Pittsburgh Steelers Week 7 Report Card
Pittsburgh Steelers Week 7 Report Card
Sunday night marked the biggest game for the Pittsburgh Steelers so far in the 2012 NFL season. On the road and in the national spotlight was where the Steelers had to prove that they were still a team to be taken seriously in the AFC.
Facing a divisional opponent for the first time this year, and seeing the division-leading Baltimore Ravens taste defeat for the second time this season, Pittsburgh had to seize the opportunity to rebound from a rough start to this year.
Just like Pittsburgh, the Cincinnati Bengals were licking their wounds from a previous loss, and were primed to get back on track against the hobbled Steelers.
This battle started off looking like Cincinnati would take advantage of their home field by jumping out to a 10-3 lead by the end of the first quarter. Before halftime, Pittsburgh fought back to tie the score at 14 going into the locker room.
The second half was a defensive struggle, with both teams each managing to put three points on the board. The Steelers then broke open the game with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It was at that time that the defense took over and preserved the victory for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are now 3-3 and are in second in the AFC North, 1.5 games behind the Ravens. Pittsburgh was dominate in just about every phase of the game versus the Bengals.
Here’s a breakdown of each position and the grade in which they earned during this week’s victory.
Once again, Ben Roethlisberger proved to the entire league that he is the heart and soul of the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s position of second place in the AFC North is mainly due in part to the consistent play of their Pro Bowl quarterback. Despite throwing an interception and losing a fumble in the first half, Roethlisberger connected on 73 percent of his passes (27 for 37) for 278 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, Big Ben helped keep drives alive by converting on 10 of 16 third downs, and continued to spread the wealth among his receiving corps by hitting eight different targets throughout the game.
Many didn’t speculate Pittsburgh to be productive running the ball against the Bengals, but the Steelers thought otherwise. For the first time this season, the Steelers had a running back to hit the 100-yard mark in a game. Running back Jonathan Dwyer had a game-high 122 yards on 17 carries. Rookie Chris Rainey scored the game-clinching touchdown from 11 yards out early in the fourth quarter. The only glaring flaw from the running backs was Baron Batch dropping a potential touchdown pass from wide receiver Antonio Brown on a play where Roethlisberger threw a lateral to Brown on the right sideline and Brown threw a perfect pass that went through the hands of Batch.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Pittsburgh’s leading receiver Antonio Brown once again led the way with seven catches for a game-high 96 yards. Tight end Heath Miller came up big late in the first half when Roethlisberger found him in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown and on a fade route on a two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 right before halftime. Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery both combined for 60 receiving yards. However, Mike Wallace could have easily been the standout of the receiving corps had he not dropped three passes, one being in the end zone, in the first half that could have been added to his eight catches for 52 yards.
Even without right tackle Marcus Gilbert and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ offensive line did a good job. Although they did allow Cincinnati to sack Roethlisberger three times, the o-line did make up for that by asserting their dominance in the running game. Left guard Willie Colon was the standout of Pittsburgh’s offensive front during Sunday night’s game. Colon pulled on running plays much quicker than he has in previous games this season, and showed a mean streak against the Bengals’ defensive line. It seems as if Colon has finally gotten accustomed to his transition from tackle to guard.
The stats sheet may not be filled with numerous tackles and sacks, but Pittsburgh’s defensive line made their presence known versus Cincinnati’s offensive front. The Steelers’ d-line helped contain the Bengals’ running attack by holding running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis to 69 rushing yards. Nose tackle Casey Hampton played a big factor in that, clogging the middle and freeing other Steelers defenders to make tackles. In addition, constant pressure on Cincinnati’s quarterback Andy Dalton resulted in the quarterback’s worse game of the season statistically. Ziggy Hood’s deflected pass and Brett Keisel breathing down the neck of Dalton halted a drive by Cincinnati that could have potentially tied the game in the fourth quarter.
The return of LaMarr Woodley turned out to work to the advantage of the Steelers. Woodley’s interception and 11-yard return late in the first half led to Pittsburgh’s first touchdown, which tied the game 14-14 after a two-point conversion. Along with that, the Steelers’ group of linebackers did a great job of keeping Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham in check. Even though James Harrison didn’t appear on the stat sheet for Pittsburgh, his presence alone was enough to stifle Cincinnati’s offense. The expected return of Chris Carter will solidify the depth of the Steelers linebacking corps at a much-needed time in the season.
Once again, the Steelers’ secondary had to play without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, but this time his presence wasn’t needed. The secondary held Dalton to 65 passing yards in the first half, and 105 for the entire game. Recently criticized cornerback Ike Taylor played extremely better than last week. Even though wide receiver A.J. Green scored a eight-yard touchdown on Taylor, which was the only catch the league-leading receiver got the entire game. Pittsburgh’s other cornerback, Keenan Lewis, redeemed himself from last week as well. Lewis, who dropped a potential game-clinching interception last week deflected two passes during the contest.
Kicker Shaun Suisham continued his show of accuracy in the kicking game by connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, while punter Drew Butler pinned one of his two punt of the night inside the 20-yard line. Chris Rainey had kickoff returns of 41 and 36 yards, putting Pittsburgh in good field position. However, the Steelers’ coverage on kick returns was poor. Returns of 45 and 39 yards were surrendered, along with four penalties throughout the game. The most crucial penalty was when DeMarcus Van Dyke was flagged for holding during an Antonio Brown 34-yard punt return. This resulted in placing the Steelers on their own 13-yard line. Immediately after that, Roethlisberger lost a fumble, which led to Cincinnati’s second touchdown of the night.
Head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley made a gutsy move after Pittsburgh’s first touchdown of the game by going for a two-point conversion just before halftime. Luckily, it was good and the Steelers went into the locker room tied with Cincinnati and with some momentum. There was also more balance in the offensive play-calling. The Steelers called 28 run plays versus 37 pass plays. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau strategized the perfect plan to take away one of the league’s best receivers in A.J. Green, and to make the best of what the Steelers had in a depleted secondary.
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