Steelers Vs Bears Positional Grades


Well, that was a disaster.

As they have multiple times in the Mike Tomlin era, the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a game on the road that they absolutely shouldn’t have, falling to the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field Sunday, 23-17, in overtime.

Outside of another average offensive performance for the black and gold, it was the defense’s turn to come up small in big spots, getting worked over in the run game all day long, resulting in a disappointing and frustrating 6-point road loss to one of the worst teams in football.

Like I do every week, I’ll take a shot at grading Pittsburgh’s performances via position groups.

QB — B-


I know a lot of the blame will somehow get placed on Ben Roethlisberger for this loss and for the ineptitude of the Steelers’ offense on Sunday, but outside of a bad sack on the last drive in regulation, the strip sack fumble and a throw that should have been picked by Kyle Fuller, I think Roethlisberger was decent enough for the Steelers to win.

The strip sack in the first quarter was all on Ben. He has to feel that pressure and either pull the ball down and take the sack, or throw the ball away 10 rows into the stands. He did neither, giving Chicago the ball. On the final drive of the game he nearly had a throw picked by Fuller looking for Antonio Brown, and he took an awful sack with no timeouts left. Throw the ball away and give yourself one last chance.

Overall, he continues to struggle with the deep ball, but in the second half we saw him become more patient, hitting the crossing routes to guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Brown, but for the third straight week we’ve yet to see the standard version of Ben in this high-powered offense, and that’s starting to become increasingly frustrating.

RB — B+

For the second straight week, Le’Veon Bell continues to look like his old self, and that showed once again on Sunday in Chicago.

Granted, Bell didn’t rush for 100 yards, but he did average 4.0 yards per carry on the ground and a touchdown, adding another 37 yards on six receptions. We’re staring to see the trademark patience return with Bell, and he’s becoming more and more comfortable in the run game. I’d have liked to see the Steelers feed him the ball a bit more on Sunday on the ground, but I’m not calling the plays.

Bell did have a big drop in the flat on the last drive of regulation, but at this point I’m not sure that even matters in the context of the game.

WR — B

Brown came through with another big game for the Steelers, finishing with 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, but unlike in Cleveland, it wasn’t enough to drag the Steelers’ offense to a productive day as a whole.

Outside of Brown, Martavis Bryant struggled for much of the day, hauling in just two passes for 30 yards, but he did have one catch-and-run wiped out by a penalty and had another missed call in the first half on a deep shot where Prince Amukamara mugged him down the field.

Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster got involved in the passing game this week again, hauling in two passes for 39 yards in the loss, including a nice 25-yard catch-and-run off of a crossing route. He was even targeted in the red zone on a post route that was broken up. It seems like Ben and the Steelers are putting more and more faith in him offensively.

One guy who didn’t receive much faith on Sunday was Eli Rogers, who muffed a punt early in the game, leading directly to a Steelers touchdown. After the muffed punt, Rogers didn’t even receive a target offensively. I can’t quite remember him even being on the field much offensively.

TE — A-

This grade is largely going to the effort Vance McDonald displayed on the blocked field goal to end the first half. He never quit on the play and was able to strip the ball from Marcus Cooper’s hands, negating a possible touchdown.

That will endear him to teammates and the coaching staff moving forward.

Third-year tight end Jesse James had a decent game despite missing parts of the game due to a shoulder injury. He hauled in two passes for 19 yards, one of which included taking a big shot to his left shoulder, forcing him to exit the game.

I loved the way he hung in there though on the play, coming down with the ball just short of the sticks.

OL — B+

Outside of a poor second half for fill-in right tackle Chris Hubbard, I thought that this unit up front was mostly solid against the Bears, especially after backup guard BJ Finney came in to replace the injured Ramon Foster in the first half.

Alejandro Villanueva seemed to have a nice bounce back game on first glance, while Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro did a nice job in the running game, helping the Steelers average 4.1 yards per carry on the day.

In the second half, Hubbard gave up a sack in a tough spot and was later called for a holding penalty, playing a big role in stalling another Steelers drive.

