Grading the Steelers after a deflating loss

OAKLAND, Calif. – Like the 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders, the postgame grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t pretty:

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger looked out of sync early, and even a strong second half that included one of his vintage escapes prior to a short touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t enough for Big Ben to bring back the Steelers. He threw for 275 and two interceptions, though a late pick was on Antonio Brown, who lost control of the ball as he was falling to the ground. Grade: C

Running backs: The Steelers averaged 1.8 yards per carry, and Le’Veon Bell was held to 24 yards. The backs didn’t get a lot of room running behind a line that the Steelers had to patch together because of injuries, but they didn’t make any plays either. They didn’t have a run longer than 8 yards as the ground game took a step back after a 141-yard performance against the Ravens: Grade: D+

Receivers: Brown caught nine balls for 82 yards but he couldn’t hang onto a third-down pass that would have been a big gain in the fourth quarter. On the Steelers’ next possession, Brown’s bobble as he was falling to the grounded ended up as a killer interception by Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter. Sanders had a solid game statistically but didn’t make enough of an impact. Even the normally sure-handed Heath Miller struggled with drops. Grade: D+

Offensive line: Injuries knocked starting guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro out of the game, but the next-man-up ethos that the Steelers preach didn’t translate into the line protecting Roethlisberger or providing many running lines. The Raiders dropped Roethlisberger five times, and he is on pace to get sacked 59 times this season. Grade: D

Defensive line: Brett Keisel played as well as anyone on the Steelers’ defense, and his fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter got the Steelers back into the game. The veteran defensive end also registered one of the Steelers’ two sacks, but the line did not dominate a Raiders front that is banged up and yielded nine sacks in Oakland’s previous game. Grade: C

Linebackers: LaMarr Woodley was the only one who put consistent pressure on Terrelle Pryor but he couldn’t get the Raiders quarterback on the ground. None of the other linebackers flashed, though Lawrence Timmons recorded eight tackles and forced a fumble. Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones were nonexistent, and the latter has yet to make a significant impact on the Steelers’ defense. Grade: C-

Secondary: Troy Polamalu and Cortez Allen came up with interceptions, and Pryor threw for fewer than 100 yards and finished with a passer rating of 25.7. But Polamalu couldn’t shed a block on the play of the game, and he didn’t get any help from the back end of the defense on Pryor’s 93-yard touchdown run that put the Steelers in an early hole. Grade: C+

Special teams: The Steelers found a new way to lose as the normally automatic Shaun Suisham missed twice – and from inside of 35 yards no less. Zoltan Mesko is still too inconsistent, and his bobble of a snap led to a partially blocked punt that set up Oakland’s second touchdown. Brown’s 44-yard punt return was the lone bright spot on a dismal day. Grade: F

Coaching: Mike Tomlin took the blame for the lethargic start, and it ultimately falls on him that the Steelers simply weren’t ready to play. The Steelers’ clock management was also an issue -- they had to waste a timeout in the final minutes of the game -- and they were way too deliberate while trying to rally from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit. The Steelers didn’t quit on Tomlin, but we all know how this team feels about moral victories: Grade: D