Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 6 Report Card
Pittsburgh Steelers Week 6 Report Card
Three times this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have played games on the road, and for the third time this season, Pittsburgh has tasted defeat on the road. The momentum of last week’s home victory over the Philadelphia Eagles wasn’t enough to push the Steelers into Nashville to steamroll the Tennessee Titans.
Coming off a short week of practice, the Steelers left the balanced attack that they unveiled last week and reverted to their pass-first mentality on offense. This was highly influenced by injuries to four of their players during the game, three of which are starters. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Pittsburgh was up against one of the NFL’s worse defenses in both defending the run and the pass.
Defensively, not having Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu in the starting lineup proved to be detrimental to the secondary once again. Despite linebacker Chris Carter being sidelined early in the game, Pittsburgh’s linebacking corps did what it could by putting pressure on Tennessee’s quarterback and coming up with a crucial turnover late in the game. However, their bend-but-don’t-break approach wasn’t enough to hold off the Titans.
The most overlooked phase of the game ended up being what cost Pittsburgh the game. The special teams were special throughout the game, connecting on three field goals, but weren’t special when it mattered most. The huge blocked punt given up by Pittsburgh ended up haunting them in the end.
Here is the breakdown of how each part of the Steelers’ team performed, and the grade in which they earned.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Quarterbacks
Statistically, Ben Roethlisberger had a good game, completing 24 of 40 passing attempts for 356 yards. The veteran quarterback even connected with Mike Wallace on their second offensive drive for an 82-yard touchdown to put the Steelers up 10-3. Roethlisberger also became the Steelers’ all-time passing leader, surpassing Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Unfortunately, the Pomp and Circumstance was overshadowed by an untimely interception thrown by Big Ben in the final two minutes of the first half, which resulted in a Titans field goal going into halftime. Despite the turnover, Big Ben once again did everything in his power to carry Pittsburgh to another victory, but literally came up short with the game-winning field goal attempt by kicker Shaun Suisham.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Running Backs
The return of running back Rashard Mendenhall was short-lived due to him injuring his Achilles in the first half. Isaac Redman barely produced on the five times he carried the ball, but made up for it with four catches for a game-high 105 yards, but he would eventually leave the game with an ankle injury. Baron Batch’s minuscule 22 rushing yards lead the team, but he did manage to find the end zone early in the fourth quarter to give Pittsburgh a 20-16 lead. Even though the Steelers’ backfield only had 21 rushing played called for them, they still couldn’t take advantage of going against one of the NFL’s worse run defenses. Injuries to the offensive line did play a part in the inability to run.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
It’s never a good sign when a running back leads a team in receiving. Well, this was the case for the Steelers Thursday night. Redman’s 105 receiving yards trumped the rest of Pittsburgh’s receiving corps. The receiver that was closet to Redman’s total was Wallace. The fourth-year veteran finished the game with 94 yards, 82 of which came in the first quarter for a touchdown. Tight end Heath Miller, who had six catches for 67 yards, proved to be Big Ben’s security blanket by converting on a number of huge third-down plays. Antonio Brown was targeted 10 times by Roethlisberger, but couldn’t duplicate the production of previous games this season. He finished with four catches for a season-low 20 yards. Just like Tennessee’s run defense, their pass defense is just as bad, and Pittsburgh’s receivers didn’t fully take advantage.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Line
Injuries to Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert left the Steelers thin on the offensive line early in the game. Backups Doug Legursky and rookie Mike Adams stepped in and did a decent job filling the voids. The offensive line only surrendered one sack all game, but once again struggled to get Pittsburgh’s running game going versus Tennessee’s 26th ranked run defense. The offensive line paved the way for a pedestrian 56 yards on the ground, 14 of which came from Big Ben late in the fourth quarter while driving for the potential game-winning field goal.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Defensive Line
The defensive line was virtually unheard of throughout the game. Other than clearing space for Pittsburgh’s linebackers, the defensive line combined for five tackles. The defensive front did manage to contain Tennessee’s running back Chris Johnson and kept him from braking long runs from scrimmage; his longest run of the night was only 13 yards. I think that Pittsburgh’s defense was lucky that Johnson didn't break free, because they did leave some huge openings for the Titans running back. It just so happens Johnson was too hesitant while carrying the ball. However, Johnson quietly ran for a game-high 91 yards on 19 carries.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebackers
Linebackers Larry Foote, James Harrison, and Jason Worilds all combined for 17 tackles and each recorded a sack on Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Lawrence Timmons also stepped up and made what seemed to be a game-clinching play with an interception in the fourth quarter, which led to a field goal giving the Steelers a 23-16 lead. However, when it counted most, the linebacking corps couldn’t hold Tennessee during their game-winning drive. Harrison, who played in just his second game of the season, was beaten by Titans tight end Jared Cook for a 25-yard catch-and-run, putting Tennessee in position for the game-winning field goal.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Secondary
The decision to start Will Allen instead of Ryan Mundy at strong safety in place of Troy Polamalu didn’t make much of a difference. Pittsburgh’s secondary gave up four completions of 25 yards or more, and Hasselbeck finished with 290 passing yards and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Ike Taylor, who gave up the tying touchdown to Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt, was flagged for two pass interference calls (one of which was declined), and a holding penalty. The passing stats could have been much worse had Britt not dropped so many passes when left open. All of this could have been forgotten had cornerback Keenan Lewis not dropped a crucial interception in late in the fourth quarter. That pick would have been what Pittsburgh needed to get their first road victory of the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Special Teams
Kicker Shawn Suisham came into the game eight-for-eight in field goal attempts on the season, and was a perfect three-for-three in the first three-and-a-half quarters of the game. Unfortunately, his 54-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of the game came up short. As big of a play that would have been, that is not the reason why the Steelers tasted defeat for the third time this season. Pittsburgh’s special teams without a doubt played the most crucial part in Thursday night’s loss in the punting game. The most critical play of the game was the Steelers surrendering a blocked punt early in the second quarter. This resulted in Tennessee’s first touchdown of the night, and turned out to be the difference between a win and a loss.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Coaching
Despite the success Pittsburgh had in the running game last week, head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley decided to concentrate more on the passing game once again. One might credit the pass-heavy approach to the injuries of Mendenhall, Redman, Pouncey, and Gilbert but not taking advantage of being matched up against Tennessee’s porous run defense put much unneeded pressure on Big Ben and the passing game. However, I do think that the decision of going for the 54-yard game-winning field goal was a good one, considering the Suisham did nail a 52-yarder in the first quarter.
Follow me on Twitter @ClydeASpeller
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