If there were any doubt, the Cincinnati Bengals and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton proved that they were for real today.
After racing out to a 14-0 lead, Pittsburgh went cold allowing Cincinnati to pull to within four points.
A second half meltdown by the offensive line put the game in doubt as the Bengals tied the score at 17.
But behind Roethlisberger, the Steelers went on an 11 play 81-yard drive capped off by a nine yard Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run.
While it was not pretty, it was a big win for the Steelers as they move to 7-3 heading into a much needed bye week.
Here is the grade report for the Steelers win over the Bengals.
Roethlisberger came out hot leading the Steelers right down the field on their opening possession before connecting with Jericho Cotchery for a 16-yard score.
On their very next drive, Roethlisberger would have hit Cotchery for another score, but Cotchery did not continue his route out of the break.
Cotchery would later catch another touchdown pass, but it was called back due to a Heath Miller penalty.
It was quite evident that Roethlisberger began to click some with Cotchery.
Roethlisberger spread the ball around completing 21-of-33 passes to nine different receivers, though his streak of 300-yard passing games was broken. He finished with 245 yards and a touchdown.
The lone interception of the day was a result of a bobbled pass by Miller.
For the first time in weeks, Roethlisberger found himself under a significant amount of pressure as he was sacked five times.
After the Bengals tied the game in the third quarter, Roethlisberger was masterful running the no huddle offense. He completed all four of his pass attempts and led the Steelers to the game-winning touchdown.
Season GPA: 2.89
Mendenhall had a few lanes to run in on Sunday but went down too easily. He was unable to create his own yards as he had only 44 yards on 16 carries, though he did add a 26-yard reception.
Despite the low rushing numbers, Mendenhall did come up big in the red zone where he had touchdown runs of two and nine yards.
Isaac Redman was unable to pound the ball either. In his seven attempts he gained 25 yards and was caught for an eight yard loss on a pass in which Roethlisberger was just trying to get rid of the ball before getting sacked.
Mewelde Moore had seven yards on two carries.
The lack of a rushing attack was particularly evident in the fourth quarter when the Steelers had three straight three-and-outs.
Season GPA: 2.49
Mike Wallace was just barely overthrown on what would have been another 90+ yard touchdown, but did make an impact on the day with 54 receiving yards on six receptions.
He was also effective on reverses with two that went for a combined 31 yards.
Antonio Brown was once again a star, converting key third downs in the second half en route to a five catch day. His 86 yards led all receivers.
Cotchery was more active in the offense with two receptions, one for a score. Another was called back due to a penalty.
Hines Ward caught one screen pass but was otherwise not a major part of the offense.
Season GPA: 3.14
It seemed as though Miller was going to have a big game but things would quickly turn for the Steelers star tight end.
Though he had three receptions for 31 yards, including a tough catch in which he was leveled by Reggie Nelson, Miller made a couple of critical errors.
The first was bobbling a short pass from Roethlisberger which was then intercepted by the Bengals.
It set up a Cincinnati field goal and completely changed the momentum in the Bengals’ favor.
Miller got called for a pass interference penalty on a touchdown pass to Cotchery. Pittsburgh had to settle for a field goal on the drive, which was right before the half, which gave Cincinnati a boost of confidence heading into the locker room.
Meanwhile, David Johnson added one reception and Weslye Saunders had a clutch reception in which he had to fight for first down yardage.
Season GPA: 3.01
It was a tale of two halves for Pittsburgh’s offensive line.
Roethlisberger had all kinds of time in the first half as he threw for over 150 yards. However, the second half was a different story.
The Bengals were able to get all kinds of pressure on Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offense was unable to do much of any significance.
Chris Kemoeatu struggled on the day and was flat out beat on several plays and Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert were beaten on bull rushes.
Maurkice Pouncey and Max Starks were the strong players along this unit, but overall, they allowed five sacks and while Pittsburgh was able to get over 100 yards rushing against a tough Bengals defense, they only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, taking into account two runs by Wallace.
