PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Tom Brady is great even when he doesn't have ample time to throw. Give him protection, and he's unstoppable. The offensive line did its job Sunday and Brady responded with 350 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-43 passing. This was by far one of his best performances of the season against a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league per game until Sunday.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to move the chains and make opposing defenses respect his ability. On Sunday, Green-Ellis had 87 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Even without any production from the rest of the backs, the Patriots did just enough to keep the Steelers honest, which is what helped Brady be so effective in the passing game.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- This is the pass rush the Patriots have been waiting to see. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and pressured him all night in by far their most aggressive performance of the year. James Sanders iced the game with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- No complaints here. The Steelers stuck with the run for as long as they could, but eventually had to air it out once the Patriots broke the game open. Rashard Mendenhall had some decent carries, but not enough to draw any comparisons to the Patriots' woeful effort last week in Cleveland. Sunday represented a major improvement on all levels.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Shayne Graham hit a couple of field goals, but also missed an easy extra point. Zoltan Mesko had a 53-yard punt and Brandon Tate returned a kickoff 35 yards. The Patriots never had an issue with field position due to solid play on both sides.
COACHING: A -- The Patriots know their strengths and they know everyone else's weaknesses, too, which is why they continued to throw at will against Pittsburgh's defense. Tom Brady has had many big games against the Steelers and Sunday night was no exception. The Patriots dared them to stop Brady and they failed. Plus, they were aggressive defensively and gave their pass rushers a chance to do some damage.
STEELERS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Yes, Ben Roethlisberger had 387 yards passing, three touchdowns and a 97.9 passer rating. But he had only 99 yards in the first three quarters when the Steelers trailed 23-3. He threw a pick-six interception and he was sacked five times. His receivers dropped consecutive passes into the end zone from inside the 10 in the first half.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Steelers managed just 76 yards on just 16 carries, abandoning the ground game because it was ineffective and they fell too far behind. Rashard Mendenhall got 34 of his 50 yards on one carry. It was their second lowest rushing output of the season.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Tom Brady could not be stopped, could not be touched. He completed 30 of 43 passes for 350 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 117.4 passer rating. He not only wasn't sacked, he virtually went untouched all night. He took all the underneath stuff the Steelers were willing to give him and then some. It was Pittsburgh's only sackless game of the season.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- New England did just enough on the ground to keep them honest with 103 yards rushing on 24 carries, the first team to top 75 yards rushing against Pittsburgh all season. Even Brady could not be stopped when he powered in for a touchdown on a sneak from three yards out.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Steelers special teams were generally good except for Jeff Reed's 26-yard missed field goal. They gave up one kickoff return of 35 yards and rookie Emmanuel Sanders had one of 34 yards. However, New England got good field position after Keenan Lewis stepped out of bounds and then downed the ball for a penalty.
COACHING: D -- Allowing Tom Brady a wide-open field to throw underneath all night obviously was the wrong tact to take. They also blitzed him rarely and put no heat on him. The Patriots were able to maneuver rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski to a spot where he was matched up on cornerback William Gay, a mismatch of great proportions that resulted in two of Gronkowski's three TD catches. Steelers were listless on offense against a low-ranked Patriots defense that starts three rookies.
This report courtesy The Sports Xchange.