grades the Steelers' effort in the 21-0 win against the Seahawks yesterday at Heinz Field. The report is broken down into defensive and offensive positions and coaching.
Ben Roethlisberger was the model of perfection, completing his final 13 passes and orchestrating touchdown drives of 80 and 85 yards in the second half that consumed 30 plays and 18 minutes, 23 seconds. He was 4 for 4 on third-down passing on those drives and made several plays stepping out of trouble. Roethlisberger's 13-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller was on third down.
Running Backs: A
Willie Parker had his fourth 100-yard game of the season and nearly scored on a 20-yard run. But the real star was Najeh Davenport, who rushed for 58 yards on seven carries and scored two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 38 yards, the biggest on third-and-3 when he broke a tackle for a 17-yard gain to set up the final touchdown. His 45-yard run in the second quarter set up the first touchdown.
Playing without Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, the unit acquitted themselves well, especially Cedrick Wilson, who had five catches for 69 yards. His biggest was a 17-yard reception on third-and-17 that led to the second touchdown. Heath Miller finished with four catches, including a 13-yard touchdown catch on a nice slant route.
Offensive line: A
After a poor performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week, the offensive line acquitted itself well, in the running and passing games. The Steelers rushed for 163 yards on 41 carries, but 100 of those came in the second half when they controlled the ball for nearly 25 minutes. LT Marvel Smith did a nice job on OLB Julian Peterson and RT Willie Colon threw the big block on Davenport's 5-yard touchdown run.
Defensive line: A
Seattle rushed for only 38 yards on 13 carries and its longest run was an 11-yard scramble by backup QB Seneca Wallace in the fourth quarter. DE Aaron Smith was outstanding, making five tackles. Even without Pro Bowl NT Casey Hampton, the line did a good job hurrying QB Matt Hasselbeck into bad throws.
The Seahawks' West Coast offense is designed to put pressure on the linebackers, but they managed only eight first downs and 144 total yards -- 52 on two passes at the end of the first half. ILB James Farrior had 2 1/2 of the three sacks and OLB James Harrison was strong against the run, helping to hold Shaun Alexander to 25 yards on 11 carries.
Big plays all around, though none bigger than Ike Taylor's interception at the goal line to end the first half, helping to preserve the first shutout at Heinz Field. Taylor broke up three other passes, though he could have had two more interceptions. Hasselbeck completed just 13 of 27 passes for 116 yards, with 58 of those coming on the final drive of the first half. Not bad playing without S Troy Polamalu and CB Bryant McFadden.
Special teams: C-
Too many mistakes and a couple of near misses could have really come back to haunt the Steelers. Nate Burleson had to be run out of bounds by P Daniel Sepulveda after a 22-yard return, Ike Taylor and Willie Reid committed penalties on runbacks, and Allen Rossum fumbled a punt return that was recovered by LB Andre Frazier. Fortunately for the Steelers, none of it mattered.
That the Steelers shut down the Seahawks and posted their first shutout at Heinz Field without three Pro Bowl players and their big-play receiver says something about the makeup of the team. They are 4-1 heading into a bye week and believing in what Mike Tomlin has to say. They also believe in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was masterful in disrupting Seattle's offense.
First Published October 8, 2007 4:00 AM