Steelers Report Card vs. Bengals @ Paul Brown Stadium

From the grade book of a teacher who is glad to see his star pupil finally passed one of those standardized tests which had bedeviled him, here is the Steelers Report Card for their victory over Cincinnati. As a caveat, no other report cards were consulted prior to this posting.

How good was Ben Roethlisberger? How about the fact that he gets a good grade inspite of the fact that interception cost the team at least three points and that his fumble set up seven for Cincinnati? His errors were costly, but he atoned for those by getting the team on the board with a touchdown and a 2 point conversion to close the half. Roethlisberger excelled on third down, and would have done even better had he not suffered multiple drops. Grade:  B

Running Back 
For the first time since draft day 2010, Jonathan Dwyer looked like the steal he was supposed to be. He hit the holes hard and with determination  and refused to stop moving his legs until the whistle blew. Chris Rainey likewise made good on a beautiful 11 yard go ahead touchdown run. Will Johnson played well and about the only negative was Baron Batch’s dropped touchdown. Grade: A

Wide Receiver
Do the Steelers have a better, more versatile athlete than Antonio Brown? Brown threw, he rushed, he caught, he returned and he did an incredible job of making yards after the catch. Heath Miller did little besides catch passes in the end zone. Oscar worthy injury aside, Emmanuel Sanders is beginning to remind me of a young Hines Ward, simply because Sanders is establishing himself as a player who delivers when you need a catch. Should Mike Wallace wonder why, despite being an every play home run threat, no one sacrificed a first round draft pick and Larry Fitzgerald like money, he need only review tape of his dropped touchdowns and dropped third down passes. Grade:  B

Offensive Line
Take away Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert and what do you get? The line’s best night of the year. For the first time since moving to guard, Willie Colon reminded everyone of why he was once considered the team’s best offensive lineman. Mike Adams got his first start, and while he did have some hiccups he did well. The run blocking was stupendous, especially when it needed to be, although Ben Roethlisberger faced a heavier pass rush than he has lately, which brings the grade down a little.  Grade:  B

Defensive Line
When the game started, it looked like the Law Firm and co. were going to run all over the Steelers. But the line, like the rest of the defense, made the necessary adjustments. Ziggy Hood led the unit with 2 tackles and had two passes defensed. Casey Hampton completely stoned Green-Ellis late in the game when Cincinnati was desperate to move the ball. I’d still like to see a little more from the line, but they did shut down the run and collapse the pocket.  Grade:  B-

LaMarr Woodley’s interception turned the game, but that was the unit’s only splash play. Woodley was also credited with two pressures. Lawrence Timmons led the unit in tackles but otherwise did not make much noise. James Harrison did not register a single stat, which obviously must raise an eyebrow. Larry Foote was solid in run support.  Grade:  B-

Ike Taylor trashed the media this week, but then backed up his words with actions. A.J. Green only had one catch. Yes, it was a touchdown, but that ball was perfectly thrown. Keenan Lewis not only kept his man quiet, but also saved a touchdown with a brilliant play. Ryan Clark’s value to this unit cannot be underestimated. He was simply around the ball all night. His counterparts, Will Allen and Ryan Mundy, however, could have done more in run support.  Bottom line is Cincinnati could not throw the ball in the second half, despite getting 3 drives in the 4th quarter alone. Grade:  A

Special Teams
Let’s start with the positives. Shaun Suisham not only went 3-3, but they were all from 40 yards plus. Antonio Brown and Chris Rainy also showed themselves to be excellent return men…. When their runs aren’t getting nullified by penalties. Seriously, it’s getting to the point where spectators naturally expect to see a flag after a Steelers return. This contributed to the Oakland defeat, and could have done so again. These must stop. The kickoff return unit also allowed a 45 yard return to start the 2nd half. That was also the only drive where the Bengals scored. Coincidence? Don’t fool yourself. Suisham’s kicking is all that keeps this grade above the line.  Grade:  C-

Since the day he arrived in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin has preached “The Standard is The Standard.” The Steelers early 2012 injury woes have not caused Tomlin to alter his tone. The Steelers had given up four 4th quarter leads in four straight road losses. They went into Cincinnati with sans four starters and a key back up. Yet, The Standard remained The Standard.

Todd Haley called an excellent game, and had it not been for drops at key moments, conservatively speaking, the Steelers could have easily scored two more touchdowns. Dick LeBeau not only made the necessary adjustments, he and Tomlin were wise enough to put their faith in Ike Taylor, he played his best game of the season. The Steelers could have started stronger, and one would like to see the offense add to those 4th quarter leads, but all and all a solid night for the coaches. Grade:  B+

Unsung Hero
The great thing about the Bengals game is that so many players stepped up. Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Chris Rainey and others have gotten their due. There’s one man however, who quietly stepped in and maintained The Standard. Willie Colon rightly is credited for having a monster night, but the truth is he can’t do it if the guy next to him isn’t taking care of business. And business was taken care of in the center, and for that Doug Legursky is the Unsung Hero of the Steelers victory over the Bengals.

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