Well that was more like it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers not only got a much needed road win, but a division win as well Sunday night in Cincinnati. In what could have been their most complete game in a month, the Steelers moved to 3-3, which suddenly ties them for the fourth best record in the AFC, right behind the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.
With the Ravens and Pats having some obvious flaws at the moment, a win streak could put the Steelers right back in the thick of things.
But to win three or four in a row, they had to get the first one. That’s what happened Sunday night and they did so with plenty of regulars out of the lineup.
With that being said, let’s take a look at my weekly report card.
Quarterback- Ben Roethlisberger threw only his third pick of the season and lost a fumble that the Bengals quickly turned into seven points, but otherwise was his typical effective self. To his defense, if Baron Batch catches Antonio Brown’s pass, the fumble never happens. Big Ben went 5-for-5 for 54 yards on the go-ahead drive and also showed veteran poise on the two-point conversion play after not being granted a time out. He finished up 27-of-37 for 278 yards, impressive enough considering he didn’t get much help from his receivers. Grade: B
Running Backs: Jonathan Dwyer ran hard and was very effective, gaining 70 of his 122 yards in the second half. But Dwyer changed the game in the second quarter when the Steelers kept feeding him the rock. The drive amounted in only a field goal, but it was a statement type of drive. It was also nice to see Chris Rainey more involved in the offense and his first career touchdown proved to be the game winner. They would have gotten an A+ had it not been for Batch’s huge drop. Grade: A
Wide Receivers- Antonio Brown was terrific. So was tight end Heath Miller, but Mike Wallace was terrible, with three more drops, something that has plagued him this season. Even Emmanuel Sanders made a big 31-yard catch on the go ahead drive. Their grade would be higher if not for the drops from Wallace. Grade: B-
Offensive Line- Even though he was beaten for a sack on Roethlisberger’s fumble, rookie Mike Adams played better than expected and Willie Colon played with fire. Give kudos to Miller’s work as a blocker as well. Despite playing without two starters, the offensive line turned in their best performance of the season. Grade: A
Defensive Line- The Steelers haven’t got much from their defensive ends all season, but Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel played pretty well. However the Bengals ran the ball at will early on and it was almost a shock that Jay Gruden completely abandoned the run. Grade: C+
Linebackers- LaMarr Woodley was welcomed back to the lineup and his interception was a big lift for the team, as the Steelers turned that turnover into the tying touchdown and two-point conversion right before the first half ended. They didn’t make many big plays, but did tighten up in the second half. Lawrence Timmons was all over the place, finishing the night with 11 tackles. Grade: B+
Secondary- Say what you want about Ike Taylor, but he answered the call, holding the NFL’s leading receiver in A.J. Green to only one catch. On the other side, Keenan Lewis continues to play pretty well also. As a unit, they turned the big play Bengals offense to a short passing attack. Grade: A
Special Teams- Rainey had a pair of big returns and kicker Shaun Suisham continues to be next to automatic, but the Steelers continue to wipe out productive return with special teams penalties, racking up another four on Sunday. Grade: B-
Coaching- The fact that the Steelers haven’t lost back-to-back games in their last 41 is a testament to the way Mike Tomlin prepares this team. Todd Haley’s game plan was very good, as the Steelers had success running the football and Roethlisberger was able to get the ball down field a little bit more. Dick LeBeau’s defense tightened up in the second half, something they haven’t done much of this season. All in all a great performance. Grade: A