ARI-PIT Grades: Bryant ignites Steelers, Jones relieves Vick in victory

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Steelers’ 25-13 win over the Cardinals.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

ARI-PIT Grades: Bryant ignites Steelers, Jones relieves Vick in victory


Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Steelers’ 25-13 win over the Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals

– Based on the grades of QB Carson Palmer (+5.6) and his receivers, you might think the Cardinals won this game handily. Palmer was moving this team up and down the field all game long, despite essentially nothing for a run game. Palmer threw deep often, and of his 421 yards, a ridiculous 296 of them came in the air. He threw 11 passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air but only completed three of them for 119 yards and an interception. WR John Brown (+1.9) led the team with 196 receiving yards, with only 34 of those coming after the catch.

– CB Patrick Peterson (+2.0) had a fantastic day at corner, shadowing Antonio Brown all over the field and essentially shutting him down. He gave up only two receptions to Brown on five targets, for a mere 26 yards. Only six of those yards came after the catch. Peterson is now averaging 22.2 coverage snaps per reception, which is one of the highest marks in the entire league among corners. QBs throwing at him have a rating of only 45.4.

– The Cardinals’ offensive line struggled in this game, which was one of the biggest reasons for their loss. As a unit, they combined for a pass block grade of -8.3. They didn’t allow a sack, but they did allow three QB hits and 10 QB hurries. LT Jared Veldheer (-4.4) was the main culprit, allowing a hit and three hurries. He also had a -1.6 run block grade, second worst on the team to RG Jonathan Cooper (-3.0) and his -1.7 run block grade. LG Mike Iupati (+1.2) was the lone bright spot for this unit, allowing only one QB hurry and grading positively against the run as well.

Top performers:

QB Carson Palmer (+5.6)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (+3.0)
NT Rodney Gunter (+2.2)
CB Patrick Peterson (+2.0)
WR John Brown (+1.9)

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

– QB Michael Vick (-0.9) threw only eight passes, but that’s all it took for him to finish with a -2.8 passing grade before he went down with an injury. Vick threw two terrible passes that could have easily been intercepted (one of them was dropped by the defender) and was unable to do anything else. His three completions were all thrown behind the line of scrimmage, for a total of -12 yards in the air. The only reason his grade ended up near average was because of his +1.9 rushing grade, thanks to some excellent scrambles. QB Landry Jones (-0.5) played as well as anyone could have asked, completing safe throws and not forcing anything. His numbers were boosted by an amazing catch-and-run by WR Martavis Bryant (+2.1), but of his 12 passes, all of them were aimed beyond the line of scrimmage.

– The Steelers defense came up big when they needed to, specifically the pass rush duo of DE Cameron Heyward (+2.7) and OLB James Harrison (+4.6). The two combined for a sack, three QB hits and four hurries, and were frequently beating Cardinals’ offensive linemen off the snap. They played well against the run too, contributing to a unit that held the Cardinals to a mere 56 yards on 18 attempts. As a whole, the Steelers defense missed only two tackles all game, on 72 total plays.

– The Cardinals picked out CB Antwon Blake (-3.4) as the man they wanted to pick on in the passing game for this one, and evidently they chose correctly. Blake was targeted 13 times, and allowed nine of those to be caught for 163 yards and a touchdown. Every reception he allowed was for a first down, and on two of the incompletions Blake was beaten and Carson Palmer just missed his receiver. If you take away Blake’s rough game, the rest of the Steelers’ secondary actually didn’t play that poorly, allowing 20 receptions on 31 targets for 258 yards and 0 touchdowns.

Top performers:

OLB James Harrison (+4.6)
DE Cameron Heyward (+2.7)
WR Martavis Bryant (+2.1)
ILB Vince Williams (+2.0)
G David DeCastro (+1.8)

| Analyst

Bryson has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, and has also been a contributor to 120 Sports.

  • 58Steel

    I don’t know what else the Steelers coaches need to see to sit Blake and put Boykin in??????

    • Sam Doohan

      That’s what I’ve been wondering. I guess they kept him this week because he had the pick six at SD and gave him a shot but after this week they really should be going to Boykin. The Steelers D has actually played WAY above expectations, it feels like one more piece will turn them into a real shut down unit.

    • Madi

      We’re talking about the same coach who admits to not even considering subbing out Vick for Landry. “What else does he need to see?” is kind of a running theme.

      • Sam Doohan

        We don’t know what they’ve been seeing behind the scenes though. They immediately went to get Vick even before Ben was injured, so clearly they had doubts Jones could handle the game. That doesn’t make Vick any better but if they think Jones has problems reading coverage and might throw a stupid pick six to lose the game, then yeah I can understand that.

