NFL News & Analysis

CIN-PIT grades: Running game helps fuel Steelers' win

Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Cincinnati Bengals 16

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Pittsburgh’s 24-16 win over Cincinnati:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 45.8

Big Ben struggles outside of a couple of big throws

Roethlisberger was not at his best against the Bengals, struggling to connect with his top target Antonio Brown and throwing a pair of interceptions. Roethlisberger’s best throws of the day were his two deep completions to WR Sammie Coates over Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard. He was under pressure on nearly half of his snaps, and was least-effective when blitzed.

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Top offensive grades:

C Maurkice Pouncey, 79.5

RT Marcus Gilbert, 76.5

WR Sammie Coates, 75.3

RB DeAngelo Williams, 71.3

LG Ramon Foster, 68.1

O-line, Williams perform well

RB DeAngelo Williams averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, but consistently produced positive gains on the ground. Williams earned 79 yards after first contact, forced three missed tackles, and added four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. LT Alejandro Villaneuva was the team’s most consistent run-blocker, finishing with an 82.8 run-blocking grade.

Top defensive grades:

Secondary does a great job of shutting down Bengals star WR A.J. Green

CB Ross Cockrell, 84.4

S Robert Golden, 81.7

S Michael Mitchell, 81.0

OLB James Harrison, 75.3

DE Stephon Tuitt, 74.5

Stopping A.J. Green was the top priority for Pittsburgh’s defense, especially after Green torched Darrelle Revis and the Jets last week. CB Ross Cockrell was excellent, limiting Green to two catches for 38 yards on six attempts, with just three yards after the catch. LB Ryan Shazier has never been as effective in pass coverage as his elite athleticism would suggest, and Bengals QB Andy Dalton picked on him in this game (7-for-7 for 74 yards when targeting him). Shazier was the Steelers’ most effective pass-rusher in the game, recording three hurries on just seven pass rushes.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback grade: Andy Dalton, 70.6

Dalton earns just an average grade in loss

Dalton finished the game with a solid stat line (31-of-55 for 367 yards, 1 touchdown), but struggled on third downs (the Bengals converted just four of their 16 third-down attempts) and was fortunate to have several would-be interceptions dropped by Pittsburgh defenders. Dalton was far less effective when blitzed, as his QB rating dropped from 91.4 to 49.3 when the Steelers sent extra pass-rushers.

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Top offensive grades:

LT Andrew Whitworth, 77.2

RG Kevin Zeitler, 75.9

C Russell Bodine, 75.5

WR Tyler Boyd, 73.1

LG Clint Boling, 72.6

Running game can't get anything going

Cincinnati’s offense could not get anything going on the ground. Running backs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard combined for just 39 yards on 16 carries, and forced just one missed tackle. The Bengals’ offensive line had trouble generating any push up front, finishing with a negative run blocking grade as a team after Hill and Bernard had more rushing yards after contact (41) than total rushing yards. Despite the complete lack of a rushing attack, the Bengals’ line did a nice job protecting their quarterback, allowing zero sacks and just one hit on 60 snaps in pass protection.

Top defensive grades:

LB Vincent Rey, 91.1

DE Carlos Dunlap, 84.1

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, 83.7

S George Iloka, 82.1

DT Geno Atkins, 78.1

Bengals do a good job in coverage

CB Dre Kirkpatrick finished the 2015 season ranked 116th out of 118 qualifying cornerbacks in overall grade, but was excellent today. Kirkpatrick took away Sammie Coates as a deep threat, and Roethlisberger was 0-3 with an interception when throwing into his coverage. CB Darqueze Dennard did not fare as well on Coates, allowing a pair of deep completions for 97 total yards. Adam Jones drew the assignment of WR Antonio Brown for most of the day, and limited the Steelers’ star receiver to one catch for 17 yards and also added an interception.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Steelers CB Ross Cockrell

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