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Old 10-29-2007, 04:24 AM   #1
lamberts-lost-tooth
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Default Steelers/Bengals Report Card

Steelers/Bengals Report Card
GERRY DULAC
Oct 29 2007

Quarterback: A-


Ben Roethlisberger was at his best, pump-faking, scrambling and improvising for 230 yards and two touchdowns. But it was his only mistake -- trying to force a throw on the run instead of throwing it away, resulting in an interception -- that let the Bengals back in the game. Roethlisberger used the run to set up big plays in the first half, including a 42-yard pass to Santonio Holmes and a 21-yard touchdown to Hines Ward.

Running backs: B+

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians used a lot of two-back sets to run the ball, especially in the first half, and the result was a couple of big runs by Willie Parker, who had 79 of his 126 yards in the first half. His 32-yard run on first down started a drive that resulted in his 1-yard touchdown with four seconds remaining in the first half. Carey Davis threw a big block on Parker's 17-yard run that set up the second touchdown.

Receivers: A

The Steelers picked on rookie CB Leon Hall, beating him with a long pass to Holmes and again on a 21-yard touchdown to Ward. It was a big performance by Ward, who had six of his eight catches and two touchdowns in the first half. Holmes finished with six catches and tight end Heath Miller had two catches of 23 and 19 yards.

Offensive line: B

The left side was responsible for Parker's runs of 12, 13, 17 and 32 yards, not to mention his 1-yard touchdown run. The Steelers rushed for 160 yards and Roethlisberger's only sack came when he ran out of bounds on a scramble for no gain in the third quarter. The only penalty against the line was a false start by guard Kendall Simmons. Otherwise, very efficient.

Defensive line: B-

The Bengals took advantage of the absence of DE Aaron Smith (sprained knee) to run at Nick Eason and finished with 91 yards rushing -- 88 by Kenny Watson, the most by an opposing back this season. The Steelers did not sack QB Carson Palmer, who was mainly taking a lot of three-step drops, but the pressure was good enough to keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket.

Linebackers: B-

James Harrison made the big play, forcing a fumble on Watson with a tomahawk strip and recovering at the Steelers' 12 with 3:16 remaining. Otherwise, the unit was strangely quiet. James Farrior and Larry Foote combined for only seven tackles and Watson averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Still, despite bending, they never broke, forcing the Bengals to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns in the first half.

Secondary: B+

Carson Palmer passed for 205 yards and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson combined for 12 catches and a touchdown. But the secondary did what it set out to do: Not surrender big plays in the passing game. The cornerbacks did a good job to keep the play in front of them and the only long gain was a 28-yarder to Houshmandzadeh in the final quarter. Anthony Smith, starting for injured Ryan Clark, was all over the field, and S Tyrone Carter forced a fumble by Watson on third-and-1.

Special teams: C+

No major mistakes, but still some sloppy play and mental miscues. The kick coverage allowed a 42-yard return and rookie William Gay had a 10-yard penalty for blocking in the back on a punt return. But Jeff Reed made his only field-goal attempt and Daniel Sepulveda's only punt was downed inside the 20.

Coaching: A

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians kept the Bengals off balance by running and throwing out of a lot of two-back, two-tight end sets, using the run to set up long pass plays. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's plan was to keep the ball from going over the top and it worked: The Bengals' longest gain was 28 yards and not until the fourth quarter. Give Mike Tomlin credit for having the players prepared.
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