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Hawaii 5-0
01-01-2013, 09:34 PM
Failing marks: Grading the 2012 Steelers

http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/timesonline.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/78/f78f3eea-c6d1-5bcc-8eb3-40a251ddf67e/50e387577e969.preview-300.jpg

Posted: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
By Mike Bires

The NFL playoffs start this weekend without the Steelers, and that doesn’t sit well with anyone in the organization. This is a franchise that expects to be part of the Super Bowl tournament every year.

“We are on the outside looking in, and we don’t feel great about it,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “As a matter of fact, we dislike it.”

By finishing 8-8 the way the Steelers did, there’s plenty to dislike.

For every high note, there was a letdown. Injuries, sub-par performances and questionable coaching decisions paved the way for a season of disappointing inconsistency.

Today, Times pro football reporter Mike Bires takes a look at the 2012 Steelers and grades them position-by-position:

QUARTERBACK

At mid-season, Ben Roethlisberger was at least in the NFL Most Valuable Player conversation. Then his season -- and the Steelers’ -- turned for the worse. After Roethlisberger suffered a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib in the Nov. 12 Monday night win over the Chiefs, the Steelers won only two of their last seven.

Roethlisberger finished seventh in the league with a 97.0 passer rating. But the man who prides himself most on winning went 1-3 after returning to the starting lineup.

He says the Steelers would have made the playoffs with “better play from the quarterback.”

Grade: B-minus

RUNNING BACK

Several contributing factors led to the mess that was the Steelers’ rushing attack.

* Rashard Mendenhall’s injuries (knee and Achilles) and attitude.

* Injuries on the offensive line.

* Lack of commitment to the running game in general early in the season.

* The running back by committee rotation early in the year.

* Minimal use of the fullback as a lead blocker.

Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman may not be the most talented ball carriers in the world but if Dwyer can rush for back-to-back 100-yard games (vs. Bengals and Redskins) and Redman can rush for 147 (vs. Giants), their skills were good enough.
The Steelers ranking 27th in rushing this year is unacceptable.

Grade: C-minus

FULLBACK

It’s hard to get a true gauge on Will Johnson because he hardly played. For example, in the last two games of the season, he was on the field for only 37 of 124 offensive snaps. Johnson only carried the ball twice all year, but he did catch more passes for more yards (15 for 137 and 1 TD) than scatback Chris Rainey (14-60-0).

Grade: C

WIDE RECEIVER

Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders like to call themselves the “Young Money Crew.” But based on their collective performance, the “Loose Change Gang” is more appropriate.

Wallace was a problem from the moment he decided to hold out of training camp over contractual matters. Multiple dropped passes and a fumble in a home loss to the Ravens overshadowed big plays he made. Brown missed three games with an ankle injury, but seldom did he live up to big-money deal he signed in August. Sanders’ play was marginal at best as the No. 3 wide receiver.

A year ago, the Steelers had two 1,000-yard receivers (Wallace and Brown). They didn’t have any this year.

Grade: C

TIGHT END

Some skeptics have suggested that Heath Miller earned team MVP honors by default. No one else was a worthy candidate. While the MVP vote was a one-man race, Miller was a deserving winner. Had he not missed the last game with a knee injury, he may have led the team in three receiving categories. He was first with 71 catches. He tied for first with Mike Wallace with most TD catches (eight). And he was second on the team with 816 receiving yards.

Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE

When the Steelers went to Buffalo for their third preseason game, the O-line seemed set. Maurkice Pouney, center. Willie Colon, left guard. David DeCastro, right guard. Max Starks, left tackle. Marcus Gilbert, right tackle. But not once did the Steelers start that combination during the regular season.

DeCastro, the team's first-round draft pick, blew his knee out in Buffalo and didn’t start until the Dec. 16 game in Dallas. Gilbert only played five games before an ankle injury put him on injured reserve. Rookie tackle Mike Adams replaced Gilbert for six games before missing the last five with an ankle injury. Colon missed five games with a knee injury.

Four different players started at least one game at left guard. There were three different starters at right tackle. So much for cohesiveness.

Grade: Incomplete

DEFENSIVE LINE

One of the primary roles for D-linemen in the 3-4 scheme is to occupy blockers so linebacker can make plays. Historically, the men on the front line of defense don’t produce a ton of big plays.

