Pittsburgh Steelers: Positional Grade Report for Win Against the Bengals

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: Positional Grade Report for Win Against the Bengals

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers went into playoff mode this week. They thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-7, in one of the most complete games they have played all season.

    Pittsburgh’s offense scored touchdowns on all four trips to the red zone, and the defense forced a turnover and held the Bengals to only one score. Even the special teams came up big on Sunday with a blocked field goal and a punt return touchdown.

    This is the type of production from all phases of the game that the Steelers need over the final quarter of the season.

    The win ensures that Pittsburgh will at least keep pace with the top teams in the AFC as they battle for home-field advantage.

    Here is the positional grade report for the Steelers win against the Chiefs.

Quarterback: B+

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    Ben Roethlisberger was not spectacular but he did not have to be. Early in the game, he had a couple of dropped passes from his receivers, or else he would have had a more productive day.

    Though the Steelers did not connect on a deep ball, Roethlisberger did get a pass interference call when throwing long to Mike Wallace. He also just missed on a deep pass to Hines Ward.

    Roethlisberger was his typical self, moving around the pocket and doing his best to avoid sacks. He threw two touchdown passes while connecting on 15-of-23 passes for 176 yards.

    Charlie Batch replaced Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter, but that was not before he completed the 2,026th pass of his career to set the team’s all-time record ahead of Terry Bradshaw.


    Season GPA: 2.91

Running Backs: B+

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    Rashard Mendenhall helped the Steelers red zone woes go away. He scored from three and five yards out on two second-quarter runs to give Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead.

    Mendenhall ran hard on the day and had several nice carries, finding small holes created by the line. He only had 16 carries, but managed 60 yards.

    Isaac Redman provided a physical ground attack with 51 yards on only eight carries. His big run of the day was a 27-yard carry, which appeared to be stopped for no gain. Redman spun off a defender and rumbled for the big carry.

    The top two backs provided positive yardage on virtually every carry and helped the Steelers control the clock.

    Mewelde Moore had a 13-yard carry on a 3rd-and-long draw play, and Jonathan Dwyer carried the ball three times at the end of the game.


    Season GPA: 2.58

Wide Receivers: B+

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    The Steelers receivers had some dropped passes early and it appeared as though the offense would not be able to get in gear as they weren’t versus Kansas City.

    That did not last for long as they got past the drops and had a productive day.

    The big story for the game was Hines Ward’s five receptions for 30 yards. While the numbers were not big, they make him the 19th player in NFL history to reach 12,000 receiving yards. He is now only 10 receptions away from 1,000 for his career.

    Wallace also had a nice bounce-back game after a disappointing showing last week. He drew a long pass interference penalty to help set up a touchdown and scored on two of his three receptions.

    His second touchdown was a nice 19-yard score on a catch and run.

    Antonio Brown only had two receptions, but one went for 45 yards. Late in the game, he got hit hard in the chest on a pass attempt from Batch.

    On the day, Pittsburgh’s receivers were running a lot of intermediate and deep routes, and at times, were covered well by a depleted Bengals secondary. However, they made the big plays when called upon and were big contributors to the victory.


    Season GPA: 3.08

Tight Ends: B-

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    Heath Miller was called for a penalty and got beat badly on one particular one play in which the Bengals stuffed the Steelers.

    He had two receptions for 12 yards and let a tough pass go off of his hands.

    Meanwhile, Weslye Saunders flashed more potential as a receiving tight end on a nice route in which he caught a 14-yard pass. He could become a bigger part of the offense as the season progresses.

    David Johnson had several nice blocks in front of the running backs and was the receiver on the end of Roethlisberger’s record setting completion.


    Season GPA: 2.93

Offensive Line: B-

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    Roethlisberger was sacked three times, though one or two could have been attributed to him holding onto the ball.

    Another sack, Starks was completely beaten and barely even touched his man off of the snap.

    However, on a couple of the sacks, the receivers weren’t open either, so it was a full team effort.

