Sunday’s trip to Philadelphia was nothing short of a disaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-3, marking the worst loss in the Mike Tomlin era.
Not only was the score ugly, so too was the game itself in almost every facet of the game for the Steelers from offense to defense to special teams at times.
Fortunately for the Steelers, this was an early-season game that only counts as one loss and was a non-conference game.
Much like I did last week — and will do every week throughout the season — I’ll take a shot at grading each position group from Sunday’s loss.
QB — C
Very similar to last week for Ben Roethlisberger, it wasn’t a pretty performance. Overall, Roethlisberger struggled with pocket awareness and accuracy, completing just 54 percent of his passes for the Steelers. Not only was his completion numbers down, Roethlisberger forced a lot of balls into tight windows and should have been picked off numerous times.
Roethlisberger and the offense got off to a hot start in the first quarter as the Steelers marched right down the field before stalling out in the red zone. While I won’t blame Roethlisberger entirely for the poor offensive performance, he has to be better next week on Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, which is shaping up to be a must-win.
RB — C+
Another week, another tough time finding rushing lanes for DeAngelo Williams. While Williams did rush for almost 100 yards last week, he got nowhere near that production against the Eagles’ front seven, which was consistently in the backfield all day Sunday.
But give credit to Williams, who ran hard all game long and looked to break the big one to get the Steelers back into the game. Outside of the tough sledding in the run game, Williams was a consistent underneath target out of the backfield, racking up four catches for 23 yards on seven targets.
WR — C-
Antonio Brown returned to his normal self against the Eagles, hauling in 12 passes for 140 yards on 18 targets. His production was one of the bright spots from the game for the Steelers, but outside of 84, the Steelers’ receiving corps was very bland.
Granted, Sammie Coates came up with another big catch down the field putting the Steelers in scoring position, but Eli Rogers and Markus Wheaton came up small.
Outside of Rogers’ big 32-yard catch early in the game to put the Steelers in Philadelphia territory, but the second-year receiver did little else outside of that.
As for Wheaton, ouch… I’m sure the veteran receiver wants to forget about that game as quickly as possible. So many drops. Hopefully he moves on from it quickly.
TE — B-
I thought that Jesse James improved as a blocker, especially in pass protection when he tossed Marcus Smith aside like a ragdoll in the second half on a pass protection set. He certainly struggled at times in the run game and needs to get much more physical at the point of attack, but he’s slowly improving.
As a pass catcher, James wasn’t asked to do much, hauling in two passes for 10 yards on four targets. He likely had a big gain left out on the field do to a poor overthrow from Roethlisberger. It’s hard to overthrow a 6-foot-7 guy, but it happened.
OL — D
A downright dreadful performance by the group up front. There were numerous mental errors pre-snap and plenty of poor execution in the running and passing game.
As a team, the Steelers rushed for just 29 yards on 10 attempts, largely because they could get no push whatsoever up front against the Eagles. Due to the lack of a running game, the Eagles were able to tee off on the Steelers’ offensive line when it came to rushing the passer.
Ramon Foster, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert were manhandled at times and pushed into the lap of Roethlisberger, who rarely had a clean pocket to work in unlike Carson Wentz, while Alejandro Villanueva struggled at times with speed off the edge.
Maurkice Pouncey was the best lineman up front for the Steelers, but even he had his struggles at times. The unit as a whole has struggled the last two weeks and needs to get much, much better in a hurry.
DL — C-
At times I felt that Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt were dominate along the interior, but it was few and far in between. Despite combining for 10 tackles (9 solo), the duo couldn’t do enough to slow down the Eagles’ rushing attack, nor could they get enough pressure on Wentz.
Inside, Javon Hargrave and Daniel McCullers provided little impact, if at all. That’s not going to get it done.
LB — C-
Sigh. This is starting to become a serious problem. There’s very little pass rush off the edge with guys like James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats. Moats has the only sack for the Steelers, and it was on an Andy Dalton scramble last week in which he ran out of the pocket because nobody was open.
I can’t see it getting better any time soon, either. Inside, Ryan Shazier dealt with a knee injury all game and wasn’t his explosive self, while Lawrence Timmons left the game early and ended up heading to the hospital for a shin injury. Vince Williams stepped in and played well for the most part, but the performance by the group as a whole was a disappointment, not only in the pass rush, but against the run as well as in coverage.
On Darren Sproles’ long touchdown catch-and-run, Shazier simply lost him in coverage and allowed him to get behind him in coverage, leading to an easy catch-and-run for the score.
DBs — B-
It’s important to keep in mind that Wentz completed just four passes that traveled eight yards past the line of scrimmage. As a whole, 10 of Wentz’s 23 completions didn’t travel past the line of scrimmage.
Overall, I felt that the secondary played well despite the injury to Robert Golden, forcing Sean Davis to safety. Overall, Artie Burns was okay playing a major role at corner, while William Gay and Ross Cockrell were solid once again.
Granted, Burns and Davis were both dreadful on Sproles’ long touchdown, but overall I felt the performance by the secondary was solid. You can get lost in the 300+ yards that Wentz put up, but a lot of it was short dump-offs. A better pass rush will largely help the defense as a whole.
Special Teams — B
Outside of the blocked kick, the special teams units for the Steelers were solid once again, led by Jordan Berry and his booming punts, as well as Shamarko Thomas coming up with big tackles in kick coverage.
Chris Boswell did have a field goal attempt blocked due to DeCastro allowing pressure to Bennie Logan up the middle, but it wasn’t Boswell’s fault completely.