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Steelers Report Card: Grading the Steelers’ 30-28 win over Tampa Bay in Preseason Week 1

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BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after defeating the Bucs to open the 2019 exhibition season.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers took to Heinz Field on Friday Night with a lot of energy and a ravenous desire to prove. After a 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers, the arrow is pointing skyward. For some reason, I’ve been given the responsibility to rate the performance of the squad. It’s not easy, but I’ll give it a whirl.

Despite my less than prestigious BTSC teaching certificate, I have to issue the necessary disclaimer. You know the story; of course, I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. All week, I found myself noticing just how equal in talent the two teams actually are and that will show. Then the game happened and judgments abound.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what counts the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. The preseason is even tougher. All letter grades are simply based on the eye test of somebody watching at home. In this case, it’s my doofus opinion.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense: B

All three quarterbacks threw fairly well and were mostly playing behind a suspect second-string line. Joshua Dobbs’ escapism helped him out a bit, but he was throwing crisply. Mason Rudolph threw two TD passes and looked sharp, but his score to the 6’8” Zach Gentry would have been uncatchable to any other receiver. Devlin Hodges wasn’t perfect, but his receivers didn’t help him out early on. Jaylen Samuels won the first round over Bennie Snell Jr., aided by a 22-yard scamper. But BSJ was getting virtually no holes to run through and showed promise despite the stat line. He needs to improve and it does seem likely. The line was not great at all in the second half especially. But early on, Chuks Okorafor struggled mightily. There seems to be talent in Zach Banner and Fred Johnson and I wouldn’t worry too much about the depth behind the fab five. The receivers that played were pretty good. James Washington stole the show and announced his presence with authority. Other notables include Johnny Holton, Tevin Jones and Diontae Spencer. There is some notable speed and talent for limited slots.

Poll

What grade would you assign the offense after the 30-28 win over the Buccaneers?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    A
    (196 votes)
  • 72%
    B
    (1705 votes)
  • 17%
    C
    (419 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (19 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (15 votes)
2354 votes total Vote Now

Defense: C

Defense is hard to grade in the preseason. I was not overly impressed with the performance of Keith Butler’s squad on the first drive. That’s typically the drive that means the most and is the closest thing to reality in Preseason Week One. Justin Layne was playing off of the receiver and looked like a rookie, however Devin Bush and his 10 tackles and near pick-six were mouth wateringly awesome. For the first preseason game, the alam isn’t really sounding. But the scheme could be again suspect. The linebackers were the most promising group with Bush, Ulysses Gilbert III, Tuzar Skipper, Tyler Matakevich and Ola Adeniyi shining brightest.

Poll

What grade do you think the defense earned after the 30-28 squeaker over the Bucs?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (43 votes)
  • 25%
    B
    (547 votes)
  • 47%
    C
    (1028 votes)
  • 24%
    D
    (534 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (32 votes)
2184 votes total Vote Now

Special Teams: A-

I’m usually quite critical of Danny Smith’s unit, but they were quite solid for the most part on Friday. Chris Boswell wants to keep his job and (though it was only one game) last season looked like an aberration after his two field goals and an XP. Matthew Wright was just as capable and could be auditioning for another gig. The punting tandem of Berry (Jordan) and Berryman (Ian) impressed. The incumbent averaged 44.5 on two punts and dropped one inside the 20, while the new guy boomed his only punt for 66 yards. Nobody broke a return, but Johnny Holton (22.5 on kick returns) and Diontae Spencer (four punt returns for an average of 13.5 and a kick return of 35) seem likely to do so. The coverage unit didn’t give up anything big.

Poll

What grade would you assign Special Teams after the 30-28 victory over Tampa?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    A
    (889 votes)
  • 43%
    B
    (809 votes)
  • 7%
    C
    (130 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (15 votes)
1856 votes total Vote Now

Overall: B+

Despite giving up 28 points, this team stopped Tampa on three 2PCs and won. The QBs are all in-it-to-win-it. James Washington looks JuJu-ish, the rookie first rounder looks like a gift from above and there’s suddenly depth at linebacker. There’s much more to be excited about than to be concerned with. Overall, it was a pleasure to watch.

Poll

What overall grade would you pin on the Steelers after the 30-28 triump over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A
    (177 votes)
  • 62%
    B
    (1204 votes)
  • 26%
    C
    (502 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (25 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (10 votes)
1918 votes total Vote Now

Valedictorian: James Washington

Honor Roll: Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Johnny Holton, Devin Bush Jr., Ulysses Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper, Chris Boswell, Devlin Hodges, Ola Adeniyi.

Needs Improvement: Chuks Okorafor, Justin Layne, Bennie Snell Jr., JC Hassenauer, P.J. Locke


Now it is your turn to play teacher. Use the polls and the comments section below. We can compare notes in the teachers lounge.