Report Card: Gerry Dulac grades the Steelers' effort
October 22, 2012 9:45 AM
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drops back to pass against the Bengals.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger overcame a couple early gaffes to pass for 138 of his 278 yards in the first half and bring the Steelers back from a 14-3 deficit. He was 5 for 5 for 54 yards on the go-ahead TD drive in the fourth quarter and even pulled out the pooch punt. Roethlisberger didn't get a lot of help from his receivers, who dropped three passes in the first half. But he didn't help matters, either, when he had back-to-back turnovers in the second quarter that gave the Bengals momentum.
Jonathan Dwyer played for the first time since his fumble in Oakland because of injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman and had 70 of his 122 yards in the second half. He had 40 yards on four carries on the field-goal drive that cut the Bengals lead to 14-6. Chris Rainey's 11-yard TD run on a counter play was the big go-ahead score. Baron Batch dropped a flea-flicker pass from Antonio Brown in the second quarter that would have been an easy TD.
Antonio Brown tried to do it all in the first half, running, throwing and catching five passes for 60 yards -- the biggest a 23-yarder on third-and-9 that led to a field goal. Heath Miller had his fifth TD and made a nice catch on a fade pass on 2-point conversion. Emmanuel Sanders' 31-yard catch-and-run was the big play on the go-ahead TD. But Mike Wallace continues to be plagued by drops. He had three, including two big ones in the first quarter.
The line was playing without two starters -- C Maurkice Pouncey and RT Marcus Gilbert -- but did a good job moving bodies and creating holes in the run game. It might have been Willie Colon's best game of the season. He threw the big block on a counter play, along with Miller, to open the hole on Rainey's 11-yard TD run. And he opened the hole on another counter on Dwyer's 15-yard run on third down.
The Steelers finally got some plays from their DEs -- Ziggy Hood deflected a third-down pass and Brett Keisel's pressure forced a big three-and-out in the fourth quarter. The Bengals came into the game with the worst third-down conversion percentage in the league (20 of 74, 26.7), but they were 4 of 6 in the first half, including 3 for 4 on the opening 80-yard TD drive. After that, though, the defense settled down, holding the Bengals to 163 yards through three quarters.
LaMarr Woodley's interception and 11-yard return late in the first half was a big turning point because it led to the touchdown and 2-point conversion that tied the score at 14-14 with 24 seconds remaining. The defense tightened after the Bengals had 50 of their 80 yards rushing in the first half. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis had 46 yards rushing in the first half but was held to 23 yards on eight carries in the second half.
The group did a good job of keeping QB Andy Dalton from making big plays in the first half, holding him to 65 yards passing with a long gain of 14 yards in the first half. And, despite giving up an 8-yard TD in which he actually had great position, Ike Taylor held A.J. Green, the NFL's receiving yardage leader, to just that one catch. CB Keenan Lewis continues to play very well, breaking up two passes and coming up strong in run support.
Rookie Chris Rainey had returns of 41 and 36 yards, and Shaun Suisham had three field goals of 40-plus yards. But penalties on four returns were a huge problem, as were Bengals' kick returns of 45 and 39 yards. A holding call on DeMarcus Van Dyke wiped out a 34-yard punt return by Brow and pinned the Steelers at their 13. One play later, Roethlisberger fumbled and the Bengals turned the mistake into a TD.
This was a big victory because it was the Steelers' first on the road this season and allowed them to inch closer to the Ravens. Also, it delivered a frustrating blow to the Bengals because it was their 11th win in the past 12 games at Paul Brown Stadium. The team's ability to avoid losing back-to-back games, something they haven't done in 41 games, is testament to their preparation and resiliency.
TEAM GRADE: B+ (average mark of the 9 categories)