Such was the case again this year. D-end Brett Keisel finished with 4.5 sacks. That’s the most he’s had since 2006 when he had 5.5.

There are some who say that the Steelers should get more from Ziggy Hood, a first-round pick in the '09 draft. But maybe the Steelers should never have taken a D-end in the first round to begin with considering the way they use D-ends. But they did it again in 2011 when they took Cameron Heyward.

The feeling in the locker room is that Hood played well this year and that nose tackle Casey Hampton, at age 35, was clogging up the middle like the Casey Hampton of old in the last few weeks of the season.

Grade: B-minus

LINEBACKERS

On the inside, Lawrence Timmons may have had his best year. He shared the team lead with six sacks and led the team with three interceptions. His pick six in the loss in Cleveland was the Steelers’ only defensive TD of the year. Larry Foote, the other inside ‘backer, played as well as can be expected. At least well enough that people quickly forgot about James Farrior.

But on the outside, there was a major drop-off. Last year, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined for 18 sacks (nine each). This year they combined for just 10.

Granted, they both missed three starts due to injury but rarely did either play all-star caliber football like they had in the past.

With just four sacks, Woodley was especially disappointing. In his last seven games, he had just one sack and no forced fumbles. He may have been the Steelers’ MDP this year as in Most Disappointing Player.

Grade: B for inside linebackers, C- for outside ’backers

SECONDARY

After struggling early in the year – that’s especially true for cornerback Ike Taylor -- the defensive backs got their act in order. The DBs don’t intercept enough passes, but overall, they were the strength of the defense. Imagine how much better they would have fared if strong safety Troy Polamalu didn’t miss nine games and Taylor the last four.

The Steelers’ ranked first in pass defense by allowing only 185 passing yards per game. They also led the league in fewest yards per attempt (6.0). That was accomplished even though they tied for 15th with 37 sacks.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis was the team’s MIP this year, as it Most Improved Player. And cornerback Cortez Allen, with two interceptions and three forced fumbles the past two weeks, showed that he has star potential.

Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS

This phase of the game was all over the place.

Shaun Suisham kicked well by making 28 of 31 field goal tries but missed a chip shot in the 13-10 loss to the Bengals two weeks ago. Of course, Greg Warrren’s snap on that botched kick was bad.

The Steelers ranked 11th in the league in covering punts, but the Ravens’ only TD in a 16-13 win in Pittsburgh was a 63-yard TD return by Jacoby Jones.

Penalties negated several game-changing punt returns, and Antonio Brown lost a fumble on a 22-yard punt return that could have clinched victory in Dallas.

Chris Rainey tied for seventh in the league with a 26.5 yard average on kickoff returns but really, he’s wasn’t that dynamic as a return specialist. He only had one return longer than 34 yards in the second half of the season (a 42-yarder at Baltimore.)

Twice this year, opponents successfully pulled off fake punts against the Steelers.

Grade: D

COACHING

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau almost always puts his guys in position to make plays. Sure, it would have been nice to have more turnovers and sacks but the defense was still stout enough to finish No. 1 overall.

It’s hard to gauge the job Todd Haley did as offensive coordinator. After a win over the Chiefs on Nov. 12, the Steelers were 6-3 and riding a four-game winning streak with their dink and dunk offense. But after Roethlisberger got hurt in that win over Kansas City, the Steelers went 2-5. Haley had to deal with injuries at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Amos Jones certainly didn’t do anything to prove he deserved the promotion from assistant special teams coach to special teams coordinator.

And as for Mike Tomlin, he certainly delivered the worst performance of his six-year reign. From the firing of special teams coach Al Everest in training camp, to benching his running backs one-by-one in that fumble-fest in Cleveland to not trying for a two-point conversion in the loss to San Diego, Tomlin obviously contributed to the 8-8 mess.

