Until the middle of the third quarter, the Steelers offense put up a total of minus-7 points and it looked like it could have been a Monday night disaster. Instead, they woke up in the second half and put up 21 points on the board to continue an explosive streak of scoring.
The Steelers have scored 27 points or more in each of their last five games. With an elite defensive unit, that will be more than enough to win games.
Anyway, on the grades for the offense against Denver…
Roethlisberger struggled finding rhythm for almost the entire first half. Granted, the offensive line wasn’t great and the receivers didn’t get any separation. Still, the first half was as bad as a performance as we’ve seen from Big Ben so far this season. What is amazing as that Roethlisberger still completed 77% of his passes and threw three TDs after such a putrid half. He didn’t rack up a lot of yardage, but he definitely got the job done and found his stride down the stretch. The numbers are a little inflated because the last TD pass came when the game was out of reach, but other than a poor throw in the redzone, Roethlisberger’s second half was amazing.
Running Backs: A
Rashard Mendenhall had what might have been his best performance to date. He was the only consistent part of the Steelers offense and racked up an insane 7 YPC. He consistently made the first tackler miss and was a lot more patient in finding the gaps than we’ve previously seen. Mendy still is a little bit rough around the edges. He ran out of bounds with five minutes left in the 4th quarter with a lot of open field ahead and I’m still worried he’s going to fumble every time he carries the ball. But the Steelers have found themselves an excellent running back. The only thing holding the backs to an “A” instead of the coveted “A+” is that they only accounted for one reception. Mewelde Moore didn’t catch a pass for the third straight game.
Wide receivers: B+
The Broncos pressed the Steelers receivers early in the game and kicked their butts. Eventually, though, the Stees wideouts wore them down and Santonio Holmes went to work on Champ Bailey. The balance between Ward, Holmes, and Wallace was outstanding with each nabbing 7, 6, and 4 catches, respectively. Holmes and Wallace made clutch catches in the redzone and on third down. Hopefully they can be a little more consistent throughout next week’s game. Cincinnati has some fine cornerbacks so a solid showing against Champ Bailey and Co. could be a good sign.
Offensive line: A-
The pass blocking was hit or miss, but it never got too bad. Chris Kemoeatu was badly beaten once that led to a Roethlisberger fumble and a Broncos TD. But other than that, they didn’t give up any terrible sacks. The other two were arguably coverage sacks. The run blocking was outstanding all night. Willie Colon and Trai Essex consistently blew up their counterparts and Kemoeatu did a great job pulling on the counter. Heath Miller did a great job sealing the play as well. For a group that has been heavily criticized, the young offensive line is starting to click.
Offensive coaching: B+
It seemed like Arians fell in love with the pass early and got the team into a few too many 3rd and longs, which is a bad situation against the Broncos defense. But tonight was a good example of Arians plan in action(yes, I think he has one). It’s been said by a few people in the Steelers organization that the ultimate goal is to have an offense that can win a game in any way, similar to the great Patriots teams of the 2000s. I think the Steelers are getting closer to that kind of attack each week. The Steelers had 202 yards passing vs. 173 yards rushing in the game — outstanding balance. It seems like they are using the pass to set up the run more often than not, but in the 4th quarter against Denver it was a return to Bill Cowher football and the team fed the ball to Mendenhall over and over. As the offensive line improves, I can see the Steelers winning games where Roethlisberger throws the ball 45 times and when he only throws 20 passes. That’s a great weapon for Arians to put to use.