      • JudoPrince

        The same coach, mind you, who has found a way to win against tough opponents, with big Ben out. Steelers are now 2-1 during that span. Tomlin clearly knows what he’s doing.

        • Madi

          I didn’t say he’s a bad coach, I said, “What else does he need to see to make a substitution?” is a running theme with him, and I stand by that. He’s also a bad clock manager.

          Another example: BA was a terrible play caller. He’s a good coach overall and designed a good offense, but I don’t care how many Coach of the Year awards he wins, I’d never take him back to call the plays.

          A good coach can have faults. Tomlin’s are clear.

          • Sam Doohan

            That’s reasonably true although I suspect it’s more because Tomlin is kinda hands-off when it comes to picking starters, more working on scheme rather than personnel. LeBeau never subbed out Ike Taylor or Polomalu even when it was clear they weren’t playing well.

  • Madi

    …Just as long as everyone realizes that still no cornerback has been able to shut Antonio Brown. I’m sure Peterson played great, but credit where credit is due: Michael Vick shut down AB.

    Might be impossible to prove, but it’s easy to figure out. Vick 1) isn’t good in general, and 2) doesn’t trust AB to come down with a tough ball, and 3) isn’t smart/talented enough to throw him open. We’ve seen what happens when Ben throws him the ball, regardless of the coverage.

    Again, I know Peterson is playing well, but if we want to say he shut down AB, we need about 15 asterisks. Ditto for Verrett last week, who the game announcers were crediting for being the first CB able to contain Brown.

    • PackMaster

      100% true

    • Jim Winslow

      Great receivers need perform no matter who is qb, sure their numbers will go down but they should still lead the team in targets and receptions.

      • shaunhan murray

        Did you watch the game AB was open vick was just hilariously inaccurate and the onlyrreason martavis bryant caught more passes was that landry jones came in and in 12 passes one went to bryant and he went 88 yards for a td the steelers passed the ball a total of 20 times

        • Jim Winslow

          Overall,pat p did a great job in covering antonio brown he just got beat by the better player that day.He will be fine when big ben comes back though.

          • Jason McDonald

            Apparently you did not actually watch the game . Brown was open numerous times and Vick never threw him the ball and when Jones came in he was clearly looking for Bryant . If letting a guy get open constantly is doing a good job then Patterson did in fact do a good job

          • Jim Winslow

            he graded well man I don;t think he sucked, also I wasn’t able to catch the game but why should I go off your opinion where I can just use profootballfocuses opinion they watched the game too.

          • Jason McDonald

            Lol, posting blindly off someone else’s opinion .

          • Jim Winslow

            lol some idiot on the internet who doesn’t know shit, except for taking dick from Antonio brown.

          • Jason McDonald

            Apparently you did not actually watch the game . Brown was open numerous times and Vick never threw him the ball and when Jones came in he was clearly looking for Bryant . If letting a guy get open constantly is doing a good job then Patterson did in fact do a good job

      • Madi

        This is ridiculous. He doesn’t control where the ball goes or if he is thrown to. He did his part by getting open (even if the ball didn’t come his way) and by proving time and time again over his career that he’ll catch the ball even if he’s not wide open. Landry showed us an example of that.

        By the way, your “I didn’t see the game but PFF is obviously more trustworthy than you” is flawed for more than just the blindness. PFF bases their grades largely on stats (not sure to what degree exactly). Read the Peterson paragraph. The entire thing is about stats. Our point is that stats are clearly flawed in this circumstance, because the QB either flat out missed him or wasn’t smart enough to go his way.

        • Jim Winslow

          yeah man but he could easily play better he is great, you cannot seriously think he was playing at his highest level based on that performance.

  • Madi

    Gotta say guys, I think Vick at -0.9 and Landry at -0.5 is another one of those, “Let’s re-evaluate our grading system” moments.

    Those numbers are so close, it’s as if you’re not even trying to reflect the contributions made to the team. They were night and day. It looked like it, AND it was reflected in the stats and on the scoreboard.

    • Sam Doohan

      Well it’s more an aberration in how grades are generated. Remember, the grade is just adding up all their plays not giving an overall impression over effectiveness.

