Steelers Report Card: Steelers vs. Buffalo

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QUARTERBACK

It won't go down as one of Ben Roethlisberger's great performances, but he came back from an early interception in windy conditions to lead a balanced offense. He made his biggest plays on the first scoring drive, beginning with a shovel pass to Le'Veon Bell and ending with a nice fade throw to Jerricho Cotchery for a touchdown. The numbers weren't gaudy, but the result was what was most important.

GRADE: B

 

RUNNING BACKS

The Steelers rushed for 99 of their 136 yards in the first half. That total, though, was helped by a 25-yard run by Emmanuel Sanders from the wildcat formation. Le'Veon Bell pounded out 57 yards on 22 carries, but his biggest play was a 34-yard catch-and-run to help set up a touchdown. Jonathan Dwyer continues to be productive on third down, converting three in the first half with runs of 6, 2 and 8 yards.

GRADE: B-

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jerricho Cotchery continues to be a touchdown maker, catching a 5-yarder in the second quarter that was his fourth in two games and sixth overall. But Antonio Brown made big plays all game and led the team with six catches for 104 yards. His 24-yard catch on third-and-4 to the 5 set up Cotchery's touchdown. And his 40-yard catch-and-run set up a field goal.

GRADE: B+

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Steelers were committed to running the ball against the Bills, and they did that with a season-high 33 carries and 136 yards. They were also committed to stopping DE Mario Williams (11 sacks), who didn't have a tackle or assist. Mike Adams has been dominating, at times, as the extra run blocker and led the way on Bell's 4-yard touchdown, pancaking LB Nigel Bradham. Roethlisberger, though, was sacked four times, bringing his season total to 35.

GRADE: C+

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

After allowing 197 yards rushing in each of the past two games, the top priority was slowing the league's seventh-ranked rush offense -- and they did. The Bills still finished with 95 yards rushing on 22 carries, but they never had a run longer than 11 yards. Big-play back C.J. Spiller had just 23 yards on eight carries. Cam Heyward had one of the three sacks and six tackles.

GRADE: B

 

LINEBACKERS

The Bills managed just one meaningless touchdown with :03 remaining, and that's just what the defense needed after allowing 55 points in New England. Lawrence Timmons was all over the field, making eight tackles, including a sack, with one pass breakup. And LaMarr Woodley was active in run support until he left the game in the third quarter with a calf injury. It took nine games, but rookie No. 1 Jarvis Jones finally registered his first sack.

GRADE: B+

 

SECONDARY

Rookie EJ Manuel completed 22 of 39 passes for 155 yards and did not have a completion longer than 23 yards. CB William Gay continues to play very well, even in run support. He has two tackles for losses among his team-high 11 tackles and also has a pass breakup. Nit-picky call on his pass-interference penalty. Ryan Clark's 37-yard return of an interception set up a field goal.

GRADE: A

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Antonio Brown provided the two biggest plays with punt returns of 24 and 50 yards that set up 10 points. The latter was the longest return of the season. K Shaun Suisham added three field goals on a windy day, but P Mat McBriar struggled early with punts of 27 and 34 yards against the wind. The good news: The Bills never had a punt return longer than 7 yards or a kick return longer than 18.

GRADE: A-

 

COACHING

The ability of the defense to bounce back from its embarrassing performance in New England was the most important objective of the week, and it was able to accomplish that with a solid effort. The offense did its part with a good running game and the special teams contributed with big returns from Brown. The combination looked like old-time Steelers football, and that's something they probably needed.

GRADE: A


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