DL — A

I know that the Bears rushed for 220 yards on Sunday, but I’m not putting that blame on the guys up front defensively.

Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave and Tyson Alualu did their jobs well, holding up blockers and playing their gaps most of the day. Sure, they didn’t penetrate the backfield like they have the last two weeks, but they were assignment sound.

Combined, the starting unit up front registered eight tackles and one sack, which was a brilliant display of power from Hargrave.

Backup LT Walton came in and performed well too, recording three stops.

My grade my drop slightly once I see the coaches film, but watching live I thought the defensive line more than did its job Sunday.

LB — D

Ryan Shazier led the way with 11 stops, but I couldn’t pretend to keep an accurate count of missed tackles in the loss. Yes, Shazier was great in the first half flying sideline to sideline, also coming up with a fumble recovery, but something changed as the game wore on. He was sloppy in his angles and egregious in his tackling attempts.

Vince Williams was actually worse, turning in his worst game as a starting, punctuated by him easing up on Tarik Cohen’s long run that nearly ended the game in overtime.

Coaches film and the missed tackles report won’t be kind to VW.

At outside linebacker, Bud Dupree missed a handful of tackles in the backfield on Jordan Howard and was largely irrelevant as a pass rusher against Bobbie Massie at right tackle.

Fortunately, Anthony Chickillo came to play Sunday, filling in for an injured TJ Watt. Chickillo recorded a sack and was hard to handle as a pass rusher, often getting held without a call throughout the game.

On Chicago’s second touchdown, it looked like Tyler Matakevich bit on the play-action fake, completely abandoning his pass coverage responsibilities to leave rookie tight end Adam Shaheen wide open in the back of the end zone.

DB — C-

I know that the Bears’ wide receiving corps had just one catch on the day, Mike Glennon threw for just 84 net yards and JJ Wilcox picked off one pass, but this grade is more reflective of the horrendous run support throughout Sunday’s game.

Artie Burns had one of the worst run support plays in overtime that I’ve seen from a Steelers cornerback in quite some time, while guys like Mike Mitchell, JJ Wilcox and Joe Haden were slow to react at times to running plays from the Bears.

Mostly, the running woes are on the linebackers, but there was just some awful run support from the secondary.

And don’t get me started on the holding calls missed by the officiating crew in overtime. Haden was tackled, allowing Cohen to get to the edge, while Burns was held on Howard’s touchdown.

For the Steelers’ defense to take the next step, the secondary needs to become much better at run support. Sunday was a gross display in the opposite direction for that group.

Special Teams — D+

That blocked kick before halftime was awful; not entirely sure what happened on the left side of the line to allow the Chicago player to come in free like that, but as I said earlier I loved the hustle from McDonald to chase Cooper down.

I won’t blame Jordan Berry for the bat out of the end zone either, because he’s been taught his entire life as a punter to bat the ball out of the end zone in those situations.

Boswell did bounce back after the block, drilling a 32-yarder, while Berry averaged 40.6 yards per punt in the loss, but the Steelers’ special teams led directly to 10 points on Sunday as Rogers muffed the punt and the blocked kick ended in a field goal for Chicago.

  • Mark

    That FG block was on Xazier Grimble who I think replaced Jesse, his first move is to his right and then quickly to the left to slow down the edge rusher. All Grimble did was block to his right and the to his left shot around the corner untouched. X Man working his way out of town

  • Simon Cutts

    Thank you for the article, but I must have seen an entirely different game.

  • Steelerfan56

    I would give Ben and Bell both a C

  • Ray

    Quarterbacks should be no higher than a C. Ben was bad yesterday and he admitted as such. He needs to put the ball in a better spot for his receivers.

    Tight ends should not be any higher than a B-. James made a couple of decent catches and other than Vance McDonald running down Cooper there was nothing else even close to good. Grimble is responsible for the blocked FG.

    In NO WAY should the DL get an A. Hargrave was very good yesterday. Cam Heyward was invisible. Thats not what you expect from him and Alualu was below the line too.

