Pittsburgh Steelers' Report Card

Defense and coaching receive low marks after the 34-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins that all but snuffs out the Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff hopes.

Quarterback: Hard to put much blame on Ben Roethlisberger, even though he couldn’t engineer a late scoring drive with the Steelers’ season hanging in the balance. Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards and a trio of touchdowns and twice brought the Steelers back from second-half deficits. He lost a fumble that led to the Dolphins’ first touchdown. Grade: B+

Running backs: The Steelers established the run early with Le'Veon Bell but got away from it in the back-and-forth second half. Bell rushed for 61 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry but had just five totes after halftime. One mark against the backs: they didn’t have a run of 10 yards or longer. Grade: C+

Receivers: Antonio Brown had another big game statistically but he was credited for 55 of his 137 receiving yards on the final play on which he almost scored a miracle touchdown after a series of laterals. There were some dropped passes, including a couple early in the game when the Steelers had a chance to build on a 7-0 lead. Grade: C+

Offensive line: The unit took a step back as it struggled to protect Roethlisbeger and also combined for five of the Steelers’ nine penalties, including an illegal man downfield that wiped out what would have been a key 12-yard catch by Jerricho Cotchery with six minutes left in the game. One bright spot was Mike Adams, who played reasonably well at left tackle and was the only starting lineman who did not commit a penalty. Grade: D

Defensive line: End Cameron Heyward dominated the game in the first half and finished with a game-high 10 tackles. But the line has to assume a lot of responsibility for the Dolphins gashing the Steelers defense for 181 rushing yards and averaging an equally unacceptable 7.5 yards per carry. As good as Heyward was, he didn't get nearly enough help. Grade: D+

Linebackers: Jason Worilds had another big game as he recorded two more sacks and eight tackles, but the Steelers did not get enough pressure from the right side of their defense. LaMarr Woodley had a relatively quiet game and Jarvis Jones clearly needs to get bigger and stronger. Lawrence Timmons did not play one of his better games as he was not much of a factor: Grade: C-

Secondary: There were some good things, starting with Troy Polamalu’s interception return for a touchdown that seemed to change the complexion of the game. Cortez Allen also did a nice job of locking down Mike Wallace as the latter caught just two passes for 19 yards. But the Steelers’ tackling was atrocious, and the defensive backs were the biggest culprits in this area. A lot of changes are coming to this unit during the offseason: Grade: D+

Special teams: They were mostly nondescript as the Steelers got almost nothing out of their return game. The Steelers had a punt blocked near the end of the first half but the defense held and didn’t allow any points off that miscue. The kick coverage teams were solid, and take away the block and Mat McBriar averaged almost 47 yards per punt. Grade: C

Coaching: The Steelers made a mess of their penultimate drive of the game as coach Mike Tomlin decided to go for it on fourth and 10 from the Steelers' 10-yard line and then had to use a timeout even though the clock was stopped. How could the coaches not have a play ready for that critical down? The Steelers also ran the ball just two times after they had taken a 28-24 lead in the fourth quarter, and a team that is supposedly committed to balance finished with 37 passes and 21 runs. Grade: D