CLE-PIT Grades: Big Ben excels in "backup" role
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Steelers’ 30-9 win over the Browns:
– Although Johnny Manziel (+3.3) was sacked six times according to the official gamebook, Cleveland’s offensive line actually played really well and limited the pass rush of the Steelers’ defensive line. Of the six sacks, only one was really due to poor offensive line play—when Cameron Erving let Stephon Tuitt go by him. As a matter of fact, the only player on the Browns’ offensive line who graded out below +1.0 was Erving (-2.0), who started the first game of his NFL career. Consequently, Browns fans do not have to panic about the state of their offensive line, but rather about the performance of the other players who take part in avoiding sacks.
– Despite his fumble and interception, Johnny Manziel played the best game of his career. The fact that Manziel attempted 13 passes outside the right numbers compared to nine outside the left numbers shows the amount of times Cleveland rolled him out of the pocket, providing him easier reads; however, he was able to take advantage of the situation and find open receivers constantly. While Manziel still held onto the ball too long and struggled a bit under pressure, where he graded out at -0.2 compared to +2.4 from a clean pocket, he made a significant step forward in this game.
– While the final score would suggest that Cleveland did not play really well, the Browns did have some solid performances on the defense. Rookie Nate Orchard earned the highest grade (+2.9), despite being on the field for only 52.2 percent of Cleveland’s defensive snaps. Orchard did not record a single pressure while rushing the passer, however, he did bat down one of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes on a third down. He was solid in coverage, as well, as he allowed only one reception for two yards. His best work came in defending the run where he finished with two run stops on 17 run snaps that led to a run stop percentage of 11.8 percent, which was third most among 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL in Week 10. Balanced performances like this will certainly earn more playing time for the former Utah Ute.
QB Johnny Manziel (+3.3)
OLB Nate Orchard (+2.9)
LT Joe Thomas (+2.9)
RT Mitchell Schwartz (+2.4)
ILB Craig Robertson (+2.4)
– While Ben Roethlisberger (+1.9) did not have a monster game, he was solid, which is truly impressive considering the fact that he played with an injured ankle. He struggled slightly when he was blitzed, as his yards per attempt dropped to 0.5 from 13.0 and his grade also decreased from +2.4 to -0.6 in these occasions. Overall, it was a solid outing from Roethlisberger, who also completed four of his seven attempts 20 yards or beyond from the line of scrimmage.
– Obviously a big part of Roethlisberger’s performance had to do with the show that Antonio Brown (+2.3) keeps putting on for Pittsburgh. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.3 when targeting Brown, who hauled in 10 of his 13 targets for two touchdowns and 139 yards, 91 of which came after the catch. He was especially dangerous in the intermediate areas, as he caught 10 of his 11 targets under 20 yards. The fact that Brown was covered by eight different defenders and recorded a catch against every single one of them shows how unstoppable the Pittsburgh wide receiver is right now.
– After playing at an elite level for a short stretch, defensive end Cameron Heyward (-1.6) seems to have taken a step back. Although he did make some really nice plays in the run game, including the last play of the first half when he pushed Cameron Erving 5 yards into the backfield and tackled Isiah Crowell for a loss, he failed to put any pressure on Johnny Manziel. Heyward rushed the passer on 49 times and came away with only one clean-up type sack when Manziel held the ball for more than seven seconds. Unfortunately, with these two plays, we just listed all of Heyward’s tackles and stops from yesterday afternoon.
SS Will Allen (+2.8)
FS Michael Mitchell (+2.7)
WR Antonio Brown (+2.5)
RG David DeCastro (+2.3)
RT Marcus Gilbert (+2.2)