  • Steelerfan56

    Really, I was watching the Steelers-Bears game….don’t know which one he’s commenting on.

  • Stephen

    I was thinking the same thing that I missed the game and they won with these grades, I wish this grader were my teacher, I never would of failed a course

  • T R

    uhm I saw no B ratings on no position in this game.. Cs, Ds and Fs only..

  • srdan

    I wish you were my college professor

  • Charles Mullins

    Who has Timmons number…

  • Edjhjr

    Sorry to say it again, but the offense is SUPPOSED to be the saviour of this squad.

    They really are not close

  • Edjhjr

    Blocked field goals……, they should not be kicking them.

  • Charles Mullins

    I am surprised by the positive offensive grades for a team that scored 17 points.

  • David S

    Alualu on DL

  • John

    How can you give up 220 yards rushing and give the DL a high grade? If they really deserved it, they would have helped hold the Bears to 110 yards rushing. Steelers had no real running game and little offense. And yet all phases of game graded out fine? Huh?

    BTW some day someone needs to comment on Bell’s lack of big plays. You need a RB that can explode for 20 yards here and there. Bell rarely does this and it has to be seen as an issue.

  • DirtDawg1964

    Very generous grades. Ben was a C. He wasn’t the worse we’ve seen him but he was far from good enough. He gets the ball at the 21 and turns that into 7 yards and three points? Good grief.

    As for Berry, he needs to learn situational football. He should be falling on that ball in that case. He cost us three points.

  • Paul Rainey

    I’ll say it again, if he had been grading me in high school I would have been valedictorian. Ben=D Bell=D Special teams=F D line=D and coaching which you left out=F. I assume you left that out on purpose.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I cannot conceive how you come up with your great grades for this team honestly. I realize we will all look at the same thing and come up with different conclusions but you gave the offense over a B average. A “B” is considered good which the offense was not…it was below average which should put them in the C- range and being that we are suppose to be a offensive juggernaut against a poor team it should be in the “D” range honestly. The defense at least you gave some poorer grades but still we allowed a team with a terrible offensive line to run over 200 yards and has no QB or WR’s to threaten down the field. The defense as a whole is in the “D” range. The total yards were not bad but you cannot allow a team to rush that many yards against and give them a “C” average or better and this includes the DL which you so graciously gave a “A” to.

  • Michael James

    Lol what? Sorry Josh, but I can’t agree at all. This is waaaay too generous, especially on the offensive side. 17 points against a poor Bears team, while getting excellent field position several times and none of those units gets worse than a B? Simply no.

  • RMSteeler

    I only heard it on the radio, but I saw the game different too, lol.

  • Edjhjr

    Get this , on top of it all I sat Howard from my fantacy team. Thinking he would not do anything against the Steelers.

  • Josh Carney

    Yeah, guys and gals, after watching the game twice again this morning, I absolutely butchered this piece. My apologies. Appreciate you guys reading though.

  • Josh Carney

    I’ve never once graded coaching in this piece in the two years I’ve been here.

  • SteelCity

    Appreciate the honest review of yourself!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Totally agree, QB should get a C!

  • Kevin Schwartz

    Any insight into why we didn’t just stack the box and force Glennon to try to beat us? It was pretty obvious, pretty early (especially in ot) they were going to run it. I’d have rather them make Glennon throw downfield then have them get 3-4 straight 15+ yard runs on us (I forget the exact sequence).

  • Dan

    Wonder what will inspire more outrage, the anthem situation or the missed tackle report?

  • Ray

    Josh, that’s actual a real stand up job on your part. Thanks for the honesty. A lot of people don’t have the guts to say that. I probably wouldn’t. Thanks

  • WeWantDaTruth

    And why no James Harrison during the game? The dude sets the edge better than anyone in football. Chickillo, for all his pass rushing prowess, offers nothing against the run.

  • Josh Carney

    Thanks, Ray. Appreciate that.

  • Me too. Can’t imagine what game he was watching. I wish I’d seen it rather than the Steelers @ Bears.

