While all the plaudits have dropped at the feet of Charlie Batch, this was another win that owed more to the excellence of the Steelers’ defense than the play of their fill-in QBs.
Quarterback Josh Freeman was harassed throughout the game as the Pittsburgh continued the form that has earned it recognition as one of the strongest teams in the league.
For the Buccaneers, there has to be a growing concern about the lack of pressure they’re generating, but also the amount of pressure they’re allowing through.
Steelers: Three performances of note
The more you see of Rashard Mendenhall (+1.2) the more you have to like him. He was given plenty of help from his offensive line and tight ends, but he hits the hole decisively and can make defenders miss (four missed tackles forced this afternoon). He got 66 of his 143 yards after contact as the Steelers dominated the point of attack.
The stat line may read differently, but it wasn’t that great of a day for Charlie Batch (+1.6), and against better opposition he just doesn’t have the skill to get things done. He owed a lot to Cody Grimm’s inability to locate the ball and Aqib Talib being unable to hold onto a ball — otherwise, two of his touchdowns could quite easily have been interceptions on underthrown balls. Batch was greatly helped by the Bucs only getting pressure on him on four separate plays.
In the ongoing battle of excellence between Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison, the edge in this one went to Woodley (+3.4). Despite rushing the passer eight fewer times than Harrison, he was able to pick up eight total pressures to “just” six from Harrison. Both men are in splendid form and even when the reserves came in there was still plenty of pressure. You might not know who it will be, but one of those linebackers is going to get you.
Buccaneers: Three performances of note
Truth be told, it seemed like LT Donald Penn (-5.0) got a contract boost based on his 2008 play, maybe thinking a big deal would motivate him to rebound from a substandard 2009. It hasn’t worked. Penn was slow reacting to where the Steelers were attacking from on numerous occasions and gave up two sacks, two hits and six pressures. This was not a franchise left tackle performance — a line we’re using far too often for a man who has now given up 17 total pressures on the year.
While Geno Hayes and Quincy Black had decent games, Barrett Ruud (-5.7) had a nightmare performance and verged on being utterly ineffective. He made just two defensive stops, missed a tackle and was responsible for a big completion to Heath Miller. Before the season we highlighted the strength of this defense as its linebackers, but after a second poor performance we’re not so sure. Ruud needs to up his game.
Another player who had a rough day was DLE Kyle Moore (-4.6). He got no pressure whatsoever on the quarterback and was manhandled not only by Flozell Adams but the Steelers’ tight ends. We’ve been less than impressed with Moore throughout the season, and are seriously questioning why he is in on 77.22 percent of defensive plays in 2010.
The rookie report
For Pittsburgh, Maurkice Pouncey (+0.1) gave up a pressure but was solid throughout. … Antonio Brown was a decoy on five offensive plays and did what you’d expect a returner to do when handed the opportunity. … Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds saw plenty of action when the game was ending, with Worilds picking up a sack.
For Tampa, Mike Williams (-0.2) had a costly fumble but caught five of the six balls thrown his way. Two other rookie receivers saw garbage time, with Preston Parker not targeted (though he did a good job with his kickoff returns) and Arrelious Benn catching all three balls tossed to him. … LeGarrette Blount ran harder than Cadillac Williams, impressing with three missed tackles forced and 21 of his 27 yards after contact (including a play where he dragged Troy Polamalu along for a few yards). … On defense, Gerald McCoy (-0.9) struggled to make an impact with just one quarterback pressure, while Brian Price doubled that amount but was moved about in the run game in limited action. … Grimm (-1.4) really should have done a lot better with Batch’s first touchdown and brought back memories of Sabby Piscitelli with his tackling (three missed).
Batch didn’t throw outside his left hash marks once. … There wasn’t a solitary piece of pressure from a Buccaneers defensive end.