Steelers vs. Bengals: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Pittsburgh
As far as players go, some Steelers had great individual performances that really showed in the grades. It was a physical game, and several Steelers matched that level of play.
On the other hand, there were some players who really struggled in one or more facets of the game, and as one might expect, it really hurt them on paper. No one expects perfection, but certainly there is significant room for improvement.
Unless specified elsewhere, all stats are provided courtesy of NFL.com.
Let's hand out some grade for each of the Steelers players against the Bengals.
There are few quarterbacks who can do more with less like Roethlisberger can. But on this night, Roethlisberger flashed, and unfortunately fizzled.
Ben finished the game with a modest 251 yards passing and one touchdown. Roethlisberger also threw a late interception that stopped any hope of a comeback.
But more than the rather pedestrian stats, it was some of the throws that Ben made and missed that defined this grade.
His touchdown pass to Derek Moye on a fade is one of the hardest throws to make in all of football. On that one, Ben made it look easy. There were a few other occasions, however, where he sailed some simple out routes to open receivers. A few drives stalled as a result.
Even though it was clear Roethlisberger was working under duress with skill players that weren't providing much help, his grade takes a hit for the plays that he left on the field. If things continue in this vein, don't be shocked to see Roethlisberger begin to press, and more mistakes to come as a result.
Felix Jones: D
If there was a silver lining among the Steelers running backs on Monday night, it was Jones. That being said, that silver lining was tarnished at best. It was clear Jones was supposed to be the feature back and had the most carries (10) of any Steelers player. However, aside from a 14-yard scamper, Jones was kept almost completely in check.
Jones showed average vision, missing obvious creases and clearly lacking that burst that he entered the league with. At this point, it is hard to tell exactly what type of running back Jones wants to be—what's worse, he is not doing very well at any approach.
Isaac Redman: F
It is hard to grade out a player on only three carries, but after clocking only four rushing yards, it becomes a smidgen easier. He did add two catches, but again the results were minimal.
With few opportunities to go around, Redman lost any chance to stay on the field when he failed to be patient and set up his blocks, causing him to miss out on potential positive plays.
Jonathan Dwyer: F
If Dwyer was brought back to help the run game, it wasn't on Monday. Dwyer was able to muster exactly one carry, and almost on queue, failed to show any explosion or vision. There was nothing on Monday night to indicate that Dwyer is going to get any more touches going forward.
Antonio Brown: B+
Brown had a very good game. He had 11 targets, made six catches, and even had one 33-yard reception called back on a penalty. On another target, he drew a 24-yard pass interference call.
Obviously, it would have been ideal if Brown had been able to make more catches, or perhaps find the end zone, but all in all a very nice performance from the Steelers' top wide receiver.
Emmanuel Sanders: B+
Sanders, like Brown, had a very solid performance. He was targeted nine times, making five catches for 78 yards. Of Sanders four targets that he missed on, two of the throws were so poor it is hard to count them against Sanders.
Jerricho Cotchery: C-
This was a forgettable game for Cotchery. Jerricho was targeted nine times, had three drops and finished the game with a three catch, 59-yard performance. Roethlisberger kept going back to the well, but it wasn't until late in the game that Cotchery finally found some rhythm, and by then it was too late.
Derek Moye: A
Moye earns an A, even though he finished the game with only one catch on one target for only a single yard. Makes no sense, right? The situation under which this catch happened was high-pressure and Moye showed up big.
Moye came in cold, and on first-and-goal, as a rookie going against a seven-year vet in Leon Hall, pulled in a perfectly thrown fade for a touchdown. Tremendous poise for a young player who really needs to be on the field more.
David Paulson: C-
If all you did was look at the box score, you might be inclined to rate Paulson higher. A 3-catch, 49-yard night isn't bad for a reserve tight end. But it was the one inexcusable play that crushes what Paulson did.
Early in the game, Paulson had a 33-yard reception negated as he had the ball stripped, and he didn't even bother to make the effort to go after the loose football. He chose instead to hop up and celebrate, assuming he was down by contact.
This stalled out a drive that could have definitely turned into points and was a huge swing in momentum early in the game. That play illustrates the problems this team has at the tight end position perfectly.
Mike Adams: C-
Overall, Adams had a better game than he did the previous week against the Tennessee Titans in pass protection. The Bengals defensive front is powerful, and Adams held up well at the point of attack against a multitude of fronts and players.
One play in particular, Adams pulled and was the lead blocker on a quick screen to Antonio Brown. He got out front and did a very good job in space. This was a flash of what Adams is capable of.
As a run blocker, Adams struggled more. He struggled to hold his blocks, missed some assignments and got beat by quicker players.
Ramon Foster: D+
If it weren't for lack of replacements, Foster wouldn't have a starting spot. He is slow and lumbering and got pushed around by the Bengals front. Foster also failed to open any run lanes, and while he didn't give up any sacks, he allowed the Bengals defensive lineman to pressure Roethlisberger much of the game.
Fernando Velasco: B-
When you consider that Velasco was out of work a week ago, he was a very pleasant surprise. He was calling out protections and making the line calls like he had been with the team all year.
He was part of the sack that Geno Atkins got on Roethlisberger late in the game, but all things considered, he played very well.
Going forward, Velasco should continue to improve. But for one night, when the offensive line was very average, Velasco was a standout.
David DeCastro: B-
DeCastro had a tough draw as he often had to block the massive Domata Peko with no help to the inside. DeCastro held his own, minus the one play where he and Marcus Gilbert folded up and gave up a big sack to Roethlisberger.
Steelers fans also got to see DeCastro do more pulling than he had the previous week, and that's where he shines. Displaying nice footwork and excellent hands, DeCastro did a nice job in run blocking. Unfortunately, his teammates did little to help him out.