    The line had to work shorthanded once again after Ramon Foster left with an injury. He was replaced by Trai Essex, who did a fair job besides a holding penalty.

    It was one of their better run blocking efforts of the season as well, as Pittsburgh ran for 136 yards with an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

    More importantly, the line was effective in the red zone, where the Steelers were perfect on the day.


    Season GPA: 1.88

Defensive Line: B-

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    Running the ball was too easy for Cincinnati. If the game was closer, this could have been a much bigger problem than what it was.

    The Bengals ran for 104 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Cedric Benson had 52 yards on 13 carries.

    Casey Hampton had a decent game in which he was able to collapse the line on some plays, but he also was easily blocked by one lineman on others.

    Brett Keisel had an excellent game, as he was disruptive throughout. He was effective defending against the run and was able to apply pressure on Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski.


    Season GPA: 2.57

Linebackers: B+

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    It was supposed to be LaMarr Woodley’s big return, but that did not last very long, as he left the game with tightness in his hamstring. He was replaced by Jason Worilds.

    Nothing against Worilds, but his play isn’t in the same league as Woodley’s or as James Harrison’s.

    Harrison had a monster game with three sacks, including one in which he was hitting Dalton within a blink of the eye of the snap.

    The pressure was needed, as Dalton was too comfortable in the first half.

    James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons had productive days, though did nothing spectacular. Timmons quietly led the team with eight tackles.


    Season GPA: 2.49

Defensive Backs: B+

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    Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield played well yet again, holding Dalton to under 50 percent passing and came up with yet another interception.

    Ike Taylor elevated in front of A.J. Green to make his second interception in as many weeks.

    This was a highlight for Taylor on an otherwise average day, as Green caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

    William Gay had a solid day, as did Keenan Lewis, who you actually would not even have known was on the field since nothing seemed to go his way.

    Ryan Clark made a great play on a ball, which was surprisingly caught by Jermaine Gresham, and he would later just miss an interception.

    Troy Polamalu showed no signs of a concussion, as he delivered an outstanding hit in which he punched the ball loose to force an incompletion.


    Season GPA: 2.64

Special Teams: A

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    Pittsburgh had an outstanding day on special teams.

    Besides not allowing any big returns, they had a blocked field goal and a punt return for a touchdown.

    After a Cincinnati penalty on their first drive, Cameron Heyward penetrated the middle of the Bengals line to block a field goal to keep the game scoreless.

    Late in the second quarter, Antonio Brown had an outstanding 60-yard punt return for a score. This was set up following an excellent block by Curtis Brown.

    Stevenson Sylvester joined the party with a forced fumbled, which would set up a Steelers score.

    The special teams created a 17-point swing in the Steelers' favor, and it was easily their best game of the season.


    Season GPA: 2.64

Coaching: A-

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    There is not much to complain about in a 35-7 performance over a solid division rival; however, I will nitpick some.

    Pittsburgh came out on their first drive with the dreaded wide receiver screen and what seems like the first time in a long while did not score on their opening possession.

    The defense was pretty slow in the first half as well, as Dalton was able to sit back in the pocket and had all of the time in the world to throw. This nearly came back to haunt the Steelers, as they seemed to sleepwalk after going up 21-7.

    The offense went in a daze as well, as the Steelers were looking downfield rather than just moving the ball up field with quick passes.

    With that said, the team bounced back in a big way from last week and put on a dominating performance which involved a lot of different personnel.


    Season GPA: 2.28

Study Up: What Must Improve

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    The red zone problems were finally fixed this week, and the results showed in a big way. The Steelers need to maintain this production as they enter their final four games.

    A disappointing aspect to take from this game was the third down efficiency. Pittsburgh only converted on 2-of-10 third downs. That is simply not good enough.

    Pittsburgh needs to better position themselves on third downs and improve their efficiency in this area. They do not have much time to fix this area with a short week coming up. The next game is at home Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns.


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