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Monday, December 23, 2013
Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers

By Scott Brown

PITTSBURGH -- Two maligned units earn highest grades after 38-31 win at Green Bay.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger let the Packers back into the game when he misjudged A.J. Hawk’s leaping ability and threw an interception at the end of the third quarter with the Steelers leading 31-21. Roethlisberger threw for two scores and ran for another. He also completed timely passes and played well enough for the Steelers to win. Grade: B

Running backs: Bell had his best game as a professional and became, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the first rookie since Steve Slaton in 2008 to rush for 100 yards at Lambeau Field. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry -- a yard-and-a-half more than his season average. Bell showed what kind of runner he is going to be as he gains more experience. A lost fumble was a significant blemish. Grade: A-

Receivers: Antonio Brown caught six passes for 105 yards and set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season (1,412). The Steelers did not get much else from their other receivers, who combined for just 52 of Roethlisberger’s passing yards. David Paulson’s 30-yard catch on a fake punt bumps up this mark. Grade: B-

Offensive line: The line didn’t just keep Roethlisberger relatively clean, it also provided enough running room for the Steelers to average 5.2 yards per carry. Roethlisberger has been sacked just six times in the last six games, and the Packers dropped him just one time. Grade: A-

Defensive line: Eddie Lacy didn’t have a run longer than 14 yards but he still gashed the Steelers for 5.6 yards per carry before leaving the game with an ankle injury. There were too many holes for Lacy to squeeze through and too many tackles and that starts up front. A pair of 15-yard penalties on end Cameron Heyward didn’t help here. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons tied for the team lead in tackles (10) and he also recorded his second sack of the season. Jason Worilds also notched a sack, and Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester performed admirably while filling in at outside linebacker because of illness and an in-game injury to Worilds. Grade: B

Secondary: Played one of its better games of the season as Cortez Allen returned an interception for a touchdown and Troy Polamalu forced the fumble that led to the game-winning score. The defensive backfield really clamped down in the second half as Matt Flynn completed just 7 of 20 passes after intermission for 95 yards. Grade: A-

Special teams: Would have been an A+ had Micah Hyde not turned in the Packers’ longest kickoff return of the season three times, including a 70-yarder late in the game that forced the Steelers to make a late goal-line stand. Everything else about the special teams stood out in a good way, especially the call and execution of a fake punt. Grade: B

Coaching: Tomlin should have at least considered taking a couple of knees to bleed the clock and then kicking a field goal near the end of the game. That is apparently not in his DNA. The Steelers got away with leaving time on clock albeit barely, and Tomlin’s aggressiveness generally served them well. Grade: B+