Two wins in five days behind a physical style of football on both sides of the ball should have Pittsburgh Steelers faithful feeling good about this team heading down the stretch.
Against the Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving night, the Steelers simply beat up the Colts in all phases of the game in a 28-7 win, pushing their record to 6-5 on the season with five games to go.
Like I do every week here at Steelers Depot, I’ll take a shot at grading the positional performances by Pittsburgh.
QB — A
For the second straight week Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t asked to do too much, throwing the ball just 20 times against the Colts. However, unlike last week, Roethlisberger had a ton of success through the air in Week 12 against one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses.
Roethlisberger repeatedly carved up the Indy secondary, finding Antonio Brown three times for scores, while also getting Ladarius Green involved in the passing game down the field, which has been an element the Steelers have been missing this season.
Overall, despite not being asked to do to much once again, Roethlisberger made the plays he was asked to make, leading to the 21-point win on the road.
RB — A
I’m running out of superlatives to describe just how special Le’Veon Bell is as a player for this franchise. Once again, Bell turned in a jaw-dropping performance against the Colts, rushing for 138 yards and a score on 20 carries, while adding 22 yards on four receptions in the win.
On the ground, Bell showcased his ability to make defenders miss in a phone booth while also displaying his physicality as a runner, dropping his shoulder to punish defenders on the boundary.
When this guy is clicking in the backfield behind the offensive line, it makes it that much more difficult to slow down this offense. I think we’ve seen the formula for success for this current team over the last two weeks.
Outside of Bell, Fitzgerald Toussaint came on in relief to close out the game and looked impressive running ball, including a nice 16-yard burst off the left side to pick up a big first down to melt the clock.
WR — B+
If this grade was being handed out to Brown alone, it would be an A+, but once again, Brown isn’t the only receiver on the team. Sometimes it sure feels that way though.
While Brown did haul in five passes for 91 yards and three touchdowns, the rest of the group hauled in just three passes for 41 yards on the night.
That being said though, I felt that Eli Rogers was terrific in the middle of the field, breaking free for some big catches up the seam, finishing with two receptions for 36 yards.
Cobi Hamilton added one reception for five yards as well, but Sammie Coates again struggled to catch the ball on deep routes despite getting two cracks at them, before then dropping an out route on third and 12 that was thrown slightly low and away.
TE — B
Green really showed just what he can bring to this offense as a receiver, hauling in two passes for 67 yards. The free agent tight end really seemed to get behind the defense on both occasions, allowing Roethlisberger to loft passes in his direction for the big gains.
OL — A
Another week, another tremendous performance up front by the offensive linemen for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As a team, Pittsburgh racked up 148 yards on the ground, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, while also allowing just one quarterback hit on Roethlisberger.
Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster continue to have impressive seasons, yet David DeCastro continues to struggle. Twice the veteran right guard was called for holding penalties in what has become the norm for him this season.
DL — A-
Can you say dominant? Wow.
Up front, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave lived in the Indianapolis backfield. Hargrave made a great play to haul down Robert Turbin on a screen on the Colts’ first possession and later recorded a sack on Scott Tolzien for his second straight week with a sack.
As for Tuitt, the veteran defensive end continues to put on a great show without running mate Cam Heyward. The Notre Dame product was all over the field on Thursday night, recording two tackles and three quarterback hits in the win.
Hargrave finished with five tackles (four solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two quarterback hits. It appears that the Steelers might have found something here with the South Carolina State product.
LB — B-
Lawrence Timmons was really, really good on Thursday night, leading the Steelers in tackles yet again with 10 stops (eight solo) and one quarterback hit.
For the second straight week Timmons appeared to set the physical tone early in the game, which carried over to the rest of the defense.
Outside of Timmons, Ryan Shazier — albeit in a quiet manner — had a strong game, finishing with six tackles (three solo), 0.5 tackles for loss and one quarterback hit.
Anthony Chickillo added four tackles on the edge, while James Harrison got to the quarterback for the second straight week and was all over the field for the defense.
The big story line for this game from the linebackers perspective was the return of Bud Dupree, who saw his first game action since being activated two weeks ago. The second-year linebacker out of Kentucky recorded two solo tackles in the win and looked fast off the edge.
DB — B
Credit where credit is due: Mike Mitchell had one heck of a game on Thursday night against the Colts.
The veteran safety recorded seven tackles, broke up two passes — including one in the end zone on fourth down early in the game — and added an interception late in the second half while delivering body blow after body blow to the Colts’ receiving corps.
Outside of Mitchell, William Gay had a solid game, forcing a fumble on the first play from scrimmage before later adding an interception to seal the win. Artie Burns was solid once again, recording five tackles while also showing off his speed to stick with the Indy receivers.
Sean Davis has improved remarkably week after week and played an integral role in stopping the Colts in the red zone both times, including a big touchdown-saving stop on Tolzien on third down.
Ross Cockrell had the toughest game of any Steeler defensive back, and it wasn’t even bad by any stretch.
He had a great pass breakup on a deep shot for Donte Moncrief that was originally called pass interference before rightly being waived off. But it could have been a disastrous day if TY Hilton would have caught the deep ball from Tolzien after he blew by Cockrell in the second quarter.
Special Teams — C
The kicking game was outstanding when called upon as Jordan Berry averaged nearly 45 yards per punt, while Chris Boswell drilled all four extra points.
The reason the grade is so low is due to the kick coverage team.
The Steelers allowed Jordan Todman to rip off a 43-yard kickoff return following Brown’s first touchdown with the Steelers up 14-0, giving the Colts great field position leading to a touchdown.
Later in the game, the Steelers’ punt coverage team gave up a big return to Chester Rogers, but fortunately for them it was negated due to an illegal formation penalty on the Colts by covering up the long snapper.
The kick coverage units need to get cleaned up with Dwayne Harris and the New York Giants riding into town next week.