It would be very easy to say that in the Steelers' blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals every unit should grade out with an A.
But a dominating victory on the scoreboard does not always mean everyone will get perfect marks.
Here's a look at how each unit for the Pittsburgh Steelers grades out after the team's huge win against the Bengals at Heinz Field.
Ben Roethlisberger didn't have to throw for 300 yards or make a dozen or so huge plays for the Steelers to win. All he had to do was be effective and play mistake-free football.
He did that.
The "A" might be a good grade for him, but I was a little upset that he didn't do more to protect his thumb. When he first hurt his foot, Roethlisberger was getting rid of the ball quickly and avoiding those long periods of holding the ball and taking hits.
He took too many hits that were on him in this game, so the sacks are what brings the grade down slightly. Outside of that, his 15-of-23, two-touchdown performance earns the highest marks.
Running Backs: A+
Rumors of the death of the team's rushing attack are apparently very exaggerated.
This was where the Steelers won the game; they completely outplayed the Bengals when it came to physical elements. There's no better example than in the running game, where Rashard Mendenhall scored twice and continually pushed the Bengals back.
Isaac Redman also had a nice day with some big runs. Redman has made a name for himself as a tough runner who gets the big yards in the middle of the field.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
Nothing to argue here, and another milestone for Hines Ward (12,000 receiving yards). Mike Wallace caught two touchdowns and Antonio Brown made some of his usual highlight-reel plays on some big pass attempts.
Heath Miller and the team's tight ends were also big in this game since the Steelers ran a lot of two and three-tight end packages. They stepped up. The play of Weslye Saunders also continues to impress.
The Steelers' offensive line did a good job in pass-blocking. The only obvious glitch was a play in which Max Starks completely missed a block that led to a Ben Roethlisberger sack. Those plays are becoming more and more rare across the line, something that seemed unbelievable at the beginning of the year.
The sacks today were mostly on Roethlisberger, so I won't penalize the grade on the line. They also managed to avoid major penalties for holding, which made a big difference when you consider that the Bengals were penalized for more than 100 yards.
As the run-blocking goes, so goes the running game. On Sunday, the running game went great because the Steelers were able to get good, consistent push up front.
Some of the best blocks in this area came from Doug Legursky, who's developing very well as a left guard. He pulled on a couple of big runs and looked almost like Alan Faneca. Legursky has a long way to go to get there, but his growth is very evident on this game tape.
The Bengals' huge defensive front was largely neutralized by the line, something that has been difficult for many teams.
Cedric Benson was effective early in this game, but was eventually taken away thanks to the huge score deficit. When the Bengals were still executing their game plan, I wasn't very impressed with the run-defense.
Troy Polamalu wasn't a big factor here as he usually is, and he was obviously tentative on several plays a week after sustaining a nasty blow to the head. His absence put more pressure on the front. They played OK, but weren't the unit they usually have been in past seasons.
Led by James Harrison's huge day (three sacks), the defensive front was excellent in keeping Andy Dalton under pressure and on edge all day. Dalton wasn't able to hang in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open, and it showed.
The line was particularly effective today. Brett Keisel continues to be a beast, and Ziggy Hood has quietly stepped up his game as well. This was a nice team effort up front.
Run Support: C+
The secondary was mediocre in run support. As I said previously, a lot of their work here goes to Troy Polamalu, who comes up to the line to make plays by jumping the snap count. He was able to do that, but his tentative play in the wake of his injury made him mostly ineffective.
Now, the "C+" grade is reflective of that, but also of the full defense's continued close calls with opposing runners, who've been able to break long gains and avoid tackles. The secondary has missed a lot of tackles that have led to first downs, which needs to be sewn up before a running back finds a way to beat this team.
Ike Taylor made his second interception of the season (I'm still trying to confirm reports of record-low temperatures and snowfall in hell) and also played some excellent coverage on A.J. Green (save for one play).
The rest of the secondary did a nice job of keeping plays in front of them. Their efforts were certainly helped by the excellent pass-rush, but they didn't allow any huge plays that could have broken their backs.
Overall, an excellent job.
Coverage Units: A
The coverage units allowed virtually nothing of any consequence.
The big news on the coverage units was that they had a field goal block. Cameron Heyward has really been a superb rookie, and made one of three big special teams plays by blocking a first-possession field goal attempt by Mike Nugent.
Finally, the Steelers forced a big turnover on special teams when Emmanuel Sanders recovered a fumble on a kick return. The fumble, forced by Stevenson Sylvester, helped demolish any momentum the Bengals hoped to attain.
Return Game: A+
Antonio Brown scored the Steelers' first touchdown on a punt return since Santonio Holmes in 2008 against the Carolina Panthers.
That play, probably more than anything, broke the back of Cincinnati, who then fell behind 28-7 before the half and was unable to generate anything afterwards.
Shaun Suisham missed from 50 yards, but there's no shame in that at Heinz Field. Jeremy Kapinos continues to boot monster punts. A 55-yard blast from his leg in the middle of the game effectively altered Cincinnati's hopes after they stopped the Steelers deep in their own territory.
Kapinos may just be making a case for being the permanent punter, especially considering how rough the injury road has been on Daniel Sepulveda.
Offensive Strategy: A
Nicely done, Bruce Arians.
The Steelers changed things up and were back to a slashing running game on Sunday. Rashard Mendenhall scored twice, and Isaac Redman had some huge, gashing runs.
The Steelers protected Ben Roethlisberger from serious injury concern by taking the air out of the ball and keeping things on the ground. When they did throw the ball, the Steelers were able to keep things off-balance, and Roethlisberger spread the ball around.
Defensive Strategy: A-
Minus for the running game, but tremendous work in the passing game.
Carnell Lake has my vote for assistant coach of the year for the work he's done with the Pittsburgh secondary. They've been inspired all season, but never better than the last two weeks. They do what they're supposed to do: Make bad quarterbacks look bad, and make good quarterbacks struggle.
The front is better and better, although we'll have to see what happens with LaMarr Woodley's injury. Jason Worilds has played well in his absence, too.
Dick LeBeau did a masterful job of dialing up the pressure today and also kept Andy Dalton off-balance with a lot of different looks (bringing James Harrison for a sack, then dropping him into coverage later out of the same formation).