In keeping with the scholastic theme of recent Steelers Report cards, the Steelers victory against the Bengals was akin to a student that barely gets enough right on the multiple choice section of a test to pass, yet Aces the essay section with flying colors.
As usual, I add the standard caveat that no other grades were consulted prior to this posting.
Credit Ben Roethlisberger for being the toughest QB in the league. Credit him for being a competitor’s competitor for suffering punishment that would result in a flurry of fines and flag were it visited upon the likes of Brees, Brady or Manning. Credit Ben for making some heroic throws, and hurting Cincinnati with his feet. Criticize Ben for being off early. Criticize him for going 2-8 for 3 yards in the red zone. Grade: B
Rashard Mendenhall has gotten his 1000 yards the hard way, as again their was little room to run, and he often made something of nothing and always kept his feet moving. However, Mendenhall has been somewhat tentative at the line of scrimmage, and his production reflected that. Mewelde Moore and Issac Redman made good on their limited carries. Grade: B-
When your fifth string wide out makes what will be one of the year’s most spectacular catches, you know things are going well. Ward posted his fourth 100 yard game, and had a spectacular catch of his own, as did Mike Wallace. Antonio Brown also continues to make the most of his opportunities. Forget about Spaeth’s easy drop, but Mike Wallace's failure to stay in bounds in the end zone does bring the group down a tad. Grade: A-
Cincinnati had 14 sacks coming into this game. They improved that total by almost 40% as Cincinnati’s front seven looked like a reincarnation of the 1985 Bears. The running backs likewise had little room to run against the NFL’s worst run defense. A “just good enough” performance against the Ravens is one thing. This group needs to play better and that improvement should have started with the Bengals game.
It did not.
My high school chemistry teacher gave this grade to a friend of mine with the admonition, "this is largely a gift." And so it is on this report card. Grade: D
Brett Keisel’s return has given this group a breath of fresh air, and Ziggy Hood continues to improve. The Bengals had less than half of their rushing total from week one, and while Palmer might not have only been sacked three times, he was under pressure far more frequently. That starts up front. Grade: A
LaMarr Woodley should jump off sides more often on third and short if he’s going to react the way he did, netting 2 sacks and a pick six. James Farrior had is fourth sack in as many games. Lawrence Timmons had a tackle for a loss and a QB hit. James Harrison has been quiet of late. Grade: A
Ike Taylor’s pass interference penalty was costly, but other than that this united acquitted itself well. T.O. torched the Steelers last time around, this time he failed to be a factor. Carlson Palmer was held to a puny 4.9 yards per completion average, as the coverage was tight and hits timely. And, of course, Troy Polamalu continues to show that he belongs in the same conversation as Ronnie Lott, Mel Blount, and Rod Woodson as one of the all-time greats at defensive back. Grade: A
Shaun Suisham leaves little to complain about, and if Justin Kapinos punting average was low, he did pin the Bengals inside their 20 three times, which is huge when your offense is not scoring much. Antonio Brown only averaged 20 yards per return, and he narrowly avoided disaster with his muffed punt. Grade: B
Dick LeBeau clearly diagnosed whatever it is that the Bengals did a few weeks ago and corrected the situation. The offense put together some spectacular individual plays, but their inability to score touchdowns disconcerts. Why isn’t Redman given more of a chance to run the ball? Why so many empty sets on 3rd and short? Why so many self-inflicted wounds in terms of holding penalties? Grade: B
Antonio Brown only caught three balls, but he made them count, as two of them converted 3rd downs, the first one coming on the Steelers field goal drive at the end of the first half and the second one coming on the field goal drive that the Steelers used to open the first half. Offenses need to score touchdowns and not field goals, but those were to key third down conversions on drives that put and then helped keep the Steelers ahead.
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