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Insider Only Report Card: Steelers – Broncos Offense, Defense, Special Teams & Coaching Grades

Denver 29 – Pittsburgh 23 OT

REPORT CARD

Steelers Offense – Grade C+

Pts: 23 | Total Yards: 400, 244 passing - 156 rushing
1st downs: 21 | 3rd down conversions: 7-16 | 4th down: 0-1
Drives: 1st Quarter – 8 plays, 48 yards, 3:46 elapsed, (Suisham 45-yard field goal) | 4 plays, 24 yards, 2:00 elapsed, Kapino’s punt | 12 plays, 47 yards, 5:50 elapsed, (Suisham 38-yard field goal) | 2nd Quarter – 3 plays, 52 yards, 0:15 elapsed, Kapinos 62-yard punt | 2 plays, 3 yards, 1:22 elapsed, Roethlisberger intercepted at PIT 27 | 4 plays, 14 yards, 2:09 elapsed, Kapinos 48 yard punt | 5 plays, 48 yards, 0:35 elapsed, Kapinos 39 yard punt | 3rd Quarter – 11 plays, 88 yards, 5:56 elapsed, (1 yard Mike Wallace TD run) | 4th Quarter - 7 plays, 66 yards, 3:11 elapsed, (Suisham 37 yard field goal) | 7 plays, 55 yards, 3:47 elapsed, (Jerricho Cotchery 31 TD reception) | 7 plays, 28 yards, 1:37 elapsed, end of quarter

Post-Game Grades

The Steelers offense produced 6 points in the first half but came to life in the second half, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal forcing overtime. The Steelers though showed signs once again of being a yardage offense, which in a few words is an offense that produces lots of yardage but often has to settle for field goals.
Some might look to the Steelers inability to put a touchdown on the board in their first two offensive drives as a turning point in the game. Pittsburgh on their first drive had a 1st and 10 at Denver’s 35 yard line. The Steelers would have to settle for a field goal and then went 12 plays, 47 yards on their third possession of the first quarter but again had to settle for a field goal.
Prior to that possession, Denver had back-to-back three and outs and 8 yards on six plays.
Things changed quickly as Denver went on to outscore Pittsburgh 20-0 in the second quarter, taking a 20-6 half time lead.
Position Grades: QB C+ | RB A | WR C+ | OL C- | DL B- | LB D | DB F | ST A
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER (22/40, 289 YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 75.9)
Grade: C+ – Fans were surely calling for Charlie Batch in the first half, as Roethlisberger could barely move in the second quarter and was a liability. Roethlisberger though battled back in the second half and made several passing plays with his legs, rolling out and improvising which he does best. He was sacked 5 times, intercepted and dodged a bullet on the game tying drive as Champ Bailey dropped a sure interception and on the next play Roethlisberger connected with Cotchery for a 31 TD strike. However, in the end, Roethlisberger was outplayed by Tim Tebow who unlike Roethlisberger came up with more game changing plays.
RB ISAAC REDMAN (17 CAR – 121 YDS – 7.1 AVG)
Grade: A    – The Steelers didn’t miss a beat without Rashard Mendenhall, and Isaac Redman showed enough in the Steelers final two games that there’s no reason to make the running back position a priority this off-season due to Mendenhall’s injury. Redman an exclusive rights free agent, had big runs of 32, 28 and 13 yards and Redman sparked the Steelers in the third quarter with a 32 yard run to the one yard line, setting up Mike Wallace’s 1 yard touchdown run.
WR EMMANUEL SANDERS (6 REC – 81 YDS)
Grade: B+   – Sanders had a nice end to what was a devastating season for him, losing his mother who passed away and being limited most of the season with foot and knee injury. Sanders though shined in the loss, leading the Steelers with 6 receptions for 81 yards and made some key grabs down the stretch. If he can stay healthy, the future is bright.
WR ANTONIO BROWN (5 REC – 70 YDS)
Grade: B+     – Brown showed again that he’s the true No. 1 receiver on this team, not Mike Wallace. A tremendous route runner, there isn’t a better pass catcher or route runner on this team. Brown was targeted seven times and had 5 receptions in the game for 70 yards. He had big grabs of 25, 20, and 17 yards.
HEATH MILLER (5 REC – 60 YDS)
Grade: B+ Early on Miller was the Steelers best player by a wide margin. Miller had 3 catches for 48 yards in the first quarter. Only 2 receptions for 12 yards in the final three quarters.

MIKE WALLACE (3 REC – 26 YDS, 1 RUSHING TD)
Grade: D    –  Wallace had a sudden decline in the second half of the season and it continued today. Most alarming with Wallace of late had been his drops and inability to come up with a tough grab in tight coverage. Wallace had a huge drop on a 52 yard pass that would have set up 1st and 10 at Denver’s 28 yard line early in the second quarter.
JERRICHO COTCHERY (1 REC – 31 YARDS)
Grade: B   – Had a big drop in the first half on a crossing route that would have netted a big gain but Cotchery came up huge with a sensational 31 yard touchdown reception with 3:48 remining in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 23-23.  A valuable pickup he became for the vet minimum.
N/A HINES WARD – Entered the game with 88 career playoff receptions. Lucky if he saw the field for five snaps. Career with Steelers has come to a close.

