Super Bowl XLV Grades: Steelers
With it all on the line, Ben Roethlisberger didn't make the necessary plays to win
The team's receivers played well, but Rashard Mendenhall's late fumble was costly
Most surprising of all, Troy Polamalu was Pittsburgh's biggest liability of all Sunday
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Grading out the performances by the Steelers in their 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium ...
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger's calling card all season has been that despite pedestrian numbers, he's a winner. He makes plays. He bounces off tackles. But every once in a while we're reminded that when everyone in the building knows Roethlisberger has to throw, he's not quite the overwhelming force he is when the Steelers' defense and running game are making plays. In the first half, Big Ben was miserable when the run game was mostly stuffed. Eventually, he threw two huge picks, including one returned for a touchdown. He was just slightly off all night. On the final drive, Roethlisberger had 1:59 remaining with nearly 90 yards to go and you wanted to believe he could get it done. He couldn't. Simply put, when the ball was in his hands, he could not get it done. Grade: C
Running Backs: Rashard Mendenhall was gashing the right side of the Packers' defensive line early, cutting up field for big runs. It could be argued the Steelers went away from the run too soon. Then again, it was Mendenhall's fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter that turned the game once and for all in the Packers' direction. You've got to hold onto the ball. And Mendenhall didn't. Grade: C
Receivers: Mike Wallace had a huge game, start-to-finish, and consistently made clutch catches to keep the Steelers alive despite trailing by double-digits multiple times over the course of the game. Antwaan Randle El stepped in nicely as injuries accumulated. Hines Ward was his usual self and came up with a big touchdown to keep Pittsburgh within striking distance. The Steelers had bad plays and bad moments, but don't blame the loss on the receiving corps, although tight end Heath Miller could have had a better night. Grade: B.
Offensive Line: If not for the offensive front, this one could have been over early. But despite falling behind in the first quarter, allowing Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to bring the pressure, the Steelers' O-line held up nicely -- particularly backup center Doug Legursky. The Steelers managed good run-pass balance and held the Packers' playmakers at bay until the pivotal moments in the fourth quarter. Pass protection was far above average, all things considered. Grade: B-plus
Defensive Line: If the Steelers were going to win this, they were going to do it as they always do -- by stuffing the run, pressuring the middle of the field and pushing the opposing quarterback into perimeter pressure. None of that happened Sunday. James Starks didn't run a lot, but was good early and allowed Aaron Rodgers to settle in. Then, once the Packers found a rhythm, Rodgers had way too much time to find receivers. Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Casey Hampton combined for a whopping four tackles. That's far too few. On the decisive final drive, Rodgers cut the Steelers apart. Grade: C-minus
Linebackers: Lost in the crossfire, so to speak, of the Packers' big first-half, when they scored a defensive touchdown and Rodgers carried his team to a 21-3 early lead, was some of the worst tackling in Steelers' history. When was the last time point-of-attack tacklers in Steelers uniforms missed this many tackles? James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley responded better in the second half, but the damage was already done. Grade: C
Defensive Backs: It sounds strange and wrong to even fathom, but NFL defensive MVP Troy Polamalu was a non-factor in this one. He was as much a part of the Steelers' undoing as any player on the field. He was burned twice for scores by Greg Jennings and not nearly the playmaking force he had been all year. The Packers consistently tested the Steelers' secondary with success. If not for several pitiful drops by James Jones and Jordy Nelson, this one could have been put out of reach early. On the Packers' final, time-consuming field-goal drive, Jennings' splitting the Steelers' safeties on third-and-long was the back-breaker. Grade: D
Special Teams: There was a lot of flash, but not a lot of real production. Two better than average returns were gashed by penalties. Shaun Suisham missed badly on a field-goal attempt. Coverage was good, but mistakes and penalties ravaged every potentially good moment special teams could have had. Grade: B-minus
Coaching: Mike Tomlin gains points for keeping his team focused despite the slow start, getting things going early in the second half and going for -- and getting -- the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Still, preparation is as much a part of every game, much less the Super Bowl, and the Steelers looked like a team that couldn't make enough adjustments early. The six-time champion Steelers looked like the nervous team. The 52-yard field-goal attempt was a bad choice, too, considering Suisham was 3-for-9 from beyond the 50. Grade: C