After a stupendous victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs, giving the beleaguered team their second victory of the season. Ben Roethlisberger is still out due to injury, but fans hoped Landry Jones could repeat his brilliant performance from last week and pull out a victory against a mediocre opponent. Alas! That was not the case. Here are how the units graded out:
Last week, Landry Jones earned an A. Averaged with Michael Vick's low grade, the position earned a C. In Week 7, Jones earned a C by himself. It is easy to blame the Steelers upsetting loss (or, rather, the Kansas City Chiefs upset victory) on Jones. Jones completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards and two interceptions. He also had a fumble that resulted in a turnover.
Jones wasn't abysmal. He connected with wide receiver Martavis Bryant for a brilliant touchdown, and was able to leverage Antonio Brown's vast talents. Sometimes he missed some easy passes, but at least once a perfectly fine pass was dropped by the intended receiver.
Compared to Jones' debut last week, he did not play well against the Chiefs. It could have been good enough, however, if the other units had done their jobs a bit better.
Receivers and Tight Ends: A-
Wide receiver Antonio Brown was finally back in the game. He actually never left the game, but he was targeted so infrequently by Michael Vick that his presence on the field was far from impactful. He was just sort of there. Against the Chiefs, however, he had six catches for 124 yards. Martavis Bryant had the Steelers lone touchdown with an impressive effort in the end zone. He caught the pass and managed to get both feet in bounds as he gained control of the ball. He also had 13 yards on the ground.
Considering a third-string quarterback was at the helm, this was a fine performance.
Offensive Line: B-
Run blocking was much improved this week over weeks past with Le'Veon Bell able to rush for 121 yards and average an impressive 7.1 yards per carry. Some of the credit there goes to the offensive line. On the other hand, the offensive line allowed two sacks, after only allowing 13 during the rest of the season, many of which were as much Michael Vick's fault as the offensive line's. Vick liked to hold on to the ball for a long time. Today, Alejandro Villanueva missed a critical block, which sealed the Steelers fate (a loss) towards the end of the game. With Beachum out for the rest of the season, Villanueva will undoubtedly step up. He is a hard worker with tremendous potential. In Week 7, however, his inexperience showed.
Running Backs: B
Running back Le'Veon Bell had 17 carries for 121 yards and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. Great effort-- and results to show for that effort-- by Bell. Less impressive, however, was DeAngelo Williams. After a stupendous game against the New England Patriots in Week 1 and filling in admirably in Week 2, Williams' participation dropped off considerably after Bell served his two-game suspension. In Week 7, Williams saw more playing time. He had one completion for eight yards and four rushing attempts for just 9 yards. Unfortunately, Williams had the opportunity to make a momentum-changing play, and dropped the ball. Literally. Still, he did help the Steelers convert on an important fourth-down play, so he wasn't an abomination.
Defensive Line: C+
The defensive ended up with two sacks against one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Cameron Heyward had four tackles and a sack. Otherwise, the unit struggled, allowing a Kansas City Chiefs team without Jamaal Charles to rush for 110 yards. Charcandrick "Who?" West ended up having a breakout game at the expense of the Steelers defensive line. In the shadows of Jamaal Charles, West rushed for 17, 31, and 33 yards. Even in the preseason he never tallied more than 50 yards.
Ryan Shazier was back. What a relief. Or was it? Shazier had some plays during which his speed made him seem more safety than linebacker. Other times, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or appeared less aggressive than he has in past games. Arthur Moats and Lawrence Timmons both had several big plays, but part of the secondary's struggles were due to deficiencies up front.
Jarvis Jones had a few missteps during the game. Once, for example, he tried to knock a guy down and ended up bouncing off of him. How about a tackle instead?
The unit wasn't terrible, but they share responsibility in not stopping players on first contact.
Defensive Backs: C-
The secondary did not have its best game this week. That is actually an understatement. After showing steady improvement several weeks in a row, the secondary collapsed this week. Sure, some of the fault lies with the front seven, but the secondary had a slew of avoidable mistakes.
The most glaring deficiency this week was tackling. Playground tag, TSA patdowns, baton exchange on a relay race. That's the level of contact the Steelers secondary seemed most comfortable with this week. Sure, there were some mind-shattering (not literally, that is frowned upon) hits, but for the most part, the Steelers defensive backs-- and others on the defense-- struggled to stop opponents on first contact.
Also frustrating, the defensive backs did not seem to be on the same page to the extent they were during their more successful weeks, and they struggled (again) to cover tight ends. In addition to botching several key plays, they didn't do much to generate turnovers or plays big enough to change the game's momentum.
Mike Mitchell was a silver lining amid some dismay play. (Can I just say that he plays SO much better without a torn-up groin?) He made several key tackles and showed he's not afraid to hit hard. Mitchell had a lot to prove coming into this season, and it seems he's spent time rehabbing his body, and making sure he is up on the play book. Mitchell didn't have a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but it was encouraging to see him playing at much higher level than last year.
Let's hope this was just an off-day for the unit, and that they can get back on track for future games. Alex Smith is a good quarterback, but the secondary will need to step it up against the Bengals because guess what? The Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is pretty good, too.
Special Teams: B+
Special teams played a pretty clean game. They avoided giving away yards on pointless penalties. Chris Boswell made both of his field goals. Jordan Berry's punts were passable. Special teams players seemed like football players in Week 7, instead of a bunch of toddlers stumbling over to their cubbies en masse to retrieve their peanut-free snacks at preschool.