Worst of the Worst

Not to be so negative, but Jim Wexell figures it just might be best to purge the Steelers of their 2012 toxins before moving forward. Here's the breakdown:

In the initial chapter of my breakdown of the Steelers' roster, I pointed out that Curtis Brown played so poorly as a nickel back against the San Diego Chargers that he was pulled for Josh Victorian, who had been released from the practice squad only two weeks earlier.

This angered a few customers. They argued on the SCI message board that I should've instead ripped into Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for yanking Brown. I countered that Brown's performance was "the single worst performance all season," and that, "I might have cut Curtis Brown after the San Diego game."

While I maintain it was a horrendous performance, I wondered if it really was the worst.

It wasn't, according to Pro Football Focus.

This is a website that pays people (who are not scouts) to watch every play of every team and grade it with a plus or minus. It's rudimentary, but at least they put a set of eyes on everything and keep records, so take it for what it's worth.

Anyway, according to Pro Football Focus, Brown's -4.0 was the worst Steelers grade against the Chargers, but there were a total of 10 performances in 2012 that were graded as equal or worse. I'll run them down in reverse order with the hope it will jar your memory and allow you to decide:

10. Curtis Brown, -4.0, vs. San Diego – In his first full game as the nickel cornerback, Brown allowed Philip Rivers to consistently complete third-and-long passes off a three-step drop behind a line made up of guys who worked on construction sites a few days earlier. Brown couldn't tackle, either, and was finally benched after being picked on repeatedly during the Chargers' 17-play drive to open the second half.

9. LaMarr Woodley, -4.0, at Dallas – Upon his return from sitting out two full games, Woodley played 56 snaps and wasn't credited with a QB pressure against a right tackle, Doug Free, whose recent performance had elicited this comment from the NFL Network's Michael Irvin: "Jimmy Johnson would have cut him on the spot."

8. Keenan Lewis, -4.0, at Denver – Peyton Manning's 129.2 QB rating in the season opener was by far the best QB rating of the season against the Steelers. Both Lewis and Ike Taylor were equally bad in coverage, but a couple of key missed tackles and a late 3rd-and-7 pass interference penalty on Lewis provided the difference here.

7. Lawrence Timmons, -4.4, at Baltimore – The Steelers won, but allowed an abysmal 5.3 yards per rush. Timmons took the brunt of that failure from PFF, although my notes during the game give no indication as to why.

6. Ramon Foster, -4.4, at Tennessee – The Steelers lost C Maurkice Pouncey on the first snap and RT Marcus Gilbert in the second quarter. The RBs were so beat up that Baron Batch led the team with 10 carries. Foster was the guy who took the fall for this patchwork rushing attack.

5. Max Starks, -4.6, vs. Cleveland – One of only six remaining Steelers to start both of their recent championships, Starks's probable finale with the team was one of his worst, at least according to PFF. While he didn't allow a sack, the LT was credited with allowing 4 QB pressures in the Steelers' win.

4. Larry Foote, -5.2, at New York Giants – The Giants rushed for only 68 yards and Foote was credited by the Steelers' coaches for making 7 tackles. So what was the problem? PFF saw Foote as the worst pass and run defender in one of the Steelers' best defensive performance of the season. I have no evidence of this in my notes.

3. David DeCastro, -5.2, vs. Cincinnati – Making his second consecutive start –and lining up next to fellow rookie Kelvin Beachum – in the season's penultimate game, DeCastro found out that Geno Atkins was a far different animal than Dallas' Marcus Spears. At least DeCastro recovered the late 3rd-and-7 fumble he had helped cause.

2. Doug Legursky, -5.5, at Denver – The unveiling of the Todd Haley offense resulted in a 2.9-per-carry average and what would stand as a season-high 5 sacks allowed. It didn't help that the starting RG and RT left with injuries in the second quarter. Legursky filled in for Foster, next to debuting rookie Adams, and allowed 4 QB pressures and 2 sacks, including one that pretty much ended the game.

1. Charlie Batch, -5.9, at Cleveland – This is remembered as the game in which the running backs couldn't hold on to the ball. Four of them fumbled in what just might become known as the impetus for the departure of all four. But Batch was the straw that stirred this toxic concoction by throwing 3 interceptions and posting a 38.7 passer rating, the team's lowest individual rating since Ben Roethlisberger's 35.5 against the New York Jets in the 2010 playoffs.

(Rank the Steelers' worst performances here on the SCI message board.)

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