The Pittsburgh Steelers week eight positional grades accurately portray their performance against the Detroit Lions. The Steelers won the game 20-15, thanks to stellar red-zone defense. The Steelers offense struggled to move the ball consistently, but JuJu Smith-Schuster solidified his role and carried the offense to a victory.
Pittsburgh Steelers Week Eight Positional Grades
Ben Roethlisberger seems to have embraced his role as a game manager. He finished with 317 yards on 17 of 31 passing attempts. A large chunk of his passing yards came on a 97-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger also threw an interception, but other than that, he had a relatively mistake-free game.
Running Backs: C+
Le’Veon Bell only had an average game with 76 yards on 25 carries. He did have a rushing touchdown, but it came on a short run from a yard or two outside of the end zone. Bell seems to be struggling more on his power running plays than he is on counters, stretches etc.
James Conner only carried the ball once for a single yard.
Wide Receivers: B
Antonio Brown had a bit of a disappointing game for him, but still finished with five catches on ten targets for 70 yards. Five catches and 70 yards is disappointing for Brown, but it’s not a bad performance by any stretch.
Smith-Schuster led the way with seven catches on ten targets for 193 yards and touchdown that came on a 97-yard catch and run. With Martavis Bryant inactive and the Steelers offense struggling to run the ball against the Lions front seven, Smith-Schuster stepped up in a big way and carried the offense.
While Smith-Schuster excelled in the absence of Bryant, expect to see Bryant immediately used in the offense after the bye week. Bryant is way too talented not to be utilized, and it seems that he’s been humbled a bit by his punishment from head coach Mike Tomlin.
Tight Ends: C+
Vance McDonald was inactive in this game and he was sorely missed. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble both struggled to run-block. However, James did make an impact in the passing game with two catches on three targets for 42 yards. 32 of his yards came on a nice catch and run up the sidelines.
McDonald’s absence showed his value to the running game and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him starting at tight end when he returns following the bye week.
Offensive Linemen: B-
While the Steelers struggled to run the ball against the Lions, the offensive line did a great job of protecting Roethlisberger. Moving forward, if the offensive line can stay healthy, they should be able to lead the way for the Steelers offense heading into the playoffs.
Defensive Linemen: A
The Steelers defense continues to impress, and the defensive line continues to be the strongest asset on the roster. The Steelers held the Lions to only 71 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Cameron Heyward finished with three tackles, two of which were tackles for losses. Tyson Alualu had three tackles with a tackle for a loss and Javon Hargrave added two tackles. Even without Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers defensive line has proven to be elite. When Tuitt returns, the defensive line will continue to be a force for the Steelers.
Just like the defensive line, the linebackers have played exceptionally well this season. So good, that James Harrison has barely played this season. Ryan Shazier continues to be the keystone of the defense and he finished with seven tackles. Vince Williams is a run-stopping machine this season and continued that trend against the Lions with eight tackles.
Bud Dupree added three tackles and T.J. Watt finished with two tackles. Watt was used a lot more in coverage against the Lions than he has so far in his rookie season. He did a fine job though, nearly intercepting Matthew Stafford’s pass on more than one occasion.
This was arguably the worst performance of the season for the Steelers cornerbacks. The Lions torched Joe Haden specifically and were able to put up 411 passing yards. Artie Burns had a decent game, but he also struggled to cover receivers. Mike Hilton continued to be an impact in the Steelers run defense, but showed that he struggles to cover receivers over the middle.
Burns led the team with nine tackles and one tackle for a loss. Haden finished with two tackles and Hilton added four tackles.
While the Steelers secondary was exposed, Mike Mitchell did an excellent job of tackling receivers that beat cornerbacks. If not for Mitchell and Sean Davis’ sure-tackling, the Lions would’ve put up even more passing yards on the Steelers secondary.
Davis continues to be more of a run-stopper than a pass-defender and he finished with six tackles. Mitchell also finished with six tackles and Robert Golden added two tackles from the bench.
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