The Steelers played host at Heinz Field to the Denver Broncos on Dec. 20 in what they knew was a must-win game. That’s what the next two games are for the Steelers, as they need to win both to keep their spot in the playoffs secured. Right now, the Steelers sit at the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, but they do have some competition in the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets.
However, with their win against the Broncos, the Steelers increased their record to 9-5. In a first half that went shaky but a second half that went almost perfect, here are our grades for the Steelers Week 15 34-27 win over the Broncos.
Quarterback- Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible either. Roethlisberger couldn’t neccesarily get into the swing of things in the first half, but when the second half came around, it was the Roethlisberger to his receivers show. He threw three touchdown passes and finished the night with 40/55 completed passes for 380 yards. Roethlisberger did throw two interceptions, including one with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Grade: B
Running Backs– DeAngelo Williams wasn’t flashy, but he certainly got the job done. The veteran running back was called upon in the first quarter and delivered when he scored a two-yard touchdown. His statistics, when looking at them, were less than impressive, having ran the ball 14 times for only 26 yards. Grade: B+
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends– Last week, there were no touchdowns by the receiving corps. This week, three touchdowns were scored by the group. Antonio Brown had two of those touchdowns, with one being a 23-yard touchdown and the other from nine yards. The other touchdown came from rising offensive star Markus Wheaton off a 9-yard pass. The group had a big role to play since Williams only rushed for 26 yards. While Williams couldn’t get past the Broncos’ defensive line, the receiving corps tore up the Broncos’ secondary. Grade: A
Offensive Line- The offensive line would get the same grade as Williams if it wasn’t for three sacks on Roethlisberger. The offensive line let the Broncos’ Malik Jackson and Shane Ray past them to get to Roethlisberger, with Jackson getting to him twice. Grade: B
Defensive Line– The defensive line for the Steelers had a decent night for the most part. Cam Heyward had a sack against Broncos’ quarterback Brock Osweiler while Stephon Tuitt led the defensive line in tackles with five. The line held running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman to only 62 yards combined. Grade: A-
Linebackers: The linebackers had an overall solid night against the Broncos. Ryan Shazier had a big interception in the second half and also finished the night off with three tackles and three assists. Lawrence Timmons had the second sack on Osweiler and led the linebacker corps in tackles with four and two assists. Grade: A
Secondary- If the secondary grades were to be divided by halves, the first half grade would be a D+ and the second half grade an A+. The first half did not go as planned for William Gay and company as Osweiler threw three touchdowns. However in the second half, the Broncos didn’t even get the chance to score. The secondary played clean football, having only a couple penalties called on them. However, the secondary does need to work on staying consistent for the whole game. Grade: B+
Special Teams- There was nothing flashy about the Steelers special teams against the Broncos. Wheaton did have one big kick-off return going for 28 yards, but Brown couldn’t get things going on the punt returns. Brown had three returns, averaging seven yards, and his longest was for 13-yards. The kicking game was strong by both Jordan Berry and Chris Boswell, as Boswell had two field goals from 24 and 41-yards and made all his extra point attempts. Grade: A-
Coaching– The coaching for the most part was decent in the game. The only big problem? With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Todd Haley elected to have Roethlisberger throw the ball on a 2nd&9. That resulted in an interception by linebacker Brandon Marshall. Luckily for the Steelers, the defense held up and forced Denver to turn the ball over on downs. Grade: B-