Season GPA: 1.89
Pittsburgh was unable to generate much pressure on Andy Dalton and much of that started up front.
The Steelers could not dominate the line of scrimmage and it reflected into the success in the Bengals’ offense.
Cincinnati ran for 109 yards and an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Bernard Scott was able to shred Pittsburgh’s defense for a 5.4 yard average.
Brett Keisel had a fair day with a couple of nice stops and he did get his arms up one on play to help force an incompletion.
Casey Hampton also had a nice stop or two at the line, but it was not enough.
Ziggy Hood was missing in action.
Season GPA: 2.55
It is not often that the Steelers linebackers do not rough up a rookie quarterback. Today was one of those days.
James Harrison drew one holding call and got close a couple of times, but was unable to make any sacks.
This was the theme for the entire unit as they were only able to get a couple of pressures on the day.
It is evident that the Steelers are missing LaMarr Woodley as Jason Worilds has shown very little in his opportunities over the past two weeks.
Larry Foote was beat for a touchdown by Jermaine Grisham.
Lawrence Timmons made a big interception off of a deflected pass.
Season GPA: 2.43
There were mixed results for the defensive backs this week.
The good came from Ike Taylor and William Gay.
Taylor had solid coverage throughout the day and Gay made the game-clinching interception.
Taylor had two pass defenses while Gay was even more impressive with four.
Keenan Lewis once again showed some chinks in his armor getting beat on a couple of short routes.
Overall, though, the cornerbacks had a solid game. Even Cortez Allen had a nice stop.
The safeties gave up the big play on the day. Taylor backed off of coverage on A.J. Green and he ran right into Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
While their coverage was excellent, Clark was unable to play the ball and Polamalu just stood by and watched as Green made a fantastic touchdown reception.
Polamalu was very active near the line of scrimmage and blew up a Bengals’ receiver, corkscrewing him through the air.
Season GPA: 2.54
It was a pretty non-descript day for the special teams.
Antonio Brown was unable to do much in the punt or kick return game. It was a bit out of the ordinary as he is usually more dangerous. The Bengals had better averages in both return areas.
Shaun Suisham made his only field goal attempt in tough wind conditions and Jeremy Kapinos averaged 50.4 yards per punt, including one that was downed inside the 20.
Season GPA: 2.50
Pittsburgh came out hot in this game and looked to be on the path of dominance with a 14-0 lead. It was not meant to be as they let another inferior team hang around.
Despite having 10 more first downs and nearly an eight minute edge in time of possession, the Steelers were only able to beat the Bengals by a touchdown.
Dick LeBeau’s defense was unable to confuse Dalton, who looked very calm and collected in the pocket, though he did complete only 50 percent of his passes.
It was a game in which the Steelers needed to completely shut down the run and put the game on Dalton’s shoulders. They were unable to do so.
The Steelers did score on 75 percent of their red zone attempts and Bruce Arians called a pretty good game overall. However, in the second half Pittsburgh was confused by the Cincinnati pass rush and were unable re-establish their offensive dominance.
Mike Tomlin also needs to figure a way to have his team close out their opponents. Three consecutive three-and-outs in the fourth quarter is unacceptable.
Season GPA: 2.19
The upcoming bye week is coming at a perfect time. The Steelers came out of this game relatively healthy and will use the off week to hopefully get back LaMarr Woodley and Emmanuel Sanders.
Pittsburgh will need to continue to improve their red zone efficiency and fourth quarter offense. They need to find an effective way to put away opponents.
On the defensive side of the ball they have been too porous in defending the run and will have to get back to their dominant ways.
The Steelers need to find more ways to get to the quarterback as well. Granted, a healthy Woodley and a rested Harrison will also help in that area.
Pittsburgh will need to capitalize on their schedule down the stretch. It sets up favorably so they can still compete for an AFC North title.
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