Bills vs. Steelers: Full Roster Report Grade Cards for Pittsburgh
Handing out roster grades after a win is much more relaxing than handing them out after a loss. And handing them out after a dominating win is not only relaxing but also enjoyable.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a dominating performance in all three phases, as they handed the Buffalo Bills their sixth loss of the year 23-10. But don't let the score fool you. It wasn't that close. The Bills stole a garbage-time touchdown at the end of the game to help the finish look a little better in the box score.
That's not to say that this is going to be a straight A's-type game because it wasn't. This team had a great day but is far from a great team. But, for this day, they are on top of the world.
What grades do you give the Steelers after this big win? Read on and see if you agree.
All stats provided by ESPN.com.
Obviously, this wasn't quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's most productive game. Big Ben only mustered 204 yards passing and a single touchdown. And very early in the game, Roethlisberger threw a horrible interception where he essentially led Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd right to the play and threw it right to him.
However, after that play, Roethlisberger settled down and worked well within the conservative game plan offensive coordinator Todd Haley put together. For as bad as his interception was, his five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and his "flip" to running back Le'Veon Bell more than made up for it.
Bell continues to develop his game. There was a resolute commitment to the run game on Sunday, and it was going to be up to Bell to carry the load. Bell finished with 57 yards rushing and 96 total yards of offense on 25 touches. Bell is still struggling behind the Steelers offensive line with his yards per carry, and it was clear several times he was being patient, waiting for a crease, and it just never came.
Dwyer is playing like a man who did not like the idea of being out of work. He is making the most of his return to this team and the limited touches he is getting. On Sunday, he once again showed the effort that could earn him a way to a new contract in the offseason.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
Brown is once again making the case to be the player of the year for the Steelers. At the start of the game, he and Roethlisberger were struggling to get on the same page, but as the game went on, Roethlisberger found his favorite target often. Brown finished with 104 yards on six more catches, bringing his season total to 67.
Jerricho Cotchery, Wide Receiver
Cotchery has become Roethlisberger's favorite red-zone target. Cotchery only had two catches, but his catch on the five-yard fade was a thing of beauty—a perfect route and exceptional concentration.
Heath Miller, Tight End
This was a bad day for Miller. He doesn't appear to be playing at 100 percent, and he struggled to get open and hang on to the football when Roethlisberger found him. This offense could feature the tight end if only they had one they could count on.
Again, I hand out a group grade for this unit. I hope to get to break down the individual performances of the players later in the week, but for now, I have to say this group played an admirable game. Physically, this group was very much overmatched against the Bills defensive front. That didn't stop them from executing the power run game and sticking with it, even when it struggled.
The group did give up four sacks on Sunday, and there is obviously always room for improvement. However, when you consider the amount of turnover this group has had to deal with, it would be easy for them to just give up and call it a season, but they never did.
Cameron Heyward, Defensive End
Heyward has strung himself together several impressive games over the course of the last month. Heyward finished with six more tackles and picked up another sack.
Brett Keisel, Defensive End
Keisel was living on the milk carton on Sunday as he was consistently blocked out of plays and struggled to hold at the point of attack. Not a great game at all.
Steve McLendon, Defensive Tackle
McLendon has come under fire by Steelers fans because he doesn't command the type of attention a larger nose tackle would. His impact on Sunday's game was subtle, but even being undersized, he holds his own in the middle of the line and did a nice job funneling plays to the outside and allowing his teammates to make tackles.
Timmons was everywhere on Sunday. It seemed like No. 94 was in on or around every play, and the Steelers once again moved him all over the field. Timmons finished with eight tackles, one sack and one pass defended, all while wearing a cast on one hand.
Williams continues to improve as a player and has shown a ton of promise as a rookie. He had a very quiet game on Sunday, only getting three total tackles, but nothing negative stood out in his game either.
It is great to see Woodley continuing to play well. While he failed to get a sack on Sunday, he showed nice explosion into the backfield on several close plays and finished the game with five tackles from his outside linebacker spot.
The rookie linebacker got his first sack of the season, which should be cause for celebration. But, when it takes half the season for a first-round pick to notch a sack questions will come up about the value of the pick. Jones has regressed with some little injuries and being benched, but his best games are ahead of him.
Typically, the Steelers have tasked Taylor with covering the opposing team's best wide receiver. In this case, the Steelers chose to mix up coverages and assignments, so Taylor was all over the field. He did a solid job in coverage and was part of the group that held Bills quarterback EJ Manuel to only 155 yards passing.
Gay has shown all season long that he's going to play physical, and he's going to come up and make hits. On Sunday that was the same plan as he submarined Bills skill players to the tune of 11 tackles, two of which for loss.
It was nice to see Allen on the field even if it was in a limited capacity. His season has been something of a disappointment as he's lost his starting spot. Nonetheless, he appears to be finding his niche as a physical nickel corner.
Welcome back to the team's best defensive player. Last Sunday was beyond forgettable for Polamalu, but against the Bills, Polamalu was great. Once the Steelers had the Bills run game in order, Polamalu dropped into coverage and had two impressive coverage plays which resulted in incomplete passes.
Clark will be praised for his interception, but once again, beyond a singular play Clark was largely unnoticed or out of position. It's hard to say what will happen to Clark at the end of the year, but again on Sunday he was largely ineffective.
Shaun Suisham, Kicker
Suisham continues to be lights-out with three more field goals on three tries and was perfect on both extra points.
Mat McBriar, Punter
McBriar had five punts but had to battle strong winds all day, resulting in only a 39-yard average.
Antonio Brown, Punt Returner
Brown was as electric in the return game as he was as a receiver. Brown had two returns for 74 yards on the game.