What an ugly, embarrassing performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers in two of three phases of the game against the Baltimore Ravens on the road at M&T Bank Stadium.
Once again, the Steelers were largely embarrassed on the road, but this time they were embarrassed coming off of a bye week in a pivotal AFC North matchup with the Ravens.
I know it was painful and frustrating to watch for everyone, much like these grades will be for me.
QB — D-
For roughly three and half quarters Ben Roethlisberger played some of the worst football I’ve ever seen him play, but fortunately he woke up midway through the fourth quarter and somehow had the Steelers in position to get back into the game.
Coming off of knee surgery just two weeks ago, Roethlisberger looked rusty for much of the game, but once the veteran found his footing late in the game the offense really started to move the ball down the field with some urgency.
Early on Roethlisberger was way off with timing and accuracy while looking skiddish in the pocket. Although he led two good scoring drives late in the game and should have had a third if not for a big drop by Sammie Coates, it was far too little, far too late for the veteran signal caller.
RB — C-
Look, I don’t fault Le’Veon Bell much for having very little — if any — running room against the Ravens, especially early on. It’s incredibly hard for a running back to gain yards against an eight-man front, especially if you have a defender in your face as soon as you receive the handoff.
Granted, the 14 carries for 32 yards looks terrible on paper, but a lot of it had to do with poor play calling and terrible execution up front.
While he was mostly shut down on the ground, Bell came alive late in the passing game, finishing with six catches for 38 yards in the loss.
WR — D
Much like the rest of the offense, it wasn’t until late in the game that the receiving corps came alive, which is largely what you’ll see in the box score.
Early in the game the Steelers seemingly had no idea how to attack the Baltimore defense, which just so happened to be double- and triple-teaming Antonio Brown (7 catches, 85 yards, one touchdown).
Darrius Heyward-Bey went down with what looks to be a serious foot/ankle injury in the first quarter on a deep ball from Roethlisberger that was slightly overthrown, while guys like Coates and Cobi Hamilton couldn’t seem to open up the rest of the field.
However, once Eli Rogers (6 catches, 103 yards) was inserted into the game, the offense seemed to open up some, allowing the second-year receiver to put in work over the middle of the field.
Coates did have a massive drop late in the fourth quarter that would have pulled the Steelers to within seven, and looking back on the play after the Roethlisberger touchdown run, likely would have put the Steelers in position to tie the game.
TE — F
Jesse James made a great diving catch in the fourth quarter, but in the second quarter he dropped an easy pass from Roethlisberger and was yet again very underwhelming as a blocker, struggling to get any push in the run game.
David Johnson also struggled as a blocker and added one catch for 12 yards, but was largely ineffective despite being on the field quite a bit early on in three tight end sets.
Xavier Grimble added one catch for 10 yards on his only target and didn’t see the field much as a pass catching threat, despite that being his strength in the middle of the field.
OL — F
What a disastrous performance by the men up front despite getting Marcus Gilbert back this week.
Granted, Maurkice Pouncey left the game with a thumb injury on the second play of the game, returned and then left once again for the rest of the game, but overall the performance up front was horrendous.
The Steelers struggled to generate any form of a running game against the Ravens, struggled to protect Roethlisberger and took far too many pre-snap penalties.
At some point the front line has to turn it around and get this offense back on track in terms of running the ball and protecting the quarterback.
Maybe it happens next week against Dallas, but who knows at this point.
DL — A-
With the return of Cam Heyward, the Pittsburgh defensive line looked terrific against a healthy Baltimore offensive line.
Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave put together a solid performance in helping to hold Baltimore to just 1.9 yards per carry in the loss as Heyward and Tuitt combined for three tackles for loss.
LB — B
James Harrison turned back the clock once again and looked like the best Steelers defender on the field, hauling down Joe Flacco twice in the loss, forcing a fumble on one of his sacks. The veteran outside linebacker finished with six tackles for the Steelers.
Ryan Shazier had a strong game as well, forcing a fumble on Terrance West in the backfield while also recording half a sack with Anthony Chickillo (which was a gimme). Finally healthy, Shazier finished second on the team in tackles with nine (six solo).
Lawrence Timmons also finished with nine tackles (seven solo) and had a possible interception bounce off of his hands on a seam route intended for Kamar Aiken in the first half. The veteran linebacker finished with two pass breakups on the day.
Jarvis Jones continues to play very good football against the run, finishing with five tackles (four solo) after battling back from an early injury.
DB — C-
Man, Mike Mitchell talks quite a bit of smack despite rarely backing it up.
After calling out Steve Smith earlier in the week, Mitchell had a chance early in the game to back up his talk but ended up missing a tackle in the open field, setting up a 30-yard catch-and-run by Smith.
Later in the first quarter, Mitchell blew a tackle in the open field again — this time on Mike Wallace — leading to a 95-yard catch-and-run for the former Steeler to get the Ravens on the board.
Artie Burns did miss the tackle on Wallace, setting up the one-on-one matchup with Mitchell in the open field, but the veteran safety has to do his job as the last line of defense.
Burns did have a rough game despite hauling in his first career interception in the second quarter, but credit to the rookie though as he bounced back in the second half and turned in a decent performance.
There really wasn’t much else to note in the secondary.
Special Teams — D
Jordan Berry was one of the best players in the game for the Steelers, averaging just under 48 yards per punt on an absurd nine punts, including two inside the 20-yard line and a long of 61 yards.
Berry often had a long field to try and flip, but despite the circumstances he was able to flip the field often to set up the Pittsburgh defense in favorable position.
However, the Ravens came up with a big blocked punt for a touchdown thanks to a blown assignment by rookie Sean Davis not getting a hand on Javorius Allen. That’s on Danny Smith not having these guys prepared.
While Berry stole the show punting the ball (never thought I’d write that), Chris Boswell nailed both extra points but came through with arguably the worst onside kick attempt I’ve ever seen in my 18 years of watching NFL football.
That pretty much summed up an embarrassing performance overall.
Wrapping things up, Pittsburgh had 12 guys on the field for a Justin Tucker 54-yard field goal attempt, which pushed it closer for the Ravens kicker. Again, that’s on Smith because he controls who’s on the field on special teams.
That can’t happen.
SPECIAL GRADES SECTION
COACHING: Lowest F you can get
Execution and preparation was horrendous in this game, and a lot of that falls at the feet of the coaching staff.
No, you won’t see me saying #FireTomlin, because I think that’s largely stupid, but some changes need made with assistant coaches.
Danny Smith’s special teams performance was atrocious overall, while Todd Haley had a disastrous day calling plays.
Keith Butler’s defense had a good day overall, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
Mike Tomlin gets a lot of blame for not having these guys ready coming out of a bye, but screaming to the high heavens that he should be fired is way off for me. I totally understand the frustration and anger with yet another performance like this under Tomlin, but let’s step away from the ledge here.
Bill Belichick isn’t walking through that door.