The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Seattle Seahawks and jeopardized their chances of postseason play. By that metric, the team failed. Certain units performed well, while others cost the team a victory. Let's take a look at how the Steelers graded out by position.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards, completing 36 of 55 passes. His totals would have been higher had his receivers avoided dropping several well-thrown passes. Big Ben only had one touchdown and threw for two interceptions, but overall he had a solid game.
Landry Jones stepped in after Roethlisberger left the game to go through the concussion protocol at the end of the fourth quarter and ended up throwing two interceptions. He was not in the game long enough to do serious damage. Chances of victory were a long shot by the time he took over for Ben.
Receivers and Tight Ends: A-
Markus Wheaton was phenomenal against the Seahawks, totaling 201 yards on 9 completions. The second most productive receiver was running back DeAngelo Williams who had seven catches for 88 yards. Heath Miller was having a phenomenal game before he left with an injury to his ribs. He dropped one pass, but also caught five passes for 45 yards. Rookie tight end Jesse James is showing signs of promise, catching one pass for eight yards and catching a pass from Ben Roethlisberger for a two-point conversion.
Martavis Bryant had five completions for 69 yards, but he also dropped several passes that could have turned into big plays. He is the main reason the receivers and tight ends did not receive a solid A grade this week.
Offensive Line: B
With two key injuries (center Maurkice Pouncey and tackle Kelvin Beachum), the offensive line is performing admirably well. The line had a few missteps during the game, allowing two sacks. Overall, however, they protected Roethlisberger reasonably well and provided adequate blocking for the limited run game.
Running Backs: A
DeAngelo Williams had several critical plays on Sunday, including 88 yards through the air, proving he is a triple threat running back who can rush, catch, and block. Since the passing game was so successful, the Steelers did not run the ball as much as they did in other weeks, otherwise, Williams would have had more than 29 yards on the ground. His low productivity on the ground was more a function of coaching than his ability and competence.
Defensive Line & Linebackers: B
Defensive end Cameron Heyward had a sack and a blocked kick in Sunday's game. He was a bright spot on the Steelers defense.
The defensive line and linebackers teamed up to limit Thomas Rawls to 81 yards. Filling in for Marshawn Lynch, he had the potential to be even more of a threat. Against the 49ers, he racked up 209 yards on the ground and another 46 yards receiving. While the Steelers defense did not shut him down, they still limited his productivity, rendering him less of a threat than he was expected to be.
Linebackers Vince Williams and Sean Spence stepped in and performed well in Ryan Shazier's absence, while Bud Dupree and James Harrison had several big plays
Defensive Backs: D
Tackling was horrific. Actually, horrific could mean that it was menacing and dangerous. Let's call the tackling "friendly." Some of the arm tackles were less aggressive than autograph-seeking fans waving merchandise around at training camp as players walk by. An arm hanging out in the air relatively static isn't going to stop an athlete in motion. I haven't taken physics since high school, but I'm pretty sure there are more effective ways of tackling.
Pass coverage was absolutely horrible. Players were out of position, appeared confused, and failed to cover key receivers, mistakes that resulted in numerous touchdowns and, to be frank, cost the Steelers a win. Ross Cockrell, who is normally a consistent reliable presence in the secondary, was not on his A game. (In fact, he was more of a C- guy today.) Antwon Blake appeared off as well. After several big games going into the bye week, he failed to make big plays and, even worse, allowed the offense to make huge plays.
Special Teams: B-
Chris Boswell was three for three on field goal attempts and also nailed an extra point. Jacoby Jones appeared somewhat hesitant, but performed much better than he did in previous week. He averaged 29 yards on kickoff returns and even managed to return one for 36 yards.
Overall, though, special teams continues to struggle, drawing avoidable penalties and blocking inconsistently.