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Monday, 12 January 2015

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 Final Report Card

BellIt was a better year for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans, myself included. An 11-5 season, an AFC North crown and an albeit brief playoff appearance. This has been the best squad since the team that beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl a few seasons ago.

So of all the positive points for Pittsburgh football who and what were the keys to success and as a grade how do they score? We break it down into three sections to come up with the answer.

1. Running game. Grade B+

Le'Veon Bell had developed into the best all-round back in the league and finished second behind only DeMarco Murray in rushing yards with 1361, he also scored eight touchdowns on the ground. The Steelers only finished 16th in the league in rushing yards per game which has stopped me from grading them higher, but the offence as a whole has been the best in a long, long time, it seems odd that the Steelers are winning games with offence rather than defence. Bell's real strength comes in the passing game where he added 854 yards proving that he really is a dual-threat and has proven to be a safe set of hands for Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Passing game. Grade A+

Some numbers before you start throwing the 'biased' cards at me. The Steelers were second in the league passing the ball behind the Indianapolis Colts. In total offence the Steelers ranked second behind the New Orleans Saints by only 0.3 of a yard per game. Ben Roethlisberger was tied with Drew Brees for most passing yards this year with 4952. A moment is needed to realise how insane it is that after 16 games, two quarterbacks can finish with the exact same number of yards. Roethlisberger had the best season of his career, with 32 touchdown passes to 9 interceptions and as I mentioned earlier, just shy of a 5000 yard season.

Then there is Antonio Brown. I can honestly say the only receiver I would pick over Brown would be Calvin Johnson. Brown finished the year leading the NFL in total yards (1698) receptions (129) and was second in touchdowns with 13. He also averaged 10.6 yards per punt return proving he can help in more than just the receiving game.

Heath Miller returned to his usual reliable self this year with 761 yards and three touchdowns, rookie Martavis Bryant emerged with eight touchdowns and 549 yards and second year Marcus Wheaton played an increased role with over 600 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers have become one of the best and deepest passing units in the league.

3. Defence. Grade D+

Strangely enough it is the defensive side of the ball that Pittsburgh has been soft on. When you look at the numbers it is clear that this isn't exactly the Steel Curtain on the field. Ranking 18th overall in yards allowed, 27th against the pass (TWENTY-SEVENTH!) And a much more familiar sixth overall against the run, the only real positive to be had. Lawrence Timmons has a combined 132 tackles to lead the team, Cameron Heyward had 7.5 sacks to lead the team in that category. But the only good thing to come from the Steelers secondary was that William Gay caught three interceptions and returned all of them for touchdowns. Apart from that, health was a major issue, and the recent departure of Dick LeBeau is a major loss at the defensive co-ordinator spot.

Quick fact: If Dick LeBeau doesn't report to a training camp this summer, it will be the first time since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Overall grade: A-

A better playoff run would have bumped the grade up, so would have a better pass defence. But as a Pittsburgh fan I couldn't be happier with the way the team is shaping up, especially on offence. If all our key players stay healthy, AFC North crowns should become a frequent occurance.


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