Steelers Report Card: Game Five vs. Jaguars
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Despite an interception return for touchdown on the first series, Ben Roethlisberger came back and passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and the winner to Hines Ward with 1:53 left. Roethlisberger used shorter drops and quicker passes to keep the Jaguars off balance in the first half. Not bad for a guy with just one day of practice and a sore shoulder.
It didn't seem to matter that they were playing without their top three running backs. Mewelde Moore had runs of 27, 19, 13 and 11 yards in rushing for 99 yards on 17 carries. And Gary Russell had a 15-yard run in the first half, when the Steelers had 69 of their 130 rushing yards. Moore looked so fluid and elusive it makes you wonder why the coaches waited so long to use him.
Nate Washington had five of his six catches for 94 yards in the first half, including a 48-yard touchdown on a nice stop-and-go route. Not a smart play, though, to take an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a third-down catch in the fourth. Hines Ward had three drops, one in the back of the end zone, but he atoned with a two big catches on the final drive, including the winner.
Not a bad performance from a line that has been under much criticism and had a new starter at right guard. OK, Willie Colon gave up the only sack in the first half and had a false-start penalty. But the Steelers rushed for 130 yards on 25 attempts. Roethlisberger was sacked three times, but he held the ball too long on both sacks in the second half.
The unit was already without NT Casey Hampton and DE Brett Keisel, and also played without backup DE Nick Eason, forcing them to use only four linemen. But they held the Jaguars to just 15 yards rushing on 10 attempts, 49 yards total offense and four first downs in the first half. DE Aaron Smith, who batted down two passes, the latter on the Jaguars' final play, dominated, as usual.
OLB LaMarr Woodley was outstanding in all facets, registering both sacks and hurrying QB David Garrard into quick throws with good pressure. He also was stout against the pass and run, helping to hold the Jaguars to 38 yards rushing on 19 attempts. The roughing penalty against James Harrison in the fourth quarter was debatable, but not his sack on Garrard on the final series.
Garrard had 166 of his 200 yards passing in the second half and attacked the secondary with underneath and crossing routes. A couple of costly penalties: CB Ike Taylor's debatable pass interference in the end zone, setting up the Jaguars' first offensive TD; and S Ryan Clark's needless 15-yard late-hit penalty that resulted in a 24-yard TD to TE Marcedes Lewis on the next play.
The coverage units continue to be one of the biggest surprises. They did a nice job on speedy kick returner Brian Witherspoon, allowing him just one significant kick return (38 yards) and holding him to 19 yards on another. Mitch Berger had to punt just once in the first half, and it was a season-best 61 yards. Jeff Reed kicked two more field goals to remain perfect this season.
Coach Mike Tomlin decided to hold shorter, lighter practices after a physical Monday night victory against the Ravens, and the decision appeared to benefit the players. To win on the road without five starters and having to start your fourth running back says a lot about the team's resolve. Give credit to offensive coaches for getting Moore, Russell and Stapleton ready to play.
Game Five vs. the Jaguars: W 26-21Position
Note: Steelers' cumulative grade point average through Week 5 is graded on a 4.0 scale
First Published October 6, 2008 12:18 am