Steelers Report Card: Week Twelve vs. Bengals
Share with others:
It looked like the old Ben Roethlisberger, attacking over the middle with deeper passes and even scrambling twice, once for an 8-yard TD. He passed for 139 of his 243 yards in the first half when he completed passes of 22, 27 and 37 yards, and he also had three dropped passes. His 3-yard TD pass in the second quarter ended a seven-quarter drought.
Willie Parker, who had a career average of 113.6 yards against Cincinnati, had only 14 yards in the first half and finished with 37 yards on 14 carries. Mewelde Moore came in and had 56 yards on 15 carries and set up the second touchdown with a 22-yard catch-and-run. Gary Russell has emerged as the short-yardage back, converting a third-and-1 and scoring on a 2-yard run.
Too many drops offset some big plays by Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. Holmes had five receptions for 84 yards, including catches of 27, 22 and 19 yards, though he dropped a deep pass. TE Heath Miller returned after a two-game absence and had a 3-yard TD catch. Ward had a 37-yard catch and run to set up the first field goal, but he had a drop along with Nate Washington.
There wasn't a lot of running room for Parker and Moore, at least not in the first half, but the team finished with 122 yards on 36 attempts. Perhaps more important, Roethlisberger was not sacked by the Bengals again, just like the first meeting. He was hurried out of the pocket on two occasions, and he responded with a 6-yard scramble on third-and-4 and an 8-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals couldn't handle DE Aaron Smith, who was disrupting just about everything. He batted three passes at the line of scrimmage and was the leader of a run defense that held the Bengals to 43 yards on 20 attempts, including just 35 yards on 16 carries by RB Cedric Benson. After the Bengals scored in the first quarter, they managed just one first down until midway in the fourth quarter.
Despite going against a left tackle and left guard who had taken just six snaps in an NFL game before last night, the linebackers managed just one sack on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. ILB James Farrior had nine of his game-high 11 tackles in the first half, including a big stop on Chris Perry on third-and-1 at the Bengals 48 and another on Benson on third-and-1 in the third quarter.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't complete a pass longer than 15 yards until 70 seconds remained and finished with 168 yards passing -- the 10th quarterback in 11 games to be held to less than 200 yards. NFL catch leader T.J. Houshmandzadeh was held to four catches, all in the first half. About the only blemish was Glenn Holt's 10-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
There were a couple bright spots -- Gary Russell's season-long 43-yard kick return, Jeff Reed's two field goals and two big tackles on kickoffs by Keyaron Fox. However, P Paul Ernster, had punts of 23, 24, 28, 33 and 34 yards. Limas Sweed was right behind, having a punt hit him on the hand that was recovered by the Bengals and getting a 15-yard penalty for blocking out of bounds.
It's not always smooth and efficient in a short week, and it certainly wasn't for the offense. The unit finally produced two touchdowns, but there is still much work to be done. The decision to remove an inefficient Parker was a good one, especially when Moore was productive in the second half. There is still one more decision for Mike Tomlin: Which punter to sign to replace Ernster.
Game Eleven vs. the Bengals, W 27-10Position
Note: Steelers' cumulative grade point average through Week 12 is graded on a 4.0 scale
First Published November 21, 2008 12:21 am