Offensive Line

Grade: C- Max Starks (D), Chris Kemoeatu (C+), Doug Legursky (D), Ramon Foster (C-), Marcus Gilbert (C+), Jonathan Scott (C)
Max Starks was punished in the game by Von Miller, Ayers and Elvis Dumervil. He left with a knee injury and is not a lock to be brought back next season. Chris Kemoeatu made some nice blocks in the running game on pulling plays….Doug Legursky had a nightmare game and Pittsburgh really missed Maurkice Pouncey. Legursky was a risk just about everytime he snapped the ball. Marcus Gilbert had his moments and held his own for the most part.

Steelers Defense – Grade F

Steelers linebacker James Farrior who might have been playing his last game in a Steelers uniform said it best following the game. “Our defense felt like we let the team down, ” Farrior said.
It’s hard to give the Steelers defense anything but an F. I thought about giving them a “D” due to the Mundy forced fumble, but when you give up 316 passing yards to Tim Tebow on just 10 completions and explosive passing plays of 80, 58, 51, 40 and 30 yards, enough said.
The Steelers produced 0 sacks, little pressure and gave up 131 rushing yards.
CB IKE TAYLOR (7 TACKLES, 6 SOLO)
Grade: F – This wasn’t a hard one. Taylor had one of the worst games by a Steelers cornerback in recent memory. Taylor was beaten all game by Demaryius Thomas who scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, beating Taylor in 1-on-1 coverage and failing to bring Thomas down at the Denver 50 as Thomas went the distance. Thomas tormented Taylor all game, hauling in 4 catches for 204 yards. Thomas had receptions of 58 yards, 51 yards, 15 yards and 80 yards. All with Ike Taylor in coverage who’s performance was just inexcusable in a big game situation. Thomas also produced one Ike Taylor pass interference call of 32 yards and an Ike Taylor defensive holding call.
ILB LAWRENCE TIMMONS (6 TACKLES, 5 SOLO)
Grade: C- – Timmons ended his disappointing season in disappointing fashion. He failed to be a difference maker in the middle of the field and struggled against the run at times, getting pushed out of his lane on Tebow’s 8 yard rushing touchdown.
FS RYAN MUNDY (5 TACKLES)
Grade: C+ – Came up with a season saving game changing play, forcing a Willis McGahee fumble at the Pittsburgh 44 with 7:35 remaining while the Broncos were driving 1st and 10. Mundy though is taking some heat for not giving Ike Taylor some help on Thomas game winning score. “We called underneath coverage, and i was underneath, ” Mundy said. “Ike was over the top. I’ve got to watch the flim but I felt like I could have given him a little more help underneath. That was particularly our run stopping defense, so I’ve just got to watch the film but I feel like I could have given more help.”.
WILLIAM GAY (4 TACKLES)
Grade: C    – Was beaten in coverage on Eddie Royals 30 yard TD reception but it was a perfect throw by Tebow and Gay made some key plays against the run.  
ZIGGY HOOD (4 TACKLES)
Grade: B- Was solid against the run and did his part from that standpoint. Still needs to continue to make more strides in year No. 4.
CAMERON HEYWARD (4 TACKLES)
Grade: B  Promising rookie who did some good things stepping in for Brett Keisel and was in on the McGahee fumble providing pressure with Mundy. Will be counted on to take a big step forward in 2012
SS TROY POLAMALU (4 TACKLES)
Grade: C    – Was effective on the line of scrimmage making plays against the run but didn’t come up with any splash plays and was caught out of position against the pass biting on play fakes.
LB JAMES FARRIOR (3 TACKLES)
Grade: F     – Farrior is done and that showed again tonight. No longer a starter in this league. Had a great run.
LB JAMES HARRISON (3 TACKLES, 2 SOLO)
Grade: D+  Made numerous mistakes in not maintaining his gap on possible option plays and got no pressure to the quarterback. He appeared to be held on several occassions but still wasn’t a great day for Harrison who’s still a productive player but on the downside of his career. Harrison finished the season with 1 sack in his final four games.
DT STEVE MCLENDON (3 TACKLES)
Grade: C   – McLendon stepped in for Casey Hampton who suffered a groin injury.
LAMARR WOODLEY (2 TACKLES)
Grade: C     – Recovered Willis McGahee’s fumble in the 4th but wasn’t much of a factor in rushing the passer. However, expectations should not have been high for Woodley due to him not being close to 100%.

Special Teams: Grade A

Shaun Suisham was 3-for-3 on field goals, including a long of 45. Jeremy Kapinos averaged 46 yards per punt, had a long of 62 and two punts inside the 20.

Coaching D-

From calling slow developing play action passes with a quarterback that has a hobbled left ankle, questionable clock management once again and an Icon defensive coordinator being badly outcoached and not making any adjustments against the pass, a D- might be a bit generous.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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