GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in the 23-17 win against the Bengals yesterday. The report is broken down into defensive and offensive positions and coaching.
Ben Roethlisberger produced two touchdowns and a field goal on the last three possessions, to pull out the victory. He made a good read on the throw that produced Santonio Holmes' winning touchdown in overtime, but his best play might have been avoiding a safety and completing a 13-yard pass in the third quarter.
Willie Parker had his second 100-yard game in a row on the road, seventh overall, but he also had a fumble near the goal line for the second game in a row. Parker also scored on two 1-yard runs, giving him a franchise-record 16 this season.
After a poor effort to make a tackle on a first-quarter interception, Santonio Holmes came back to make the game's two biggest plays --the winning 67-yard touchdown in overtime and a quick slant for 34 yards to the Bengals' 28 that led to the tying field goal with 1:03 remaining. Hines Ward did just about everything except throw a pass, and he almost did that. He had five catches, including a 17-yarder to the Bengals' 4 to set up a touchdown.
Not only did the line go a good job getting movement in the Bengals' front, they also allowed only one sack. The Steelers finished with 207 yards rushing, averaging 4.6 yards. RT Willie Colon was assessed a 15-yard penalty for taunting after Hines Ward ran 21 yards to the Bengals' 5.
There was nowhere for the Bengals to run as Rudi Johnson was held to 47 yards on 13 carries, including just 11 in the first half. The Bengals averaged only 2.8 yards per carry, and their longest run was 9 yards. The Steelers did not allow a 100-yard rusher this season, only the second time since 1969 in franchise history.
Bengals QB Carson Palmer was not sacked, but he was hurried into a number of poor throws, particularly from the linebackers. The Steelers were credited with nine hurries. Joey Porter actually played one of his better games, getting around the edge and forcing Palmer to move in the pocket. James Harrison, who started for Clark Haggans, was penalized for unnecessary roughness.
CB Ike Taylor started because of a hand injury to Deshea Townsend and did a good job, especially when the Bengals went right at him with deep passes on the first two plays. Townsend had a tough time in the sub packages, getting called for pass interference at the Steelers' 7 then allowing a 5-yard touchdown pass. CB Bryant McFadden got a pardon after allowing a 47-yard pass with 23 seconds remaining that almost resulted in the winning field goal.
It didn't start off well with a trick-play on the opening kickoff that gained 12 yards. After that, there were illegal-block penalties on punt returns by Ike Taylor and Clint Kriewaldt. But the Bengals averaged 22 yards on four kick returns and Jeff Reed's only field goal with 1:03 remaining, forced overtime.
The team finished 6-2 after a 2-6 start, a fitting sendoff for Bill Cowher. The offense was very efficient, producing 482 yards and 29 first downs. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau did a good job bringing pressure from different areas.
Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes picks up yardage as he is brought down by Kevin Kaesviharn, left, and Dexter Jackson yesterday in Cincinnati.
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