Grades: A for LeBeau, C for Haley, C- for Jones and D for Tomlin

http://www.timesonline.com/sports/steelers/failing-marks-grading-the-steelers/article_5b4c5463-373e-5af2-ad9c-f45fefd482b9.html

Ricco Suavez
01-01-2013, 10:06 PM
I am on board with these grades, they seem fair and within reason. I am sure others will see it an entirely different fashion.

austinfrench76
01-01-2013, 10:19 PM
These grades are definitley fair but the RB's, bc od Mendehall, deserve a D. His attitude drags down the grade by a whole letter. He sucks, let him go.

desertsteel
01-01-2013, 10:54 PM
And as for Mike Tomlin, he certainly delivered the worst performance of his six-year reign. From the firing of special teams coach Al Everest in training camp, to benching his running backs one-by-one in that fumble-fest in Cleveland to not trying for a two-point conversion in the loss to San Diego, Tomlin obviously contributed to the 8-8 mess.

D for Tomlin



I agree with Tomlin's grade of D. However, these are poor examples. The first one was a personnel move, not a coaching move. And I can't ever blame a coach for benching a RB who fumbles. And not going for 2 was a mistake but it had zero impact on the outcome. This writer needs to do a little better homework.

kent
01-01-2013, 11:22 PM
I'm good with these. Scary how good the pass defense could have been with more pressure being applied up front and if we could keep troy, Ike, and Clark healthy.

ZoneBlitzer
01-02-2013, 02:46 AM
The benching of the RBs in Cleveland was juvenile and stupid. What kind of message does that send to the pro athlete. Here's how I interpret it: if you fail at something, then you quit. I can get pulling a guy out once to send your message but the way he handled it was bush league. It's better to play your best players and let them overcome their struggles. In that game I would've stuck with Dwyer.

The_Joker
01-02-2013, 06:38 AM
As much of a Tomlin supporter I am, he fucked up the RB situation even more.

Ricco Suavez
01-02-2013, 11:29 AM
I am bumping this back to the top, because for one thing I think this is very likely in a nutshell the most accurate portrayal of this past season. I would like to point out that ST got a D, and if not for Suisham I would of give them an F, next the writer gives the OL an incomplete mostly because of injuries. I feel this unit can be much inproved next year even if we do not add a single new member, we just need to stay somewhat healthy and start the same group more. But injuries aside i would give them a C. RBs received a C- and while I will not differ much from that grade I do believe they were hampered by poor OL play as well as Haleys/Tomlins use of them. And while I will argue that Tomlin does not need to be replaced I have to agree with his grade as well.

harrison'samonster
01-02-2013, 12:00 PM
drink every time you read the word "injury"

OX1947
01-02-2013, 12:02 PM
Winning: F

All this other crap is pointless.

Ricco Suavez
01-02-2013, 12:08 PM
Winning: F

All this other crap is pointless.

So grading a teams strength and weakness from the season is crap. I will grant you that is just one man's opinion but I am sure the Steeler FO is using this very kind of analysis to build on the next year.

steelfury02
01-02-2013, 12:45 PM
drink every time you read the word "injury"

I did. This is Steel Fury's ghost. He died of alcohol poisoning.

Hawaii 5-0
01-02-2013, 12:53 PM
Steelers 2012 Season: What Was Most Disappointing?

by CRAIG GOTTSCHALK

An 8-8 record for any Steelers roster will always be said to be a disappointing season. The offense and defense seemed to have diverging directions as the season progressed. Rarely did this team ever have a truly convincing win. This season has certainly left a bad taste in most mouths of Steeler Nation.

So what was most disappointing about 2012?

The ground game never took off. With Rashard Mendenhall out for the first third and never really ‘returning’ to full strength, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer struggled to fill the roll – as soon as one got hot, he seemed to instantly cool down the following week. The offensive line certainly didn’t help, but the coaching staff seemed baffled with whom they should commit to.

The defense struggled getting turnovers all season long. Dropped interceptions, a failed pass rush, and fumble well all dried up left the Steelers ranked 25th overall in turnovers. This practically nullified the vaunted ‘But, we have the top ranked defense’ line thrown around whenever the Steelers found themselves on the wrong side of the W/L column.

The Big Money Crew became the Big Doh Crew. The young receiving core of the Steelers had huge flashes of awesomeness in 2011 and were expected to be even better in 2012. Antonio Brown was paid respect with a huge contract extension over teammate and hold out Mike Wallace. However, Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Wallace all had their stuggles this season. It was painful to watch. Missed opportunities, dropped passes, and (worst of all) fumbles at the worst possible moments of a football game – they all helped contribute to an offense that struggled and failed to take off during games. They also directly contributed to the Steelers losing key fumbles and then losing the game as a result.

