Steelers Midseason Grades & Awards
Steelers MidSeason Report Card
HC Mike Tomlin - I found it prophetic when Mike Tomlin said before the season that this team was a work in progress that he expected to be better at the end of the season than the beginning. So far the arrow is pointing up the deeper we get into the season, but a 5-3 record combined with two awful road losses to bad teams and leading the league in penalties defines this grade. The general lack of discipline must fall on the head man in charge. (Grade: B-)
OC Todd Haley - Haley has done two brilliant things for the Steelers offense. He's protected Ben from himself via heavy use of the short passing game, and he's remained committed to fixing the run game even when it struggled. By simplifying their run plays to highlight the talents of their personnel, Haley may have just sparked the Steelers ground game back to something mirroring '04/'05. The major downside to Todd Haley is the utter disappearance of the deep passing game. With the fastest trio of WR's in the game, Haley has failed to regularly stretch defenses and take advantage of play action with deep attempts. In the grand scheme of things
a healthy Ben > a few more splash plays. (Grade: B)
DC Lebeau - Lebeau has gone from a senile old fart to a wise old man over the past month. Despite playing most of the season without Troy Polamalu and dealing to deal with injuries and declining play from Lamar Woodley and James Harrison, Lebeau has started to get his defense dialed in. While they struggled to get off the field mightily on 3rd downs in their 3 losses (allowed 21 of 37 (57%) ) they have bounced back and shut down opposing offense in 5 wins (allowed just 18 of 57 (32%) ) on 3rd down conversions in wins. Young players like Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen have begun to more closely resemble veterans than rookies, and the pass defense has been much improved as of late beacause of that. As Lebeau's edge rushers get healthy, the D-line continues to gel, and the secondary matures, you can expect Lebeau to look smarter as the weather gets colder. (Grade: B-)
QB: Ben has adapted beautifully to Todd Haley's offense. For all of the media types who have said that Ben can't make fast decisions, excel as a traditional pocket passer, or read defenses very well have been proven wrong. Roethlisberger remains one of the most efficient passers in the league (101.1 QB Rating) in addition to being the absolute best QB on 3rd downs. Ben's YPA has gone down (7.4 YPA) compared to previous years, but he is on pace for a career high in completion percentage (67.1%), yards (4400), & TD's (32). Additionally he has cut the number of sacks he has a career best sack percentage of only 5.4% (Grade: A)
RB: The backs have had an up and down season. Early on they struggled to find holes and lacked room to run. As the O-line began to solidify and Haley simplified the type of run plays they used, the backs began to flourish. Rashard Mendenhall showed great speed and burst in his one full outing before leaving again with an injury. Jon Dwyer posted the first back-to back 100 yard games by a Steeler since he days of Willie Parker. Isaac Redman became the first Steelers back in 40 years to have 100 yards receiving and followed that up with a 147 yard day rushing. Both Dwyer and Redman have done an excellent job of gaining yards after contact. (Grade: B-)
WR/TE: The receivers have been mostly good, but a few bad traits have popped up too. Multiple formation penalties, drops, untimely fumbles, and too much showboating are knocks on this group. Wallace and Brown are each on pace for 1000 yard seasons, and Emmanuel Sanders has finally emerged as a reliable and effective 3rd option. Jerrico Cotchery has filled in admirably in spot duty catching 80% of the balls thrown his way and converting 5 3rd downs.
