For each week, we will be looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers performance and break it down by position. In week one, the Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns 21-18 in Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers Week One Positional Grades
Ben Roethlisberger finished with 263 yards passing and two touchdowns with a 66.7 percent completion percentage. Roethlisberger nearly threw an interception on an easy throw to Martavis Bryant early in the game. He did throw an interception though when trying to split over/under double coverage by the Browns.
Overall, Roethlisberger didn’t look bad, but he definitely missed some throws too. Offensive holding penalties forced the offense to deal with long-yardage situations
Running Backs: C-
Le’Veon Bell‘s return was very uneventful. Bell only carried the ball four times in the first half and finished with just 32 yards on ten total carries. Bell seemed to be running a bit too patiently, but it’s hard to get mad at him for being patient when past results show that his patience is what makes him so good.
James Conner got some late carries as well, but he only tallied 11 yards on four carries.
Wide Receivers: B
The Steelers wide receivers would’ve received a better grade if anyone other than Antonio Brown made plays. Bryant dropped an early pass and looked rusty in general. The team’s first possession was moved back by two holding penalties called on wide receivers.
Brown was basically the whole offense, catching 11 passes for 182 yards. Bryant caught two passes for 14 yards and Eli Rogers also caught two passes for 11 yards.
Tight Ends: B+
Newly acquired Vance McDonald didn’t see much playing time, and in the little time that he did see the field, he dropped a pass and was called for a holding penalty. He was easily outperformed by fellow tight end, Jesse James.
James caught six passes for 41 yards and had the Steelers only two offensive touchdowns. One area James can improve though is sealing off the opposing edge rushers. James struggled when trying to block the Browns pass rushers and will need to work on his footwork moving forward.
Offensive Linemen: C+
The Steelers offensive line looked good early on, especially with the Browns blitzing Roethlisberger a lot. However, as the game went on, the Steelers started to struggle a bit with pass-blocking. Their main weakness though was run-blocking.
The Steelers only ran for 35 yards and one of the main reasons for their struggles was the offensive line’s inability to open up holes for Bell and Conner. Standout offensive tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, was the only lineman who allowed a sack.
Defensive Linemen: A-
The Steelers were able to shut down the Browns running game all day long. The defensive linemen were beginning to get pushed back a bit later in the first quarter when the Browns were able to run a quarterback sneak for a touchdown, but other than that, they were phenomenal.
The Steelers had five sacks by the third quarter and finished with seven total, largely due to the penetration that the defensive line was able to create. Javon Hargrave had three tackles and a sack, Tyson Alualu had five tackles and Cameron Heyward had three tackles and a sack.
T.J. Watt looked outstanding in his regular season debut. He finished with seven tackles, two sacks and an interception. Anthony Chickillo added another two sacks and also recovered a blocked punt in the Browns end-zone for a touchdown. Tyler Matakevich blocked the punt.
The linebackers as a whole closed on the ball very well throughout the game. Watt did a great job of sealing the edge and not letting the ball carrier get outside. Watt was penalized for a late hit after Chickillo’s second sack, but made up for it on the very next play when he made a great jumping catch for an interception.
The Steelers corners looked just okay. First and foremost, they showed poor open-field tackling. They didn’t even have to cover receivers too long because of the pressure created by the Steelers front seven. Still though, 12 of the Browns 15 first downs came on passing plays.
William Gay was beaten multiple times as the nickel cornerback and seemed to be targeted by the Browns offense. Former Brown, Joe Haden, had an average game with six tackles and added a sack of his own late in the first half.
The Steelers safeties didn’t make any big plays, but they also didn’t give up any big plays either. Mike Mitchell was laying out opponents with big hits as usual, and newcomer Justin Wilcox actually knocked himself unconscious briefly after being penalized for a hit on a defenseless receiver when the Browns scored their second touchdown.
Wilcox finished with two tackles and Mitchell only had one.
Special Teams: A-
The game started on a very positive note for the Steelers when Matakevich blocked the Browns first punt of the game and Chickillo recovered the ball for a touchdown.
Punter Jordan Berry had six punts with an average distance of 45.8 yards and a long of 59 yards.
Rogers was put in charge of punt returns. He had three returns for an average of 10.7 yards per return.