Report Card / Game 12 -- Steelers vs. Bengals
Ike Taylor prevents Bengals receiver Chad Johnson from making a catch in the first quarter last night at Heinz Field. (vs. Bengals 12/02/2007)
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GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in a 24-10 win against the Bengals last night at Heinz Field. The report is broken down into offensive, defensive positions and coaching.Quarterback: B
Ben Roethlisberger was erratic early, throwing high and completing just two of his first six passes with one interception. And he made a poor decision on a late interception in the fourth quarter. In between, he found a comfort zone, completing 14 of 18 passes and finishing with two touchdown passes. He also made a nice play to elude two tacklers and dive over a cornerback on a 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Running backs: D
Willie Parker had only 29 of his 87 yards in the first half and didn't have a run longer than 12 yards. But, he had four fumbles in the second half, even though replay challenges overturned two of them -- one of which was returned for a touchdown. But with Najeh Davenport inactive because of injury, coach Mike Tomlin had little choice but to keep playing Parker after the fumbles.
Hines Ward was phenomenal in poor conditions, catching 11 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns to become the team's all-time touchdown reception leader. He had seven of his catches in the first half, including a 2-yard touchdown that gave the team a 17-7 lead. Heath Miller caught four passes for 30 yards before halftime -- two on the team's first scoring drive.
Offensive line: B
After being sacked 16 times in the past three games, Roethlisberger was not sacked, though he had a safety negated by a defensive holding penalty in the fourth quarter. LT Max Starks played well again in place of injured Marvel Smith, doing a good job containing the Bengals' best lineman, defensive end Justin Smith. But there were some gaffes: G Kendall Simmons had an unsportsmanlike penalty and G Alan Faneca had false start penalty.
Defensive line: B
The Bengals had some modest success running the ball -- 74 yards on 23 carries -- and there was little pressure on Carson Palmer from the linemen. But the longest run was 15 yards and that was in the fourth quarter against the nickel defense. DE Brett Keisel deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage when the Bengals were at the Steelers 17 in fourth quarter.
Larry Foote forced a fumble on a sack and hurried Carson Palmer into a poor throws on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. But his biggest play was breaking up a pass in the end zone to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 6:18 remaining. ILB James Farrior made a nice breakup on a pass over the middle on third down and Clark Haggans hurried Palmer into a bad pass on third down in the fourth quarter.
After some early missed assignments, the NFL's top-ranked secondary did a good job of not allowing big plays to any of the Bengals' three receivers and forced Palmer into just four completions in his final 18 attempts. The longest reception was 24 yards by Chad Johnson in the final minutes. Johnson, Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry combined for just 13 receptions and 159 yards. S Anthony Smith played with a lack of discipline, taking a facemask penalty after an 11-yard pass to the Steelers' 9.
Special teams: B
The Steelers finally forced a special-teams turnover, getting a hit from safety Grant Mason and a fumble recovery by Carey Davis on a kickoff to set up a field goal. Daniel Sepulveda had a nice 44-yard punt from deep in his own territory in the first quarter but followed that with a 27-yarder from his own 5.
Mike Tomlin finally got his first correct coaching challenge, having a fumble return for touchdown overturned. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians came up with the right time to go to the no-huddle offense, leading to the first touchdown in the second quarter. And defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau continues to frustrate Palmer, allowing only one touchdown for the sixth time at home this season.
First Published December 3, 2007 12:32 am