Doesn’t feel like the Steelers are missing much of a beat does it?
Though they never ran away with it, Pittsburgh was always too good for an over-matched Cardinals team, who are still waiting for their big time investment in Kevin Kolb to start paying dividends. While they wait, it only highlights how shallow a roster they have assembled, and this game exposed a number of those limitations. To think, people considered this unit a playoff contender.
And to think people thought the Steelers were done. They’re not. And if you sleep on them, they’ll catch you unaware like a bomb to Mike Wallace on a go route.
Pittsburgh: Three Performances of Note
The battle to replace Hines Ward
With the former Super Bowl MVP getting older, it won’t be long before the Steelers make one of Emmanuel Sanders (+1.3) or Antonio Brown (+3.2) the long term partner for Mike Wallace. With Ward limited to 28 snaps in this one, it was interesting to see that while Sanders received more playing time (14 extra snaps), Brown not only received more targets (nine to seven), but picked up more yards (102 to 46). Sure Sanders may have walked away with a touchdown, but Brown’s performance – including a beautiful one-handed grab with 5:52 to go in the third – was a real joy to behold. A combination of him and Wallace, for years to come? Scary.
Paying the penalty
There’s been a lot of talk this year about how good a year Ike Taylor (-5.6) has been having. After all, he had only allowed five receptions heading into this game on 29 targets. Impressive numbers, though it should be noted he has benefited from drops and overthrows as his schedule included some less-than-stellar quarterbacks. This was another case of the numbers (three receptions allowed on nine targets) flattering Taylor, with errant Kolb throws (7:35 left in the first, for one) preventing big completions to Larry Fitzgerald. Meanwhile, he drew three penalties in coverage, and missed two tackles. It’s not easy tracking Fitzgerald, and Taylor proved it.
Third Choice? Really?
With Casey Hampton out (and coming towards the end of his career) and Chris Hoke also inactive, the Steelers tried their luck with former undrafted free agent, Steve McLendon on the nose. Making the first start of his career, McLendon definitely made an impression with his 35 snaps. Sure he registered just one pressure, but it was his work in run defense that was most remarkable. He’s not the same type of player as Hampton, but Pittsburgh fans were cheering a plenty as McLendon beat Daryn Colledge on his inside shoulder to pick up a tackle for a loss (one of four defensive stops) with 9:55 to go in the first half. Assuming he keeps his snap count up (35 for this game), he’ll have sterner tests than the Cardinals’ interior.
Arizona: Three Performances of Note
This was the moment he had been waiting for. The opportunity he craved. The chance to show the world he was more than just a backup. Only right now Kevin Kolb (-0.9) is drawing more boos from his own fans, than plaudits given his near complete inability to deal with pressure. The Steelers only generated pressure on 12 of 37 drop backs (though it seemed a lot more given how happy Kolb’s feet were), and it resulted in two sacks, an interception, and numerous overthrows. This doesn’t even include the safety he took when he decided the safest place to run from Lamarr Woodley was his own end zone. The former Eagle just looks incredibly uncomfortable, and while he rallied a late touchdown drive when the Steelers gave him plenty of time in the pocket, it just wasn’t enough. His hidden stat line reads overthrowing four balls, underthrowing four more, and forcing a couple of more for good measure. You wonder if Larry Fitzgerald (+2.2 receiving) realized quite what he was championing in the offseason.
Good, Good, Levi Brown
Sure the headline doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s about time someone wrote something nice about Levi Brown (+3.1). He had one of those perfect days in pass protection that come with a giant asterisk next to them (he did give up a pressure but the play was nullified), and he didn’t have to contend with the injured James Harrison. But you can only best what is put in front of you, and he looked far more comfortable one-on-one with Brett Keisel and Lawrence Timmons, receiving his highest grade of the year by some distance. If history has taught us anything, it’s that it won’t last, so maybe we should all make hay while the sun shines and applaud Brown for once.
What comes up, must come down
We’ve been quietly very impressed with the year A.J. Jefferson (-4.1) has been having. So what does he go and do? Forgets himself in a most spectacular fashion. Take the Heath Miller touchdown with 9:45 to go in the first. Can somebody explain what he was doing, and why it was so different than the rest of the defense? By inexplicably tracking a man across the middle, he left his zone so wide open you almost didn’t realize it could possibly be his zone. It wasn’t the only mistake he made, as he gave up another touchdown when Roethlisberger extending the play seemed to be too much for him to take, and really couldn’t get a handle on Antonio Brown when they were matched up. Rough day at the office.
● Ben Roethlisberger only completed one pass outside the left hashmarks.
● Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald picked up 47 of his 78 yards from the slot.
● Troy Polamalu missed as many tackles, one, as he made.
PFF Game Ball
In the end, as strong a case as Antonio Brown put in, Lamarr Woodley (+3.2) with his two sacks, one hit and one pressure (along with causing an intentional grounding which resulted in a safety) gets it.
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