The Steelers provided many nerve-wracking moments en route to their 24-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Several units performed extremely well, while others were responsible for viewers' expletives, feelings of frustration, stress-eating, and cries of desperation. Other units sparked hope, especially for when injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy enough to return to the playing field.
A grade of "C" is average. While on the whole quarterback Michael Vick was well below average, he had several plays that were weighted more than others. For example, that 24-yard fourth quarter run was a complete game-changer, positioning the Steelers to score the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game.
Receivers and Tight Ends: B
It is hard to give the receivers and tight ends a grade since part of their success depends on the competence of the quarterback (who earned a solid C this week). Markus Wheaton had one of the best plays of the game with an impressive 72-yard touchdown. Heath Miller also had a critical completion that ended up being the precursor to Le'Veon Bell's game winning touchdown. Still Antonio Brown was under utilized with only three completions for 45 yards.
Offensive Line: B-
Le'Veon Bell ran for 100 yards, which is a testimony to the effectiveness of the offensive line. On the other hand, Michael Vick was under a lot of pressure throughout the first half, which is a testimony to the line's ineffectiveness. The unit receives some extra credit for making necessary adjustments at half-time to provide more protection for Vick and for the last play of the game. Their blocking was partially responsible for Bell's game-winning touchdown.
Running Backs: A
The Steelers finally came up with a game plan that relied on one of its most reliable players: Le'Veon Bell. Bell had 111 yards rushing, including that incredibly gutsy, clutch, heck-yeah! play at the end of the game when he barreled through opponents to find the end zone with seconds left. DeAngelo Williams also contributed 20 yards to the effort on five carries.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line is like that hard working student who bombs a test and then actually spends time studying and preparing so he does better next time. The defensive line was nearly ineffectual against the run in the Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens, but were able to make adjustments and stop the run against the Chargers. The Chargers averaged a dismal 2.7 yards per carry.
The linebackers had some huge plays during the game including a batted pass and several huge stops from Lawrence Timmons. Jarvis Jones had one of the strongest games of his career, logging a sack, five tackles, and a forced fumble recovered by the Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger out, the defense has had to step up. The linebackers have answered that call in a big way. The unit wasn't perfect, but it did enough to keep the Steelers in the game and keep momentum going.
Defensive Backs: B-
The secondary earned their grade by failing some tests, but then earning a big fat A+ on a heavily weighted assignment. The failures? Failing to cover Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. It seemed they had reverted back to their strategy in Week 1 against the Patriots. "Cover the tight end? Who wants to do it? We good? Ok then. Don't worry about it." I'm not sure what the play is called, but it is the absolute wrong one. Every time.
The good? Actually, the excellent? Cornerback Antwon Blake's interception and subsequent touchdown.
While the secondary isn't consistent, they do show flashes of competence, even brilliance.
Special Teams: D
We have a kicker! Chris Boswell might be so good that fans can relax on extra points and assume that much more often than not the ball will sail through the uprights! Wow!
HE CAN KICK!?!? WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!!— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) October 13, 2015
Despite Boswell's competence, the rest of special teams was sorely incompetent. Here are a few examples:
1) Shamarko Thomas tried to intercept a punt after Jacoby Jones had already signaled a fair catch. What? That's like writing a poem about rabbits on an Algebra test. Who does that???
2) Jordan Todman thought it was cool to level a block in the back during a return that completely stultified Antonio Brown's decent return. That's the equivalent of writing letters on the scantron instead of filling in the bubbles. Again, really not a suave move.
Overall Grade: B