Steelers Report Card: 2010 season
Sunday, February 13, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Quarterbacks - A
Considering everything that transpired, Ben Roethlisberger's on-field performance might have been the best of his career. His command of the offense and understanding of opposing defenses is one of the reasons he threw a career-low five INTs. His comeback victories vs. the Ravens, especially in the playoffs, were the pivotal points of the season. What's more, the 3-1 record Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch compiled during Roethlisberger's suspension is an accomplishment that is not to be underestimated.
Running backs - B-
The Steelers were faced with an edict to improve the run game and they did. Rashard Mendenhall had a career-best 1,273 yards and 13 rushing TDs and was even better in the playoffs. But his fumble in Super Bowl XLV was the most damaging turnover of the season. And his average of 3.9 ypc was second-lowest among the NFL's 1,000-yard rushers and reflective of the area's inconsistency. Still, the goal-line rush offense was improved and Isaac Redman's TD catch-and-run in Baltimore was one of 2010's biggest plays.
Wide receivers - B
In his second season, Mike Wallace showed he can be one of the most dangerous WRs in the league. He led the team with 1,257 receiving yards and 10 TDs and led the AFC in yards per catch (21.0). But he also showed in the postseason he has to develop into more of a complete receiver. While Hines Ward's numbers declined, his role as a clutch performer did not. TE Heath Miller was not the factor he was a year ago, but the advent of rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown was a pleasant surprise.
Offensive line - B-
Their evaluation cannot be measured in numbers, even though sacks were down and rushing totals were up. Considering they lost both starting tackles and started three different players at right guard, the line can only be commended for what it was able to do. Rookie C Maurkice Pouncey was an instant star. But what the Steelers were able to get from veteran RT Flozell Adams, the only lineman to start every game, was beyond their wildest expectations. Put him up there with line coach Sean Kugler for best 2010 additions.
Defensive line - A
They lost DE Aaron Smith for the final 13 games, including postseason, and DE Brett Keisel for six in the middle of the season and still were the unsung reason the Steelers set a franchise record for fewest yards rushing (1,004). It was also the third lowest total in a 16-game season in NFL history. Attention and acclaim isn't easy to achieve in a three-man line, but Keisel finally earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl. Smith's injury has a silver lining because it allowed for the rapid development of DE Ziggy Hood.
Linebackers - A+
It's hard to imagine a team leading the NFL in rush defense and sacks (48), but that's what the Steelers did. OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, the only players in franchise history to have double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons, have become complete players. But the best LB might have been James Farrior. He showed, at 35, he could still play at a high level. He was second with 137 tackles and had a career-high six sacks. And Lawrence Timmons, who had a team-high 149 tackles, should only get better.
Defensive backs - B
For the most part, Dick LeBeau did a good job hiding the biggest weakness on the team because the Steelers led the NFL in scoring defense (232) and had the second-best opposing passer rating (73.1). Troy Polamalu deserved to be NFL defensive player of the year just on the basis of the three consecutive games he changed with big plays. CB Ike Taylor was more than solid. But the Steelers needed to use Polamalu and S Ryan Clark to protect their other corners in the postseason, limiting their defensive options.
Special teams - C+
There is no question the coverage units were improved from 2010. A lot of that credit goes to newcomers Arnaz Battle and Stevenson Sylvester. Antonio Brown's 89-yard kick return TD in Tennessee and the addition of K Shaun Suisham were plusses in a season in which they released long-time K Jeff Reed and lost P Daniel Sepulveda to another season-ending knee injury. But their return units were spotty at best and too many bad penalties late in the season conspired to hurt their overall performance.
Coaching - A+
It is incomprehensible that Mike Tomlin didn't receive a single vote for coach of the year in a season when he should have been a hands-down winner. When you consider all the team had to overcome, from the Roethlisberger incident in March to the number of injuries along the offensive and defensive lines and even at backup quarterback. It is incredible the Steelers lost only four games and won another division title, let alone made it to the Super Bowl. No matter how many bumps, Tomlin never let his team waver off course.
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