      Vick was clearly appalling throwing the ball but when you only have 5 incompletions it can only drop your grade so far. It took Kirk Cousins 43 drop backs to get to -6 and that included missing on almost every throw over 10 yards, two picks and over all 4.5 yard per attempt. Cousin’s grade is much lower despite being more effective (it’d be hard to be less effective than Vick) because he had so many attempts to screw it up. Vick sucked out loud but he didn’t have that many plays to suck in so he doesn’t drop so low and when he scrambled he was genuinely ok. If Vick had thrown 43 passes then he’s have perhaps had the worst grade ever seen (if he continued at the same pace Vick would have been 16 of 43 for 32 yards and have graded at worse than -10 on passing even assuming he didn’t throw any picks) but the Steelers didn’t make him do really anything at all.

      I agree that Jones’ grade is a bit harsh, but I can understand why they graded him that way. Half his yards came after the catch and he stuck to safe, high percentage throws. Bryant get’s the real credit for his TDs getting open so Jones didn’t need to be spectacular. His contribution was clearly massive but PFF doesn’t grade on that really; just what the see on the play. You don’t get extra points for being clutch or coming in cold and playing well. PFF doesn’t count intangibles.

      • Madi

        I hear what you’re saying, but

        1) It’s a stretch to say Landry made nothing but easy, safe throws. There were some tricky ones in there, and as far as I know PFF (nor anyone else) penalizes QBs for hitting open receivers on the money. He moved the ball down the field. I’d buy this argument if it was a bunch of screens that truly took no quarterbacking skills, but that’s not the case. The ball was thrown down the field, accurately.

        2) Are you sure the grades aren’t supposed to measure effectiveness? Of course they don’t sit there at the end of the game and pick a number based on their gut and memory. I know it’s adding up the plays. I’m saying, how on earth do you add up Vick’s and Landry’s plays and get almost the same number? It means they graded those individual plays wrong. I just don’t understand how Jones can go out there and complete quality passes and get a, “Meh, anyone could have done that, the receiver was open” from PFF. Clearly not anyone could, because Michael Vick, the guy they gave the same grade to, couldn’t even come close no matter how hard he tried.

        3) Vick being ineffective/terrible shouldn’t keep his grades high because he doesn’t have enough attempts or whatever. If you play 3 quarters and throw for 6 yards and are CLEARLY the reason your offense is sucking, that should affect your grades. Kind of like how pass rushers’ grades go down based on what they don’t do – if they go a whole game without pressure, their grade is very low. I have no QB experience but I bet could complete any screen pass, most of the time. If I played an entire game handing off the ball, running bootlegs and throwing 2 yard passes to the fullback, and throwing screens, and wound up being 8 for 12 for 30 yards with no TDs and 2 dropped INTs, would I have an average grade? A game like that is a game without a QB at all.

        4) I do understand that the partial-game for both guys moderates both scores. If I was to put numbers on each guy (out of my ass), I’d maybe have Vick at -2 and Landry at +1.5. But I need to re-watch the game.

  • wynn

    In a number of games this season, and also last season, both the Steelers’ coach and offensive coordinator show that they don’t understand strategy by some of their questionable plays and use of the clock. That Ravens game, and even the 2-point try here, are clear signs that both these guys are clueless. However, I have to give it to the front office for building an offensive juggernaut and rebuilding the defense.

    • Sam Doohan

      I’m sorry but Tomlin has been a consistently great coach for the Steelers. As coach he’s won a superbowl, been to another and made 3 more playoff appearances in 8 seasons. Todd Haley’s system has made the Steelers a juggernaut. With Arians the offense sputtered unless Ben made throws after the play broke down and only having the best D in football made his conservative, frequently misfiring offense able to win games. When Haley showed up suddenly the bone headed mistakes were gone, focusing on the O line, balancing their offense and moving the chains not just looking for big plays and the result is a radically better team.

      Sure, they haven’t coached a perfect season but their coaching was the only reason they stole a game against the Bolts (who would certainly have won in OT) and their calls last night won another game they had no business being in. I bet other teams would love to have coaches that bad.

      • Jim Winslow

        Tomlin has been a consistently great coach nah. But great win for the steelers.

        • Sam Doohan

          Well his record speaks for itself really. His teams have typically survived injuries well and made good in game adjustments which are the hallmarks of good coaching.

          • Jim Winslow

            yeah but there have been some very bad losses in playoffs and against contenders, where the steeler game plan has been questionable. I guess he is more of a two faced coach if anything.

          • Sam Doohan

            That’s certainly true. So many Steelers losses in the past few years have had me tearing my hair out but it’s hard to argue that Tomlin wasn’t a good choice.

  • Zack23

    What’s that noise? Did the Cardinals bandwagon just derail?