Lloyd only had three receptions, despite being targeted 12 times. Ike Taylor did a fine job shutting him down: Taylor nearly added an interception, but the ball deflected off of his fingers.
William Gay had another good game and had a nice pass defense, as did Keenan Lewis—who had a deflected pass across the middle.
Pittsburgh got good safety play as well from Ryan Clark, and Troy Polamalu showed good instincts in a near interception and was a force against the run.
Clemens finished the game with only 91 yards passing while completing only 9-of-24 passes.
Season GPA: 2.76
Special Teams: B+
Antonio Brown set a franchise record in all-purpose yardage and had a five-yard punt return and a 30-yard kick return on the day. The Rams punter did a good job not allowing Brown to have any returnable punts.
Pittsburgh's coverage team was solid on kick returns allowing 24 yards per return, but did allow an average of 10.3 yards on three punt returns.
Shaun Suisham was impressive with two field goals, including one from 49 yards in the open end zone.
Jeremy Kapinos averaged 47.8 yards per punt and had one downed inside of the 20-yard line.
The Steelers did a great job on a fake punt defending against the pass, but nearly allowed the Rams to pick up the first down yardage on the run. Regardless, St. Louis did not convert.
Season GPA: 2.73
With all of the injuries—even against what may be the worst team in the NFL—a 27-0 victory is very impressive.
However, not all was well.
The offensive game plan was pretty good, but it was a struggle early on. The Steelers were unable to get into a good flow early, but in the end scored three touchdowns and that was more than enough to get the job done.
The defense was a bit more disappointing. Though they completely shut down the Rams passing attack, they were unable to stop Jackson and the Rams rushing game.
St. Louis found some space in the Steelers defense on third-and-longs. Running Jackson out of the shot gun, they converted a 3rd-and-12 and a 3rd-and-14.
Season GPA: 2.25
Study Up: What Must Improve
The Steelers need to continue to get healthy next week as they close out the regular season in Cleveland.
Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey and LaMarr Woodley should all sit out again this week. Though I can get behind the idea that Roethlisberger should play a half or so if healthy enough to build some rhythm heading into the playoffs.
The defense really needs to get to the quarterback and get it together against the run.
Most importantly, Hines Ward is only five receptions away from 1,000 career receptions. Get it done.
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