The first quarter of the Steelers’ 2018 season was rough. Thankfully, the second quarter yielded a perfect record to top the 1-2-1 start. So as I am tasked to break out the red pen and evaluate the season’s second quarter, I no longer do it from the ledge.
As I’ve stated all along, I’m not a football coach or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. Each week of the 2018 exhibition and regular season, I’ve graded the efforts of the Black-and-gold via “the eye test”. Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. So you, the reader, get to vote as well. You even get to grade the grader in the comments section.
So let’s take a look at BTSC’s perceptions of the 2018 season’s second quarter:
The Steelers’ offense is ranked fourth in the league with 415.2 ypg and ninth with a 28.4 points per game (ppg) average through eight contests. In 2017, they scored at a rate of 26.4 ppg. After an inconsistent start, Randy Fichtner’s unit has resembled the juggernaut that they’ve promised to be. Ben Roethlisberger was the league’s passing leader through the first quarter (1,414 yards/353.5 yards per game), but his average has dropped 9 ypg. Despite that, he was a much better quarterback in the second quarter. He admittedly was not on the same page with everybody and now seems to be. By spreading the ball around to a myriad of guys (Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, Vance McDonald, Jesse James and James Conner) and no longer forcing it to AB, he has thrived. Ben’s offensive line wasn’t reminiscent of the high-caliber unit of past years in the first quarter, but now is playing like an elite squad. Injuries have hampered Marcus Gilbert, but Matt Feiler has filled in tremendously at RT. The remaining four of Ramon Foster, Dave DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey have been dominating oncoming defenders, protecting Ben (2 sacks allowed in the second quarter of 2018 and 11 overall) and opening gaping holes for James Conner. Mike Munchak’s guys are close to being the class of the league.
Le’Veon Bell has been missed less and less with James Conner’s emergence as an elite back in the league with nine rushing TDs and another on a reception. No. 30’s 706 rushing yards on the ground ranks him second in the league and his 379 yards as a receiver puts him on track for a better output than Bell in 2017. His penchant for picking up the blitz no longer creates concern. Conner has done well, making Bell a likely backup upon his possible return.
Antonio Brown is not having the receptions and yardage season that he’s accustomed to. But his nine receiving TDs leads the NFL and is only four behind his career high in 2014. Double-teaming AB has forced balls to go in other directions, mostly to JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu (13th in the league) leads the team with 53 catches for 672 yards versus Antonio’s 51 for 594 (T-14th). The disconnect between Ben and AB has lessened with No. 84 seemingly accepting that Ben can’t continue to force the ball into him. The deep threat that Martavis Bryant provided hasn’t yet been replicated yet, as Justin Hunter and James Washington haven’t seized the WR3 role. However, the rookie seems to be getting looks again.
The TE duo of Jesse James (336 yards on 21 catches) and Vance McDonald (346 yards on 26 catches) has been very solid. As a unit, they’ve got a combined 47 grabs on 61 targets and their yards-after-catch have been remarkable — a combined 368. Vanimal is ranked 25th in the league with 234, while Jesse registers in at 83rd with 134.
Overall Offense Grade: A
The offense has found their identity. AB is scoring touchdowns and Ben is no longer trying to appease him. Conner is playing at an elite level, behind an elite line. Vance and Jesse James take turns being valuable and JuJu is a joy joy.
Offensive Valedictorian: James Conner
What overall grade would you give the Steelers offense for their performance in the second quarter of the 2018 season?
This poll is closed