As always, I’ll add the caveat that no other “grades” were consulted.
On the plus side, the Bengals blitzed Ben at a ferocious pace, and he hung in there. On the down side, Roethlisberger looked rusty underthrowing Mike Wallace several times, missing Randal El on a key throw, and his interception was one of the worst passes I have ever seen him throw. Grade: C-
Mendenhall only wracked up 99 yards, but his running on the Steelers last drive evoked memories of power rushing not seen in Pittsburgh since the days of Barry Foster. His effort should have been enough. Grade: B
Mike Wallace was the only reciver to put up any numbers of any significance, but he made his catches count. As did Health Miller, Matt Speath, and Hines Ward. Grade: B
Another rough night on the injury front, and that was before learning that Max Starks was lost for the season. The lines protection of Ben was shakey, as was its run blocking, but they transformed themselves into the kind of road graders that smash mouth football pruests fantasize about on Pittsburgh’s final drive. Grade: C+
Brett Kesiel could only go for a few snaps, so that left it up to Casey Hampton, Ziggy Hood, and Nick Eason. The three men held Cedric Benson to 3 yards per carry and helped open lanes for the linebackers. Still, Casey Hampton’s roughing the passer penalty helped put Cincinnati in position to score. Grade: B+
Another monster night for the linebackers. James Harrison, James Farrior, and LaMarr Woodley all had sacks, and Lawrence Timmon’s interception was key. No better linebacking corps exists in the NFL. Grade: A
There is no way to sugar coat it. T.O. had is way with the Steelers secondary. Ike Taylor’s pass interference, albeit it was on the ticky-tacky side, got Cincinnati back into the game. At the end of the day, Cincinnati failed to convert, and the secondary had a role in making that happen. Grade: C
A year ago special teams was a debilitating liability. Al Everest is transforming them into an awesome asset. The plays they made in the first quarter were the difference in this game. Nonetheless, the missed field goal cannot be overlooked. Grade: B+
Penalties are often a sign of poor coaching, and the high number of post-snap flags were uncharacteristic of this team. This was a see-saw battle as the Bengals did not quit. Dick LeBeau made sure he kept up the pressure through out Cincinnati’s final drive, and his players delivered. Grade: B
So many guys made plays, so many guys stepped up. This week Doug Legursky and Jonathan Scott split the unsung hero award, both of whom shuffled in and out of different positions on the line at the drop of a dime. With Max Starks out this kind of agility is going to be more and more important down the stretch.