Ben Roethlisberger went from MVP to goat in a matter of one month…. at least to some (not me). Big Ben was having arguably one of his best seasons and was beginning to enter MVP discussions prior to his injury. After his three weeks off to recover from his rib and shoulder injury, Ben never really seemed to get back to his ol’ self. He looked very uncomfortable many times in the pocket, his accuracy had fallen off, and he was starting to make some bad decisions. A late game interception two weeks in a row lead to defeats and sealed the coffin for playoff hopes. Though not entirely his fault, because lots of other issues lead to the team losing the last 5 out of 7 games in the season, many fans point the finger in his direction of losing his magical two minute drill touch.

Mike Tomlin began showing his inability to prepare this team each week. Penalties, turnovers, and bone head decision making (players and coaches) left all of Steeler Nation reeling at the end of each game. If gun control measures are ever passed, it might help out the Steelers because maybe then they can stop shooting themselves in the foot every week. Tomlin lacked the ability to prepare this team against lesser opponents (see Raiders, Titans, Chiefs, Browns). Even when the house of cards was about to fall on this season, the Steelers were given golden opportunities to make a race out of the division and overtake the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of fighting when their backs were up against the wall, this team failed to show any fight, any heart, to make a true playoff push.

Tomlin’s failures are essentially a very damning part of the failures for the 2012 Steelers and is the most disappointing one for me. It’s the head coach’s responsibility to get a team prepared each week no matter who the opponent is or how strong or weak a schedule you have. Poor game management once the clock starts ticking makes it even worse. Tomlin has lots to prove over the next few seasons – player development, preparedness, and game management.

http://nicepickcowher.com/2013/01/01/steelers-2012-season-what-was-most-disappointing/

steelerchad
01-02-2013, 12:58 PM
Winning: F

All this other crap is pointless.

Wasn't winning a C as 8-8 is about as average as it gets.

Ricco Suavez
01-02-2013, 12:59 PM
Once again a quality post by Hawaii 5-0.

ZoneBlitzer
01-02-2013, 02:05 PM
Steelers 2012 Season: What Was Most Disappointing?

by CRAIG GOTTSCHALK

Mike Tomlin began showing his inability to prepare this team each week. Penalties, turnovers, and bone head decision making (players and coaches) left all of Steeler Nation reeling at the end of each game. If gun control measures are ever passed, it might help out the Steelers because maybe then they can stop shooting themselves in the foot every week. Tomlin lacked the ability to prepare this team against lesser opponents (see Raiders, Titans, Chiefs, Browns). Even when the house of cards was about to fall on this season, the Steelers were given golden opportunities to make a race out of the division and overtake the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of fighting when their backs were up against the wall, this team failed to show any fight, any heart, to make a true playoff push.

Tomlin’s failures are essentially a very damning part of the failures for the 2012 Steelers and is the most disappointing one for me. It’s the head coach’s responsibility to get a team prepared each week no matter who the opponent is or how strong or weak a schedule you have. Poor game management once the clock starts ticking makes it even worse. Tomlin has lots to prove over the next few seasons – player development, preparedness, and game management.

http://nicepickcowher.com/2013/01/01/steelers-2012-season-what-was-most-disappointing/

Agreed. Tomlin has a lot to prove in my eyes. He has had a terrible year.

TRH
01-02-2013, 02:34 PM
Tomlin, for the 1st time in his career, is likely feeling a little hot around the collar. Even though he's not getting fired any time soon, he's probably realizing that this isn't a "guarantee for forever". Especially with Lovie Smith being fired even at 10-6.
I still think Tomlin is a fine coach - but i think he's smart enough to realize that big changes within are needed and i think you'll see him do some big things with the team in the offseason.

Funny now....
Remember back in pre-season when all the analysts were predicting our season record on all the big "ESPN" type shows??? What did they say?? 8-8 and behind Cincy and Baltimore!
And the boo-hooing on this board went craaaaaazy
"oh, they have no idea what they're talking about", "they're clueless", etc etc, etc, etc......