Marcus Gilbert: C-
Gilbert didn't have the type of game many expected of him. Yes, the task was daunting against Carlos Dunlap, but Gilbert is a huge man and has flashed excellent skill.
Tonight, though, it didn't show itself. Runs to the right stalled out when running backs were unable to get outside, and much of the pressure Roethlisberger saw was from that edge.
Brett Keisel: B+
Keisel had a very good all-around game. He was constantly harassing Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and seemed to be chasing down run plays from sideline-to-sideline. Keisel finished the game with only three total tackles, but he hit Dalton multiple times and forced outside run plays back inside on more than one occasion to allow others to make a play.
Ziggy Hood: B-
Hood had a quiet but productive game. The Bengals were very content running the football, especially late. Hood ended up with six tackles and was in the pile on many of those inside runs. Hood didn't have much impact in the passing game, but showed himself as a solid run defender today.
Steve McLendon: C-
In a base 3-4, the role of the nose tackle is to eat up blocks and allow the players behind them to make plays. McLendon failed at that on Monday night. He was able to be blocked by only the Bengals center and allowed that inside zone run to work over and over again. Some of that could be due to injury, but some was simply McLendon missing on his assignments.
This team is accustomed to having a massive nose tackle presence to force double teams, and on Monday, McLendon was not that guy.
Cameron Heyward: B+
Heyward gets high marks, not for the stats he put up, but because when he was put into the game, the Bengals changed their strategy. The Bengals found it much tougher sledding when Heyward moved inside and starting working their run game to the outside.
Heyward almost certainly earned himself more reps with his performance on Monday night.
Jarvis Jones: A-
The rookie linebacker had a great game. Not only did he lead the team in tackles with six solo stops, but he is also evolving as a pass rusher. Jones didn't get every snap but is showing much better timing and technique.
More than once, Jones was able to turn the corner and work back to Andy Dalton, disrupting his timing. He and Woodley are becoming an excellent pairing.
Jones has violent hands and did a very good job clearing blockers and working to the football. Jones also had another signature play as he raced down the line of scrimmage to stop BenJarvus Green-Ellis for no gain.
LaMarr Woodley: A-
Woodley didn't finish with the tackles of Jones, but he was every bit as disruptive, especially rushing the passer. It is obvious that Woodley is finally healthy, and he looks to be ready to break out and start putting up some serious numbers.
Lawrence Timmons: B+
Timmons had another excellent game. He was asked to do it all yet again and was a star. It's expected that Timmons will play well in all phases of the game, and he did not disappoint. Timmons did a nice job in coverage but really showed his skills in how quickly he can diagnose the play and close on the football.
Vince Williams: B
The rookie Williams split snaps with Kion Wilson, but overall Williams had a better game. Vince finished the game with seven total tackles and had some really big hits late in the game. Williams was flying all over the field and can only improve with more snaps.
Kion Wilson: C+
Wilson is included on this list only because the coaching staff continued to trot him out for a good portion of the game. But overall, Wilson's skills are average and his production matched it. He got pushed around in run support and allowed some long plays that he should have at least given himself an opportunity to make a play on. Going forward, Wilson's reps will probably diminish in favor of Williams.
Jason Worilds: C-
Worilds was used as part of a rotation with Jones at outside linebacker. But Worilds was basically invisible when he was on the field. He was unable to turn the corner on pass rushes, got caught up in the wash on run plays and finished with only a single tackle.
Ike Taylor: A
Taylor was brilliant in coverage. The Steelers coaches paired Taylor up with star wide receiver A.J. Green for the entire game and he shined. Only allowing six catches to one of the best wide receivers in the league is no small feat.
And even beyond the coverage, which was stellar, when Taylor did give up a catch, he made the tackle. Taylor had one job, and he did it at a very high level on Monday night.
William Gay: B
Other than Taylor, the Steelers were playing a lot of soft coverage, Gay included. This means he gave up some catches and was asked instead to keep plays in front of him and make the tackle. The longest reception Gay allowed was 16 yards, so all in all he did a nice job.
Gay also did a very good job in run support. The Bengals ran the ball 34 times, so it was all hands on deck in run support and Gay wasn't shy about sticking his nose in there and making a hit.
Shamarko Thomas: B-
Thomas, a rookie strong safety, was called into service as the nickel cornerback role. And in the final analysis, Shamarko did well. He was often lined up against players six or seven inches taller than him, but he never backed down. Big points for that.
Thomas has a bright future as a safety, but for now he is just fine in the cornerback role, especially one who can defend the run like he can.
Ryan Clark: B-
Overall, Clark had a very typical game for him by flying to the football, making seven tackles and being around the ball most of the game. However, he did have a lapse or two in coverage and allowed a couple of long plays.
The biggest problem was in many cases, Clark was just too far off the ball to make a play and watched plays get made in front of him. This made grading his overall game more of a challenge.
Polamalu was, well, Polamalu. He found his way to the football to the count of nine tackles and was all over the football field the entire game. Polamalu spent a good portion of the game up and around the line of scrimmage, and as is the case, got caught up in the wash on run plays to the other side of the field.
But, no matter what, Polamalu is healthy and made sure that he had to be accounted for on every play.
Kick Returner Felix Jones: B
Jones complied 54 return yards on two returns.
Punt Returner Antonio Brown: B+
Brown has two returns for an 18-yard average, which included a 40-yard return.
Kicker Shaun Suisham: B
Suisham had a 44-yard field goal and one extra point.
Punter Zoltan Mesko: B+
Mesko punted seven times and finished with a 42.7 yard average.