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Steelers-Bengals Report Card

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Quarterback - Ben Roethlisberger looked abysmal today, and you really have to wonder if he's done. Roethlisberger completed 38 of 58 passes for 318 yards (65.5%), one touchdown, two interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 70.9. He averaged just 5.5 yards per pass, though. The dink-and-dunk offense from last year continues, and it's quite honestly brutal to watch. Roethlisberger was picked off twice by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson that ultimately resulted in 14 points for Cincinnati. Roethlisberger's second interception of the game was arguably the worst of his career, as he threw it right at Wilson. Roethlisberger also had a couple of bad reads in the game, the worst being the swing pass to running back Najee Harris on fourth-and-10 at the Bengals' 11-yard line that resulted in a loss of 1-yard. That was the game then as the Steelers trailed 24-10 with 3:02 remaining after the mishap by Roethlisberger, who after the game said in hindsight he wished he would've taken a shot in the end zone. In hindsight, Roethlisberger might also wish he didn't come back for an 18th season, especially with the overhaul on the offensive line.

Grade: F

Running Backs - The entire offense essentially went through Najee Harris as he had 28 total touches for 142 yards, however, 102 of those yards came on 14 receptions. Harris also had four drops on an absurd 19 targets. As far as the running game goes, it continues to be a mess. Harris rushed for just 40 yards on 14 carries, an average of 2.9 yards per carry, and 20 of his 40 yards rushing came on one run. Harris had a couple of impressive plays where he made something out of nothing, and for that, I'll give him a slightly better grade than the rest of the team.

Grade: C

Offensive Line - Wow, where to start. This unit is downright bad. It's arguably the worst offensive line in the league. They get no movement upfront when it comes to the running game and Roethlisberger continues to take a beating. After getting sacked twice and absorbing 10 hits last week against the Raiders, Roethlisberger was sacked four times and took seven hits against the Bengals. And the few times that Harris had success on the ground, it was negated because of a holding penalty. Chuks Okorafor also had a false start penalty. In total, the offense was penalized eight times. So, across the board, the offense played sloppy football, but the biggest mess continues to be the offensive line. There really isn't anything positive to say about the offensive line through three games. Even right guard Kevin Dotson, who's considered their best offensive linemen, has been subpar.

Grade: F

Receivers - Harris was the Steelers' leading receiver in receptions and yards, so that tells you what kind of afternoon it was for the Steelers' receivers. Diontae Johnson not playing due to a knee injury was a big loss, and receivers like Chase Claypool and James Washington didn't step up. There was hardly any separation created. JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a rib injury in the third quarter and did not return. The receivers also had numerous drops. Ebron had two drops, Freiermuth had one and Claypool had two. You really have to wonder what's the point of having Ebron on the team anymore. He has no use if he's not going to catch the ball, as he adds no value as a blocker. The Steelers had seven drops in the second half, which is the second-most second-half drops since ESPN began tracking that statistic in 2006. Four of the drops came from Harris. There has been a lot of miscommunication with Roethlisberger and his receivers this year, mainly Claypool and Johnson. Not sure who exactly the blame falls on without knowing the playbook, obviously, but It's concerning regardless. After a solid game against the Bills in Week 1, Claypool has been disappointing the last two games. I expected him to take a leap this year, and so far he hasn't.

Grade: F

Defensive Line - The Steelers were missing four starters upfront with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith inactive (groin injury for both), coupled with Stephon Tuitt (knee) still on injured reserve and Tyson Alualu being placed on IR last week with a fractured right ankle. So, a lot of backups were in and it showed. Along with not getting a sack, the Steelers didn't even get a hit on Joe Burrow. The Steelers' 75 regular-season game streak (NFL record) of recording at least one sack was broken. The Steelers were credited for just one quarterback pressure and their 5.6% team pressure rate was their lowest in a game in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). The defensive line was also not stout in the run game, as they allowed Bengals' running back Joe Mixon to rush for 90 yards on 18 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry.

Grade: F

Linebackers - Jamir Jones was nowhere to be found and Melvin Ingram had an awful missed tackle on Bengals' wide receiver Tyler Boyd that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown. Ingram also had a roughing the passer penalty late in the second quarter that led to a Bengals touchdown. It was a weak call by the officials, however. Nevertheless, Ingram just didn't make an impact like he needed to with both Watt and Highsmith sidelined. Devin Bush also had just two tackles. For being the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Steelers need more from Bush. They traded up 10 spots to select him, as well. It's time for Bush to start playing like a top-10 pick.

Grade F:

Secondary - After giving up a 61-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III last week, the Steelers gave up another explosive touchdown today. Burrow connected to rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Bengals a 14-7 lead with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Cornerback James Pierre got burned on the play. And then in the third quarter, Chase beat Joe Haden for a 9-yard touchdown. Terrell Edmunds had an interception in the first quarter after a deflection by Minkah Fitzpatrick, but other than that, it was a disappointing game for the secondary. They need to do a better job of giving up splash plays.

Grade: F

Special Teams - After making a 56-yard field goal last week, the longest in the history of Heinz Field, Chris Boswell missed a 42-yard field goal today. Boswell had never missed any kick against the Bengals in his career, as he was 53-of-53. As far as the return game, it continues to be below the line. Ray-Ray McCloud had one punt return for 14 yards and one kickoff return for 22 yards.

Grade: F

Coaching - Mike Tomlin said during his press conference on Tuesday that this is a "coaches' week." Meaning that they need to coach better. Well, this coaching staff has its hands full, as there are a ton of issues, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Through three games, the Steelers have not scored at all in the first quarter. Matt Canada's offense has looked no different than Randy Fichtner's. However, I don't think you can truly evaluate Canada until he gets a mobile quarterback. At the same time, Canada's short tenure at LSU as the offensive coordinator was the biggest red flag when the Steelers hired him as the OC. It's only been three games so far, but I just don't think Roethlisberger is his type of quarterback. The running game continues to be an issue, and whatever changes they made in schematics from last year has made no difference. Tomlin and his coaching staff have their hands full, as they have the Packers (on the road), Broncos, and Seahawks in their next three games before their Week 7 bye. The Steelers might just be 1-5 or 2-4 at best by then if they don't pick things up fast.

Grade: F


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