Steelers Report Card: Game 15 vs. Panthers
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Ben Roethlisberger passed for a career-high 259 of his 320 yards in the first half because he kept attacking the middle of the field. He completed five passes of 20 yards or longer, including a 43 yarder to Mike Wallace for a score in which he split two defenders. However, failures in the red zone -- two TDs in six trips -- continue to haunt the offense, even though didn't matter in this game.
RUNNING BACKS C+
Rashard Mendenhall had a 35-yard run on his first carry of the game -- his 11th run of 20 yards or longer -- but didn't gain another yard on six more carries in the first half. He finished with 65 yards on 18 carries, not the kind of productive night it appeared it would be. Mendenhall had a 1-yard TD run, but he was stopped twice on two other runs from the 1. Roethlisberger had to sneak for the TD on third down.
WIDE RECEIVERS A-
Mike Wallace had two catches of 40 yards or longer, including one of 43 yards for a TD in which he split two defenders and outraced them to the end zone, giving him eight catches of 40 yards or longer in 2010 (five for touchdowns). Heath Miller's return was welcome with four catches for 59 yards. Emmanuel Sanders had a TD overturned by replay because of a drop in the end zone.
OFFENSIVE LINE C
It looked like it would be a big night for the running game, even though the Steelers finished with 109 yards rushing on 33 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. Roethlisberger was sacked three times, but two were because he held the ball too long. LT Jonathan Scott was pulled after he allowed a 5-yard loss on Mendenhall on the first series, but he returned and played solid.
DEFENSIVE LINE B
The Panthers had been averaging 152 yards rushing the past six games and had a 12-yard run by Jonathan Stewart on their first play. But after gaining 25 yards on the opening series, they had just 33 yards in the first half and finished with 74 yards on 22 attempts. Stewart, who was averaging 115 yards in his past four games, finished with 71 yards on 18 carries.
ILB James Farrior looks like he's getting better as the season wears on. He had several big stops against the run and also had a sack, his fifth in the past six games. OLB James Harrison ended a three-game drought with a sack, giving him 11 on the season, and ILB Lawrence Timmons disrupted several plays in the backfield. They also adjusted to several early checkdown passes to Stewart and Mike Goodson.
DEFENSIVE BACKS A
The unit did what it should do against a rookie QB, especially one who had the lowest completion percentage in the league. Jimmy Clausen finished with just 72 yards passing on 10 of 23 attempts, and that after completing six consecutive passes for 48 yards in the first quarter. He was sacked four times and intercepted only once -- by CB Bryant McFadden. CB Ike Taylor did a good job vs. Steve Smith.
SPECIAL TEAMS B
After allowing a 36-yard kick return when it was 7-0, the coverage units tightened considerably, allowing returns of 14 and 13 yards and then forcing and recovering a fumble near the end of the first half. Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 26 and 20 before missing from 41 yards -- his first miss after 13 consecutive conversions since replacing Jeff Reed.
The Steelers have bounced back in convincing fashion from each of their defeats this season, outscoring the opposition, 117- 34, and that's to coach Mike Tomlin credit. That they were able to do it in a short week is even more impressive. What's more, they have done a good job of beating up on the teams they should beat, something they didn't do last season when they lost five in a row.
First Published December 24, 2010 12:24 am