Steelers Report Card vs. Bengals at Heinz Field
A report card from the grade book of a teacher who really wonders (and hopes) that his pupils can go from slacking off to hitting their stride in the very week that they enter the home strech. Here goes the Steelers report card for their victory over the Bengals. As always, no other reports were consulted.
Ben Roethlisberger was not perfect against the Bengals, and the Steelers 2 for 11 on third downs shows it. But Ben played smarter, made the throws he needed to make, particularly in the Red Zone. He also avoid what was had disturbingly begun to look at as his “obligatory dumb interception.” All and all a solid performance. Grade: B+
Bruce Arians reportedly challenged his rushers, “You want to run more, run the ball better.” Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman listened. Both men accounted for nearly all of the yards in the Steelers first two trips to the Red Zone, both men broke tackles and ripped off long runs. Mewelde Moore ripped off 13 yard carry in his lone touch and Jonathan Dwyer showed a lot of hustle. Last time around against the Bengals the Steelers averaged 3.5 yards per carry. This time it was up to 4.1. I’ll take that improvement any day. Grade: A
Three weeks ago at Paul Brown Stadium, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times, and as usual that number would have been much higher had it not been for his fancy footwork. At Heinz Field that number dropped to 2. While that number is impressive, the Steelers offensive line did something against Cincinnati it had not done all year, including their stand-out performance against Baltimore, they imposed their will. Grade: A
Since the season opener vs. Baltimore Troy Polamalu has played up front, almost functioning as a linebacker. His role there has been run support as much as anything else. Troy played deep safety vs. the Bengals, and the run game suffered not at all. Casey Hampton, Brett Kiesel and Ziggy Hood did an good job of collapsing the pocket and assisted with pressure on Andy Dalton. Grade: B+
Don’t look now, but Lawrence Timmons led the team in tackles. James Harrison was a one man wreching crew. He’ll rightly get recognized for his 3 sacks, but he also was laying out the wood all over the field. James Farrior provided soild play in the center, and Jason Worilds did a fine job in LaMarr Woodley’s absence. Grade: A-
The secondary got caught badly in the Bengals first drive, but attoned for it by keeping Dalton’s completion percentage below 45% and picking off his replacement. Ike Taylor had an interception for the second consecutive game – perhaps a carreer first. Ryan Clark led the team in tackles, and almost had another pick and 3 defensed passes. Polamalu also defensed a pass. Grade: B+
After slipping for the last three weeks, Al Everest’s men transformed themselves into a special teams strike force to the likes that the Steelers have rarely seen. A blocked field goal, a forced and recovered fumble on a kickoff return, and punt return for a TD. Any of the three has a potential to be a momentum changer and the Steelers special teams brought in all of the above. Grade: A
You can talk all you want about nuances of game plans, personnel shifts, offensive versatility and game day adjustments. The difference in this game had little to do with the X’s and O’s. The Cincinnati Bengals started the day playing like a team that thought it was completing for a playoff spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the game playing like a team that knew it was positioning itself for a hard-fought chance at competing for a championship. And that difference starts with Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff. Grade: A
Countless Steelers earned themselves highlight reel honors vs. the Bengals. Kudos to them. But there was something different, and something thus far this season that was unique about these Steelers, and it was clearly apparent in the way the Steelers finished their first two touchdown drives. Attitude. Controlling the line of scrimmage is as much about mind-set as it as about physicality.
Doug Legursky rejoined the Steelers starting lineup last week, but was quickly tapped to play center. It would be unfair to the others to credit Legursky with sole resposiblity for the line’s improvement, but Legursky was the indepdent variable in this equation, and he’s one of those players who may be short on stature, but is long in the heart. His scrappiness was on display vs. the Bengals, and for that Doug Legursky is the Unsung Hero of the Steelers victory over the Bengals.