The Pittsburgh Steelers matched up with the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs Sunday. The Steelers came out on top 30-12 and even though it wasn’t perfect, it was a winning performance. These types of games are necessary to thrive in the playoffs, and with this win the Steelers live to play another week. Without further ado, here are the Pittsburgh Steelers postgame positional grades.
Pittsburgh Steelers Postgame Positional Grades: Wild Card Round
Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t outstanding today, but he did what was needed to win. He went 13/18 for 197 yards and two long touchdowns to Antonio Brown, but he also threw two picks. Although one of them was not his fault as he bounced off Brown’s hands, the second one was right at a Dolphins player. He did, however, start off 11/11 and that’s a pretty hot start, but it means he only completed two out of seven passes to finish the game. It certainly wasn’t his best performance, but not a terrible one and he helped the team win.
Running Back: A+
Le’Veon Bell had one heck of a game. His final stat line was 29 rushes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. It looked like the Dolphins just didn’t want to tackle him in the cold Pittsburgh weather. He continued to show why he is regarded in many corners as the best running back in the league showing his fantastic patience and his ability to explode through the holes when they are opened, and Miami seemed to have no answer for him. DeAngelo Williams had two yards at the end of the game and Roosevelt Nix did a good job blocking when he got snaps. This position group is one of the strongest on the team every week and will be the key to success moving forward as they play for a championship.
Wide Receiver: B+
Antonio Brown had a day with five catches for 124 yards and two scores, but other than that, the Steelers receivers didn’t do much. Even though there were a combined five receptions by other receivers, they were all receptions of at least ten yards, so they moved the sticks. Demarcus Ayers had two grabs for 21, Eli Rogers had an early grab for 19 yards, and Darrius Heyward-Bey and Cobi Hamilton each had a catch for 10 yards. Receivers didn’t do much, but they didn’t have to since the rushing attack was so good. Pittsburgh has a lot of depth at the receiver position which is an advantage to go along with a great rushing attack. The offense is balanced and dangerous because everyone does their part and this group seems to always be getting separation and making spectacular plays, a huge key to the Steelers’ success this season.
Tight End: B+
Jesse James was the only player at this position to show up on the stat sheet with one catch for six yards. This group did an excellent job blocking to open up holes for the ball carriers. One play that stands out is the first touchdown of the game when Jesse James threw a block that sprung Antonio Brown for a 50 yard score. The tight ends on the team never have been known for pass catching in the past, but they are known for their blocking and they did a good job today.
Offensive Line: A
This group should get recognition for Le’Veon Bell’s performance as they were opening up holes left and right for him. There were only a couple of penalties so for the most part this was a disciplined group today, and they only allowed one sack so they protected the quarterback as well. This group is consistently one of the better groups in the league and is why the offense can perform well.
Defensive Line: A
Jay Ajayi carved up this defense earlier in the year for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Today, not as good. The defensive line closed holes right away yielding only 52 rushing yards total. They also were effective with the pass rush getting good pressure on Matt Moore. They were also opportunistic with the ball on the ground as Stephon Tuitt and L.T. Walton recovered fumbles when Miami’s offense was in Steelers territory. If this line can continue with more performances like this one it will help drive this defense on the way to a championship.
The Steelers had five sacks on the day and four of them were at the linebacker position. Lawrence Timmons had two, James Harrison had one and a half, and Bud Dupree had a half a sack. These players also forced a couple of turnovers with Harrison forcing a fumble in the red zone and Shazier getting an interception to set up the offense with good field position. Overall, it was a very good showing by this group today
Defensive Backs: C+
The defense had an overall good showing, but the secondary was less than excellent today. Matt Moore was able to complete passes time and time again and finished with 253 passing yards and a garbage time score. Not all bad, though as Mike Mitchell had a strip/sack and Ross Cockrell made a heads up play on the Dolphins two point conversion to pull the receivers feet out of bounds while he was in the air to cause an incompletion. This group didn’t lose the game and didn’t give any meaningful points, but if this group is counted on to win a game for Pittsburgh, they are in trouble.
Special Teams: B-
This group wasn’t called upon that much today. Jordan Berry punted just twice and pinned the Dolphins toward the 20 on both of the punts. Chris Boswell was one for one on his field goal attempts, but he did miss an extra point in the second quarter. This group did perform poorly on kick coverage as the Dolphins had good returns when they touched the ball. If any team knows the importance of special teams, it’s the Steelers, and this group is constantly above average which is better than most teams could say.
The Steelers avenged their early season loss to the Dolphins today. Not only did they beat them, but they did so in dominating fashion. Early in the season, Jay Ajayi ran all over the Pittsburgh defense, but today they were better prepared. They let Matt Moore throw a few passes, but they made sure to take away the strength of the offense, the run. While not a perfect performance, it was a very good one and it resulted in a win. If the Steelers can put together games like this each week they will be looking down at every other team as Super Bowl champions. However, it is crucial that they take it one game at a time. The only game that matters is the next one.
On to Kansas City.