Heath Miller is having a Pro Bowl season with 6 TD's, 23 1st down conversions, and some excellent blocking. (Grade: B)
O-Line: It has really been a tale of two seasons for this unit. Early on they struggled mightily run blocking and Willie Colon was a penalty factory as he adjusted to pass protection on the inside. As the season has progressed they have been allowed to play to their strengths and
are now imposing their will in the ground game and keeping Ben fairly clean in pass protection. The arrow is pointing up here, we expect the final grade to be better than the midseason one. Still the 3.9 YPC in the run game must improve. (Grade: C)
D-Line: After getting gashed early in the season the D-line began to gel. They have done little rushing the passer with only 4 combined sacks and 4 tackles for loss. That said they are ranked 7th in rushing yards allowed and 8th in yards per attempt allowed. (Grade: C)
LB: Lawrence Timmons went from invisible man to impact player as the season has progressed. He still misses too many tackles, but his coverage and blitzing performance has picked up. James Harrison still isn't James Harrison as a pass rusher and he's struggled in coverage, but he's starting to impose his will in other areas of the game. Larry Foote is playing as well this season as he ever did in his prime. Chris Carter and Jason Worilds were anywhere from invisible to below the standard. Lamarr Woodley has again been hamstrung by his hamstrings, but has turned it up a notch as a pass rusher in recent weeks and is tied for the team lead with 3 sacks and 1 INT. This is another group you'd expect to be playing at a higher level in week 17 than they were in week 1. (Grade: C+)
DB: Ryan Clark has been the rock and the tone setter in the secondary. His big hits force drops later in the game, and his play is always very steady and consistent. Ike Taylor has had a few awful games, and a few brilliant ones. Keenan Lewis quite frankly has been an upgrade at the other corner spot and he leads the team with FIFTEEN passes defensed. 15 PD is 7 more than the next closest Steeler's player this year, and more than any Steelers defender had in the entire 2011 season. While Troy Polamalu has only played about 5 quarters all season and Ryan Mundy has continued to suck out loud, Will Allen has shown to be a stabilizing force at the Strong Safety position. Cortez Allen and a little Curtis Brown have done an admirable job covering the slot. (Grade: B)
ST: If not for penalties, this unit might actually be really good. Aside from allowing a punt to be blocked and blowing a fake FG attempt, Suisham and Butler have been everything you can want from your kickers. Accuracy and consistency has been the hallmark from these two as Suisham has only missed one long FG attempt and Butler has done a very good job pinning opponents inside their 20 (13 times in 27 punts) The coverage units have been average, but not bad. Rainey, Brown, and Sanders are all close to busting a return for a TD, but penalties have wiped out many of their efforts just like in preseason. (Grade: C-)
Refs: In a short summary inconsistent and mediocre. Real refs, replacement refs, it doesn't matter. They all graded out the same. Some solid games mixed with some absolutely putrid ones. The difference is, the media covers for officiating mistakes by the regular crews and highlighted the gaffes by the replacements. Pass Interference calls are out of control in this league. Anything close gets flagged, and the punishment is too harsh for the crime. A 40+ yard penalty for a little hand fighting down field is just too severe. The emphasis on helmet to helmet hits has caused officials to be overly reactionary with flags. Any hard shot on a bang bang play gets flagged, even if it was a 100% clean and legal hit. They'd rather throw the flag and be wrong just to be safe. (Grade: D)
The staff has voted for the following midseason awards. Team MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
|Off. POY||Miller||Ben/RB's||Brown||Ben||Miller||Ben||Heath Miller|
|Def. POY||Clark||Lewis||Lewis||Clark||Lewis & Clark||Clark||Ryan Clark|
|Coach OY||Haley||none||Kugler||Haley||Tomlin||Lake||Todd Haley|
Ben gets the consensus nod for Team MVP with Fury showing some love for the consistency of Shaun Suisham. The Offensive Player of the Year had votes split between Ben, Miller, Brown, and the RB corps. In the end, Heath Miller's contributions in the redzone, moving the chains, and his work as a blocker wins him the award. The closest vote came in Defensive Player of the Year where Ryan Clark's consistency and tone setting edged out the up and coming coverage skills of Keenan Lewis. With only two notable contenders for Rookie of the Year, Mike Adams hot play over the past month at RT earned him the nod over Chris Rainey. The Staff perhaps neglected the work that Drew Butler has done. No consensus was reached on Coach of the Year with only Todd Haley receiving more than one vote.