  • Kevin Artis

    I don’t know what game he was watching. Only players that played above the line was AB and Hargrave. Everyone else needs to ashame of themselves.

  • James Rogers

    Yeah, some of those grades are higher than I expected.

  • SouthernSteel

    Is this a joke article?

  • Tim Stanley

    Possibly the worst analysis of a sporting event I have ever read. This idiot writes like the Steelers tackle.

  • Jason

    wow everybody is at least 1.5 grades too high probably closer to 2 on everybody

  • Kevin Schwartz

    If it makes anyone feel better, it seems as if the team is pretty disappointed in the performance, and the general underachievement of the offense so far this season. Hopefully, they get it together. It’s still early.

  • Josh Carney

    Assuming you didn’t see my comment above, but I admit I butchered these grades after watching the game twice over again.

  • Douglas Andrews

    X man ended up putting an unnecessary double team block on one guy while letting his primary responsibility run untouched to block the kick. Agreed this was on X man period

  • Josh Carney

    Yep, I missed the boat with these grades. After watching the game twice over this morning, I’m disgusted with the grades I handed out.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Josh grading on a curve for this one.

  • Josh Carney

    Nope, I just screwed up. These grades were typed up on first watch. Can be a really hard piece to do without going back through and watching. Did that later this morning and realized I completed effed up these grades.

  • Douglas Andrews

    No problem I wasn’t pilling on guess i’m still emotional after that BS game.

  • Josh Carney

    Completely understandable. At least you didn’t call me an idiot. Had to block that guy. I understand fans being upset, all part of the business. Appreciate you reading, Douglas!

  • Douglas Andrews

    Yeah some of us Steelers fans take it to the extreme sometimes. Looking forward to your future articles thanks for all you do.

  • steelmann58

    200 yards rushing gets the whole defense a f

  • Smitty 6788

    Chickalo played horrible imo. He was bad at setting the edge. Setting the edge does not mean running 5yds up and getting walled out. Deebo does it best sees and reads run. Sets in his spot holds offensive player at bay then sheds them when the ball carrier is near. AC gets upfield way too often he needs to read his keys better and be stronger at the POA.

  • Smitty 6788

    This offense needs to be more dynamic in its ways. We need to attack all levels at all times but need to be more selective especially on 3rd and manageable. So far imo we have done one or the other. With far too many aggressive throws on manageable 3rd downs. While throwing the ball we need to run the ball much more effectively as well. Which to me means using 11 personell as base offense 85 to 90% if the time. Because it doesn’t tip your hand to what your intentions plus it would put Ben into more of a rhythm. Finally no huddle needs to be a big part of our offense.. Just my 2 cents

  • SilverSteel

    That was classy. I rarely see an author admit to a mistake. This game was truly hard to watch.

  • SilverSteel

    You don’t have to call the author names. He admitted he screwed up the grades. Jeez man…

  • Tim Stanley

    Fair…I had not read the gentleman’s “apology” prior to writing this but his comments reveal how badly uniformed he is about this team and the definition of good vs bad football . I am probably still annoyed yet another colossal choke job by Tomlin & Co is being swept under the carpet because of the National Anthem distraction.

  • Jason

    thanks for the re-look and honesty

  • John Pennington

    Steelers need to draft a corner who can cover and tackle because Burns is the weakest tackler in the secondary and he cant help in run support at all looks scared to get in front and make the tackle.They have to find someone better than Burns his play will cost the team games because of his poor tackling and effort to make the tackle.

  • SilverSteel

    I totally get the frustration. We seem to be the team that beats itself and that is on the coaches. I hate to say it, but it may be time for some OC and/or DC changes. Haley does not maximize the talent he has and Butler needs improvement concerning schemes and in game adjustments.

    I’m not on the fire everyone bandwagon but I keep seeing the same mistakes year after year. We were asking, where was Deebo last year with the Dallas game, and we made the same mistake again. Disappointed to say the least. And I don’t remember the last time Ben looked really sharp. It has been awhile. Still hopeful about the season but…