Bears vs. Steelers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Pittsburgh
Another week and another loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday night, the Steelers put up a great fight against the Chicago Bears, but in the end, they had to succumb to a rash of turnovers that made a more than passable offensive and defensive performance meaningless.
This game really came down to individual performances. Some were outstanding, while others were dreadful. This level of variation makes handing out grades difficult. It is unfortunate that so many exceptional individual effort were for naught because of the errors of a few (but mainly just one).
But with that, let's hand out some grades for Week 3.
It is hard to give an F to a quarterback who threw for 406 yards. However, when you account for four turnovers on your own...
Over the course of the game, Roethlisberger made some amazing throws. The kind that only elite quarterbacks can make. But those glimpses into greatness don't make up for what went wrong.
Roethlisberger showed terrible fundamentals in terms of ball security on his two fumbles and made astonishingly poor decisions on both interceptions. I understand he may (justifiably) feel he needs to press with such lackluster offensive production, but his mistakes this week were central to the loss.
Felix Jones: B
There are coaching moves that make me shake my head, and one that really did it for me Sunday night was the exclusion of Jones from the run game. It is inexcusable that he only finished with seven carries, even after his fumble.
Jones was able to exploit the creases on the offensive line to the tune of 34 yards on only seven carries. But then the Steelers pulled him inexplicably at moments, changing the dynamic of the entire offense.
Jonathan Dwyer: B-
Dwyer doesn't get this vote for his running. Other than one big run where he plowed ahead for 25 yards, he was less than effective.
But Dwyer did a very sound job in pass protection, though, which is something he was heavily criticized for in the preseason. I was left shaking my head on multiple passing downs when Dwyer was replaced for Isaac Redman.
Antonio Brown: A+
In a word, Brown was spectacular. Everything that the Steelers wanted to see from him when they kept him over Mike Wallace was on display.
There are few receivers in the league who are more elusive in the open field. He showed tremendous acceleration, great concentration and an excellent knack for getting open quickly.
Brown's stat line read like something off of Madden. Nine catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns is rarefied air for NFL wide receivers. Alas, it wasn't enough to get the win, but if you get a chance to see his late touchdown catch, I highly recommend it.
Brown's teammates, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders, both had solid games. The two combined for seven catches and 91 yards with no real lapses during the game. They both found ways to get open and made some tough catches.
Heath Miller: A
The return of Heath Miller is cause for celebration. It's obvious that when things break down, he is who Roethlisberger looks for. It was also obvious that with Miller on the field, the nooks and crannies in the Bears defense got a bit more pronounced for the wide receivers.
Fellow tight end David Johnson got into the action with a two-catch, 51-yard performance. Miller's influence was part of this as well, because you could see Roethlisberger eyeing those spots on the field, when he likely wasn't looking that way the first two weeks.
Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert: F
Patience with the Steelers tackles has run out. Both players were beaten repeatedly on the outside, saved only by Roethlisberger's ability to step up and avoid the constant barrage of pressure. At some point, the health of this team's franchise quarterback must be considered, and these two players are going to get him killed.
In the run game, things weren't much better, as both struggled to seal the edge and were unable to work in space.
The only upside to both players' game was that they opted to allow Roethlisberger to be hit rather than give up copious amounts of holding penalties.
David DeCastro: B
For as bad as Gilbert and Adams were, DeCastro was good. There might not be a better pulling guard in the league. The problem is he isn't asked to pull very often in games. DeCastro is far and away the most talented offensive lineman on this team.
Fernando Velasco and Ramon Foster both had solid, if unspectacular performances. Foster had the only penalty on the offensive line for a late hold, but both missed assignments allowing free blitzers to run straight at Roethlisberger.
Steve McLendon: C
The Steve McLendon experiment isn't working out. McLendon is a nice player, but he doesn't have the strength or the bulk to play that zero-technique nose tackle.
The job of the nose tackle is to eat up blockers and command constant double teams. McLendon did neither Sunday night, and inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams were being forced to work through much more traffic.
This roster doesn't have a massive nose tackle on the roster, but it looks as if the team needs to find one. That isn't to say McLendon is a bad player—quite the contrary. I'm just not sure he is a good fit in the Steelers' scheme as it stands now.
Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood continue to impress in their expanded roles. Keisel had a sack, and both he and Hood harassed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler most of the night.
LaMarr Woodley: B
Woodley was able to get a sack Sunday night, and on multiple plays, he was very close. It is refreshing to see him healthy and playing with much better energy. Of course, more consistent play would be a plus, and more splash plays, but improvement each week is something to strive for.
Jarvis Jones: C+
Jones was announced as the starter, but he once again split snaps with fellow outside linebacker Jason Worilds. He is improving in the finer points of his game, especially in play diagnosis. However, he failed to register a sack, and there have to be some concerns about whether or not he is being used properly.
Lawrence Timmons: B+
Another week and another solid performance by Timmons. The talented inside linebacker really showcased his versatility with 16 total tackles, leading the team with two passes defended as well.
Vince Williams: B
The rookie linebacker from Florida State held his own quite well against a Bears offensive line that was getting lots of free runs at the linebackers. With each passing week, Williams gets more snaps, and the experience is clearly translating in his ability to impact the defense.
Ike Taylor: A
If the Steelers gave an award for defensive player of the year, three weeks in, Taylor would get it in a landslide. This week, he locked down star Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall for the entire game, minus one long play. But to be honest, that play was more about what Marshall did right than what Taylor did wrong.
Taylor's play has been a true high point for the Steelers so far this season. Now, if he could just figure out a way to make an interception or two.
William Gay: B
During the game, I commented that Gay seems to find himself in the middle of an awful lot of run plays for a cornerback. It's his ability to cover and stuff the run that have made him such a solid free-agent signing.
Sunday night, he was very good in the soft zones the Steelers run, making tackles and keeping receivers from getting big runs after the catch. He again showed great ability to quickly diagnose run plays and even got a few tackles for loss in support.
Interestingly enough, Polamalu was pretty inconspicuous on Sunday night. No big splash plays and no highlight-reel types of gaffs either. This is a good thing, because most of the plays were being made in front of him, and that equates to fewer big plays by opposing offenses.
Ryan Clark: B-
Clark is lumped in the same boat at Polamalu this week. While he finished the game with only three tackles, he kept the game in front of him, allowing the defense to do as well as it did all things considered. Keep in mind, much of the lopsided score falls upon offensive miscues rather than defensive breakdowns.
Kicker Shaun Suisham: A
Suisham hit all three of his field-goal attempts and both of his extra-point attempts.
Punter Zoltan Mesko: C-
Mesko only punted twice for a 29.5-yard-per-punt average.
Punt returner Antonio Brown: C
Brown only returned two punts for a total of four yards.
Kick returner Felix Jones: B+
Jones returned two kickoffs and averaged 24 yards per kick return.