Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 1 Report Card
Week 1 Report Card
If the Week 1 performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers was a final exam, then they would have had to look forward to repeating this course next year. Fortunately for the Steelers, the 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans came at the beginning of the season, which gives the team plenty of time to turn things around. However, that’s easier said than done.
A legitimate argument can be made for Pittsburgh’s poor play. Three key players, two of which are starters, suffered season-ending injuries. Both center Maurkice Pouncey and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will miss the remainder of the year with significant damage to their right knee, while linebacker Larry Foote will be absent for the season due to a torn biceps.
Without Pouncey and Stephens-Howling, the Steelers’ pass protection and third-down efficiency was horrible. As for Pittsburgh’s defensive performance without Foote, the numbers show that they somewhat contained the Titans’ running game but couldn’t do so when it counted most.
As for the other aspects of the game, Pittsburgh’s receivers were average at best, the running game was stuck in neutral, the pass rush was nonexistent, and the problems the special teams had in the preseason continued to bite the team in the rear end. Even the decision making by the coaching staff had negative outcomes.
The overall play of the Steelers was so atrocious this past Sunday, I believe that grading on a curve wouldn’t have helped them in any way, shape, or form. This was arguably the worst game this franchise has seen in the past 25 years.
Let’s just take a look at just how good... I mean bad Pittsburgh did in their first game of the season.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+
The modest numbers put up by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can be attributed to the lack of protection he received from the offensive line and the very small contribution he got from the running game. Roethlisberger finished the contest by completing 21 of his 33 pass attempts for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Big Ben has proved that he can carry this team on his shoulders, but even he needs some help in the process.
As a team, Pittsburgh rushed for just 32 total yards. The loss of Pouncey and Stephens-Howling could be the reason why the running stunk so bad, but their absence had nothing to do with the two fumbles by Isaac Redman. The fact that Redman didn’t play for virtually the entire preseason showed.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Starting receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 12 receptions for 128 yards. Jerricho Cotchery scored the team’s lone touchdown late in the game, while rookie Markus Wheaton was invisible. Outside of the one catch for 11 yards by David Johnson, the tight end position was nonexistent.
Even without Pouncey, the Steelers’ offensive line could have at least tried to keep Roethlisberger upright. Starting the season off by surrendering five sacks isn’t a good sign. In addition, the offensive front couldn’t assist in getting the ground game going.
When it matted most, the defensive line couldn’t dominate the line of scrimmage and allowed Tennessee’s lone touchdown in the second quarter. But you can’t expect the D-line to play flawlessly for 60 minutes. With some production from the other side of the ball, this performance from the defensive front would have been praised just a bit more.
The linebacking corps could only manage one sack with their pass rush. A number of missed tackles by the linebackers led to long drives that kept the defense on the field longer than they had to. Losing Foote during the game only made matters worse.
The secondary did hold Tennessee to just 125 yards passing. Safety Ryan Clark had a game-high 13 tackles, and Troy Polamalu looked like his old self when playing at the line of scrimmage. Stopping the Titans on third downs was one thing that contributed to the Week 1 loss.
The short kick to start the game was a blessing in disguise, which resulted in a safety for Pittsburgh. However, the special teams unit continued to duplicate the same mental errors they presented in the preseason, one being an illegal block which penalized the team 15 yards.
On the play where Redman fumbled the ball into the end zone, the Steelers’ coaching staff had the wrong personnel in the game, which resulted in a hurried snap by the quarterback with everyone on the offense not totally settled. On paper, this seemed to be an easy win for Pittsburgh, but obviously the coaches didn’t see it that way.