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Report Card: Grading the Steelers Week 2 loss to the Patriots

New England came out on top in Pittsburgh, who is to blame?

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers lost a close game to fall to 1-1, but with losses all around the division they remain in first place in the AFC North (they have the only division win). But that isn’t going to earn any Steelers extra points on their grades this week. So let’s dig in and see who gets a pass and who gets the blame.


The offense scored more points in Week 2 than in Week 1, but their output is still well under the bar. The Steelers offense has scored one touchdown in each of their first two games, and that is not enough to compete in the current NFL.

The run game improved in Week 2 with both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren averaging over 3 yards a carry and the team a bit over 4 yards per carry, but 91 total rushing yards isn’t anything to be proud of, it’s just better than last week.

The worst of the news comes in the passing game, where the Steelers downfield passing is terrible. Against the Patriots the Steelers threw 6 deep passes, which is roughly average for an NFL team, completing 2 of them for 40 yards and an interception. That’s terrible. But it follows the numbers from Week 1 when the Steelers threw 9 deep passes, completing 3 for 82 yards. Overall the Steelers 8.13 yards per attempt and 35.97 passer rating on deep throws is terrible (it would have ranked 2nd worst in the NFL in 2021).

When you don’t have to respect a team’s ability to throw downfield or run the ball, it is very easy to defend that team. Understanding that the 22.7% scoring rate and 1.36 points per drive really make sense.

The Steelers offense is terrible. If you compare the Steelers deep passing and scoring to the 2021 NFL, they would be bottom 2 in every category. The Steelers offense is playing like a bottom feeder.

Honor Roll: Najee Harris, Derek Watt picking up a first down.

Demerits: Mitchell Trubisky, James Daniels, Matt Canada.

Final Grade: F


The Steelers defense needed to play an incredible game just to give the Steelers any chance of winning this game. They nearly pulled it off. Losing T.J. Watt is a critical blow to this defense and they still held the Patriots to 17 points on 10 drives. When you consider 7 of those points came off a 10-yard drive following a fumbled punt, the Steelers defense was very good, even without Watt.

Of course it wasn’t enough to drag the rest of the team to a victory, and the Steelers remain winless when Watt misses more than half the game since the start of the 2021 season, now 0-5-1 when Watt is hurt. Watt is irreplaceable, and everyone on the team has to step up to help cover that loss, not just on defense either, everyone on the team.

This game is a hard one to grade, because the Steelers allowed a 100-yard receiver and almost allowed two, the run game struggled late in the game and the defense didn’t generate a single sack and only one tackle for a loss. But, on the other hand, they did a great job denying the Patriots points and a reasonably competent offense would have given the Steelers a win. In the end, sacks and yards matter far less than points, and 17 points isn’t bad. Without the fumbled punt the Steelers likely win this game in spite of the terrible offense.

Honor Roll: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Myles Jack, Alex Highsmith, Terrell Edmunds.

Demerits: Pass defense in the middle of the field, non-blitz pass rush, late-game run defense.

Final Grade: B

Special Teams

The Steelers punt team again excelled, with Pressley Harvin III punting 4 times for over 200 yards. Their 46 net yards per punt is very good, and the punt team came close to scoring a touchdown that likely would have flipped the result of this game. On the other hand, the punt return team fumbled a punt on a play that looks like they only fielded 10 men. Chris Boswell made 36 and 52-yard field goals with no misses. It’s hard to give the unit a decent grade with the fumble playing such a huge role in the loss, even though most of the game was good.

Honor Roll: James Pierre, Chris Boswell, Percy Harvin III

Demerits: Gunner Olszewski’s second straight game with a muffed punt.

Final Grade: D


The offense was terrible, and special teams contributed one of the worst plays of the game. The defense played a really good game even without T.J. Watt, but it wasn’t enough to win, and the Steelers come away with a loss in a game that they really should have won. The Steelers had many chances to win this game and couldn’t make plays. That’s unacceptable.

Final Grade: D

Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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