Report Card: Low marks for Steelers in opening test

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QB
QUARTERBACK

Ben Roethlisberger put together three long scoring drives from the second quarter into the fourth that produced 17 points in his duel with Peyton Manning. And he made two big pass plays of 27 and 17 yards on the first TD drive doing what he does best -- extending the play by escaping pressure. But, with a chance for a late comeback, he was intercepted for the first time for a 43-yard TD return by CB Tracy Porter.

GRADE: C+
RB
RUNNING BACKS

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley used a lot of different backs and combinations, with Isaac Redman getting the bulk of the work in the first half (11 for 20) and Jonathan Dwyer getting a lot of touches in the second half. Dwyer had an 11-yard TD overturned by review but had 43 yards on nine carries. Five different players had carries, but the longest gain was 11 yards.

GRADE: C
WR
WIDE RECEIVERS

In his first game after his holdout, Mike Wallace had four catches for 37 yards and used his body to make a nice 3-yard TD catch that gave the Steelers a 19-14 lead. Antonio Brown had catches of 23 and 27 yards on the first touchdown drive. After having his first two catches negated by penalty, TE Heath Miller caught a 4-yard TD to end a 14-play drive for a 10-7 halftime lead and had two big catches on the TD drive that gave the Steelers a 19-14 lead.

GRADE: B-
OL
OFFENSIVE LINE

The line lost two more players in the first half when RT Marcus Gilbert (left knee) and RG Ramon Foster (eye) went out with injuries, forcing rookie Mike Adams and Doug Legursky to replace them. But they provided good protection for Roethlisberger in the first half, especially LT Max Starks against DE Elvis Dumervil. Willie Colon had two false-start penalties in his first game at left guard. Three of the five sacks came on the final series.

GRADE: C+
DL
DEFENSIVE LINE

The Steelers rotated six linemen in an attempt to keep them from fatiguing in the high altitude. NT Casey Hampton returned from ACL surgery to start and made several stops in the run game, including at the goal line in the fourth quarter. But once the Broncos took a 22-19 lead, Willis McGahee was able to gouge chunks of yardage against a defense that should have had plenty of time to rest.

GRADE: C-
LB
LINEBACKERS

The unit played without James Harrison (knee), who was scratched, but still managed to get good pressure on Manning -- at least in the first half. Larry Foote made several big plays early, including a sack and forcing a fumble that LaMarr Woodley recovered. And Jason Worilds had the other sack in the first half. Lawrence Timmons took a bad angle and ran himself out of position on a Manning scramble for first down.

GRADE: B-
S
SECONDARY

A familiar thing happened -- Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas scored on a 71-yard catch-and-run on a simple pass play. This time it was Troy Polamalu and Ryan Mundy who were out of position. Prior to that, the secondary had done a good job keeping the ball in front of them in the first half. But they had problems when Manning went to the no-huddle. He finished with 253 yards and two touchdowns -- with 155 of his yards coming in the second half.

GRADE: D
SP
SPECIAL TEAMS

Chris Rainey was scheduled to return punts, but WR Brown handled the first two and had a 23-yard return. Shaun Suisham had field goals of 21 and 35 yards and did what he had to do in the high altitude -- sail kickoffs out of the end zone. Rookie P Drew Butler had a 44-yard punt downed at the 1 by CB DeMarcus Van Dyke. But, in the mile high altitude, kick returners are non-existent in this game, though Emmanuel Sanders had one for 27 yards.

GRADE: B
C
COACHING

Haley's debut was more than solid because the Steelers controlled the ball for chunks of time, at one point running 44 plays to Denver's 3 in a 21-minute span. That, though, didn't help the Steelers defense during that stretch because the Broncos scored two TDs on their first two series in the second half. Part of the reason: The Steelers backed off with pressure in the second half after getting good heat on Manning in the first 30 minutes.

GRADE: D Steelers

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; @gerrydulac on Twitter


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