Taken from the grade book of a sturdy Steelers scribe feels the way Pittsburgh won this this game reveals the mark of a Super Bowl contender, here is the Steelers report card for the win over the Bengals, during week 2 at Heinz Field.
Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t at his sharpest. For the day, he completed 19 of 37 passes for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Perhaps his biggest blunder of the game was an interception to Adam Jones that came on a fourth down play when he had Antonio Brown wide open. However, while it wasn’t the pretties performance for Roethlisberger, who struggled in the day-long rain at Heinz Field, he found Sammie Coates on bombs of 44 and 53 yards, respectively. And he capitalized on those huge plays by throwing touchdown passes to tight ends Xaxier Grimble and Jesse James. And Roethlisberger set up the third score–a six yard touchdown pass to running back DeAngelo Williams–by scrambling for 14 yards down to the five-yard line. Grade: C+
The sledding was a bit tougher for DeAngelo Williams in Week 2 than it was in Week 1 when he rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins. But the veteran running back was a workhorse, as he carried the ball 32 times for 94 yards. Sure, he only averaged 2.9 yards per rush, but he stayed with it and was much better in the second half. Also, he made a great play by getting himself wide open in the corner of the end zone on his six-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. Grade: B-
It was a tough day for Antonio Brown, as he was bottled up by the Bengals secondary to the tune of just four receptions for 39 yards. Brown even had an uncharacteristic drop during the game, which more than likely was a result of his frustrations. However, the young Sammie Coates was a very welcome sight; he caught just two passes, but they were for 44 and 53 yards, respectively, and set up two of Pittsburgh’s three touchdowns. Grade: C
Maybe the Steelers do miss free agent Ladarius Green, but his absence has yet to manifest itself early in the 2016 season. While understudies Jesse James and Xavier Grimble didn’t exactly dazzle against the Bengals (they combined for five catches for 55 yards), they pulled in one touchdown each. On Grimble’s score, he displayed great athleticism, by catching a Ben Roethlisberger pass at the five-yard line, shaking free of a defender and diving over the goal line for the score. As for James’ touchdown catch, he showed the value of his 6-7 frame by leaping up to snag an intentionally high pass in the end zone as he was surrounded by several Bengals defenders. Grade: B
The Steelers very talented offensive line had its hands full all day against Cincinnati’s equally talented defensive line. Roethlisberger may have only been sacked once, but he was under pressure a great deal of the day. As for the running game, again, the going was tough, but the hogs upfront managed to stay consistent, and Williams churned out more yards in the second half than he did in the first. Grade: B-
The Bengals only rushed for 46 yards on the day, so kudos to the line for doing its job and containing a talented duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The pressure wasn’t there, as the defense got to quarterback Andy Dalton just once. But, as they say, the other team is on scholarship, too, and the Bengals allowed just two sacks a game in 2015. Cameron Heyward appeared to show no ill-effects from his high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason; and Stephon Tuitt was active, as he totaled four tackles and a quarterback hit. Grade: B-
Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was once again all over the place, as he recorded 11 tackles (five solo). It was also a very solid game for Lawrence Timmons, who tallied six solo tackles. And what can you say about the veteran James Harrison? He only had one tackle on the day, but it came at the end of the game, and resulted in a game-saving fumble by Tyler Boyd, just when it looked like the Bengals were driving for the potential tying score. Grade: A-
While Andy Dalton passed for 366 yards on the day, the secondary did a fairly good job of keeping plays in front of them and tackling the catch. Safety Robert Golden was especially impressive, as he posted nine tackles (five solo), had the presence of mind to push tight end C.J. Ozomah out of the back of the end zone before he could get both feet in bounds on a second and goal pass in the third quarter, when the Bengals were were trailing 17-6 (they ultimately had to settle for a field goal) and recovered the Boyd fumble that sealed the deal at the end. As for rookie cornerback Artie Burns, there was the good: he broke up a touchdown pass late in the first half and forced the Bengals to settle for three; and there was the bad: he missed a tackle late in the game on a 25-yard touchdown catch and run by Bernard. But much kudos has to be given to Ross Cockrell who had the tough task of covering A.J. Green and helped limit him to just 38 yards on two catches. Grade: B-
Jordan Berry had an awesome day, averaging 47.1 yards on eight punts. The average starting field position for the Bengals after Berry’s punts was the 13-yard line; and he downed five of his kicks inside the 10. As for Chris Boswell, he remains Mr. Consistency, as he connected on all three extra points during a game-long rainstorm and made a 49-yard field goal in the first half to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead. Grade: A
In a game that could have gotten out of control, given the recent history between the two teams, Mike Tomlin’s troops were quite disciplined. While the hitting was hard, it wasn’t dirty, and Pittsburgh was only penalized five times for 54 yards, with none of those infractions being of the unsportsmanlike or unnecessary roughness variety.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler appeared to employ a bend but don’t break strategy, by allowing short passes over the middle and preventing big plays over the top. The Bengals racked up a ton of yards (412, total), but three trips inside the red zone resulted in three Mike Nugent field goals.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn’t have an enviable job. Not only did he have to deal with the Bengals stout and talented defense; he had to deal with the elements. However, he remained very consistent with the ground game, calling 34 traditional running plays, even if they only resulted in 106 yards. As for the passing game, while the Bengals contained Brown, three long passes to Coates resulted in two big completions that set up two of the three touchdowns. Grade: A