It was a tale of two teams as the Steelers struggled offensively (and by that I mean both "on offense" and that I was offended by their performance) in the first half, and then bounced back and played well to earn the win. Beating the one of the best teams in the NFL without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and several key defensive players was a huge accomplishment. Let's take a look at how the teams graded out.
Second-string quarterback earned a D, while third-string Landry Jones earned an A for his second-half performance. In the first half, Vick was 3/8 for an incredibly low six yards. (Yes, 6. Six.). He redeemed himself by rushing for 47 yards on five carries. I'm using the word "redeemed" very loosely because he only elevated himself to a D. Vick's time on the field was marked with inaccuracy, slow reactions, and odd decisions.
Enter Landry Jones. He earned his A this week with style points for surprising the heck out of fans and the Arizona Cardinals team. Jones racked up 168 yards on eight completions (out of 12 attempts). He also scored two touchdowns, including an astoundingly beautiful completion to Martavis Bryant.
Receivers and Tight Ends: B
Again, the first half was marred by Vick's ineptitude in the passing game. When Jones entered the game, the receivers had a chance to contribute in a more meaningful way. And by "meaningful way" I mean "scoring points." Martavis Bryant in his first game back played at an A+ level with six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn't get much better than that. Unless you have a competent quarterback in for the entire game.
Antonio Brown was underutilized once again, though he had three completions for 24 yards. Wheaton only had one completion and missed a block on a play that probably wouldn't have amounted to much anyway. Still, he was no Hines Ward today. Tight end Heath Miller had one completion for 5 yards.
As a unit, the receivers and tight ends had 174 yards and two touchdowns on 11 receptions. Had it not been for Vick's difficulties with the passing game, the unit would have earned an solid A, most likely.
Offensive Line: B+
The worst news? Kelvin Beachum fell to a torn ACL that will keep him out for the rest of the season. The good news? Alejandro Villanueva filled in admirably. Thanks be to Mike Munchak.
Week 6 saw the offensive line function more cohesively and competently. The run game was solid, in part due to better blocking by the line. It wasn't perfect, but it allowed Le'Veon Bell more opportunities to gain yardage. Additionally, the offensive line was able to protect the quarterbacks incredibly well, especially considering Maurkice Pouncey is still out with the leg injury suffered in the preseason. The offensive line allowed just one sack for a five yard loss.
Running Backs: B
Running back Le'Veon Bell had another decent game this week, racking up 88 yards on 24 carries. He did not have any touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams had just one carry for a loss of one yard. Williams proved he is still an elite running back, so it is frustrating to see him underutilized. In all, the Steelers had 141 yards on the ground.
Defensive Line: B+
In the first half, the defensive line struggled against the run, something that has plagued the unit in previous games. To the defensive line's credit, the were able to shut down the Cardinals rushing attack after half-time adjustments. Chris Johnson was held to 40 yards on 14 carries, while David Johnson and Andre Ellington had under 10 yards each. In total, the Cardinals only came up with 55 yards on the ground.
The defense stepped up once again. With six tackles, a pass defensed, and an amazing one-handed interception, Lawrence Timmons made key contributions throughout the game. James Harrison had some critical plays as well, stripping the ball from Cardinals wide receiver Josh Brown in the third quarter. In addition, he had two tackles for a loss, a quarterback hit, and a sack.
Defensive Backs: C+
The defensive backs stuck to their usual script. They had some incredible plays, and some incredibly bad plays. Ross Cockrell had four tackles and two passes defensed, but he was also overly aggressive at times, which resulted in costly pass interference penalties. Mike Mitchell had two tackles and an interception in the end zone, one of the most important plays of the game.
The secondary struggled to contain receiver John Brown, who had a monster game with 10 receptions for nearly 200 yards. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andrew Ellington also had huge games. In all, the Cardinals had an astounding 421 passing yards. The secondary isn't entirely to blame, but they had a sloppier game than in past weeks.
Special Teams: C+
Chris Boswell gets an A+ for special teams. He should be everyone's favorite player after nailing all four field goal attempts today, including one at 51 yards that looked easy. He also made his extra point attempt. Outside of Boswell, Special Teams were a mixed bag. Jordan Berry had some amazing punts, and others that were absolutely horrible. Likewise, coverage wasn't consistent. Still, the unit showed signs of promise and performed better than other times. It was also good to see Berry bounce back after a few horrible punts.
Overall Grade: B