Steelers Report Card: Game 12 vs Bengals

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QUARTERBACKS B+

Ben Roethlisberger failed to pass for more than 200 yards again, but this performance was much more efficient than the one in KC. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and two TDs, both to Mike Wallace; his passer rating was 117.3, second highest this season; plus, no interceptions. He made the play on Wallace's first TD, rolling to the right to keep the play alive and firing to the right side stripe.

RUNNING BACKS B

The Steelers paid more attention to the run, especially when they used it to build a 28-7 first-half lead. They finished with 136 yards on 33 carries -- their highest total in six games -- with 74 in the first half. Rashard Mendenhall scored two TDs, the latter on a nice 5-yard cutback, and Isaac Redman chipped in with 51 yards and a tough 6.4-yard average on just eight carries. His 27-yard run set up the final TD.

WIDE RECEIVERS A-

Mike Wallace had only three catches but two for TDs, the latter on a 19-yard catch-and-run in which he cut through five defenders. Antonio Brown sparked the first-half surge with big plays as a receiver -- a 45-yard catch-and-run to set up the first TD -- and return specialist. Give the coaches credit for getting five catches for Hines Ward, who went over 12,000 yards and needs 10 more catches to hit 1,000.

OFFENSIVE LINE B

It was a solid effort up front despite the two first-half sacks on Roethlisberger. The running game produced a lot of tough inside runs and averaged 4.1 yards per carry -- not great, but better than it has been. Also, four runs of 13 yards or longer offered something else that has been missing. Not bad against a rush defense that ranked fifth in the NFL and was allowing just 92.7 yards per game.

DEFENSIVE LINE B

It was a strong performance when it mattered, especially from NT Casey Hampton and DE Brett Keisel, who did a nice job pressuring QB Andy Dalton. The Bengals rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries, but a lot of that was built after the Steelers set up a big lead and expected them to pass. Cameron Heyward provided the big spark when he blocked Mike Nugent's 33-yard field goal on the first series.

LINEBACKERS A-

LaMarr Woodley's return ended early when it became apparent he had trouble with a hamstring injury that kept him out for three games. But once the Steelers built a 28-7 lead, James Harrison was turned loose and registered three sacks for the second time in four games. All three sacks were on first down, each resulting in series of three-and-out.

DEFENSIVE BACKS B+

QB Andy Dalton struggled in his second meeting against Dick LeBeau's defense, completing just 11 of 24 passes for 135 yards and a 77.6 rating. CB Ike Taylor, despite a nice leaping interception, had a tough time with rookie WR A.J. Green, getting beat for a 43-yard catch and getting lost in coverage on an 11-yard TD. WRs Jerome Simpson, Andrew Hawkins and Andre Caldwell were held to just one catch.

SPECIAL TEAMS A+

Big plays all day, starting with Heyward's blocked FG, a forced fumble by Stevenson Sylvester and recovery by Emmanuel Sanders on a kick return that led to the third touchdown and Antonio Brown's 60-yard TD punt return. Rookie CB Curtis Brown continues to excel in coverage, especially with Arnaz Battle (hamstring) out. And P Jeremy Kapinos was outstanding (54.2-yard average on five punts).

COACHING A

After a sloppy effort against the Chiefs, the Steelers bounced back with one of their most complete performances. They had big plays and some great individual efforts from players on offense, defense and special teams -- and a great call by special teams coach Al Everest to go for the FG block. Mike Tomlin was hoping for a statement performance in Kansas City, but he got it against the Bengals.



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