The Steelers put on an offensive clinic in all phases of the game Sunday night. The offensive line was dominant and all of the skill players performed at the high level we've come to expect. It's hard finding much to criticize after such a big time performance, but after the jump we hand out some grades to the offensive position units...
Quarterbacks - A
Roethlisberger continues to be a calming force under center and once again put up some jaw dropping numbers. He completed 26 of 33 passes to pad his NFL leading completion percentage. His vision was great and he rarely threw into tight coverage. Roethlisberger also did a great job spreading the ball around, hitting Heath Miller 8 times and Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall had a combined 5 catches. Roethlisberger is proving to be quite the leader on the field and as a fan, every time he throws the ball I am expecting it to be caught. This is a rare feeling for every football fan and I'm trying to savor every moment.
Offensive line - A-
Simply put, the best effort we've seen from them in some time. Granted, the Chargers defensive line is about as good as Upper St. Clair's is at the moment, but...baby steps! It was great seeing Kemoeatu and Hartwig dominate the interior of the Chargers defense all night long -- even greater hearing them get some well-deserved props from Chris Collinsworth during the game. They've been decent in pass protection all year and were again against San Diego. The only hiccups we saw from them were a few dumb penalties that killed a late drive in the game.
Running Backs - A
Sure, a lot of what they accomplished Sunday night falls on the shoulders of the offensive line, but Mendy was running with authority all night long. He finished almost every run falling forward and, most importantly, protected the ball. It was as dominant a performance we've seen from a Steelers running back in a couple years. His blocking was good for the most night, though he had a few whiffs.
Mewelde Moore continues to be an unsung hero for the offense as well. He caught a TD and threw for another. Roethlisberger has shown a lot of confidence in throwing to Moore in big situations both on checkdown and deeper routes. Moore brings a dimension out of the backfield that no other Steelers running back has and I think he's gotten lost in the shuffle between Parker and Mendy and all of the hype over Redman. Great game by him.
Wide receivers - A-
Santonio Holmes bounced back with a decent game and Miller was dominant down the middle of the field. Hines Ward was great most of the night, but had a few uncharacteristic drops. Mike Wallace continues to surprise me and he just doesn't look like a rookie at all out there. He blends in like a veteran. It's also worth nothing that all of the Steelers wideouts blocked well throughout the game. Wallace has already improved his blocking tremendously since week one.
Offensive coaching - A-
Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians probably won't get as much credit as they deserve after this one. Norm and I both agreed last year that when the Steelers succeed, all the credit goes to the players. But when they suck, it's the coaches fault. The offensive playcalling was great all night. They started the game with a play-action pass for a first down and kept San Diego off balance all night.
One formation involved a 4 WR bunch set with Stefan Logan lined up behind the line of scrimmage. It looked like a screen play from the start and Logan being out there made it even more obvious. But Arians surprised everybody including the Chargers and sent everybody deep on the play while Logan just stood there. Mike Wallace was wide open for a huge gain.
The call on Mewelde Moore's TD pass was outstanding as well. The Steelers were in the right area of the field and it was a spitting image of a Jerome Bettis' TD throw from the Cowher years.
The one beef I have with the playcalling is going for it on 4th and 1 on the Steelers' own 30 yard line in the 2nd quarter. That was just crazy to me. Sure, they easily converted it, but if Roethlisberger is stacked up, Tomlin is basically handing the Chargers points in a game that the Steelers had dominated and led 14-0. If the Chargers score there, the score is 14-7 at halftime and you just let San Diego back into a game they had no business being in at half. It was just way too aggressive of a call for me when you are that deep in your own end of the field.
Defensive grades on the way tomorrow...