By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked primed to truly challenge the unbeaten AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Heinz Field with an early touchdown from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. On a day that saw the offense and Big Ben turn into a train wreck, the Steelers’ defense was what came up big. Running back Le’Veon Bell suffered a right leg injury and despite overcoming costly, unnecessary penalties with solid defensive play and two interceptions. Pittsburgh falls to an even record in Week 8
Steelers offense: C
The return of Roethlisberger was supposed to be as big as the next Star Wars movie. Unfortunately, after looking strong early, Roethlisberger struggled behind an offensive line that collapsed around him frequently enough to keep him shuffling the best he could with his leg in a brace for the first time in his career. Frustrated, Roethlisberger forced passes and overthrew targets, leading to a three interception day and a miserable performance in front of the home crowd. He completed just 28-of-45 passes for a single touchdown as his offense could not put points on the board.
Bell’s injury is concerning for several reasons, but the biggest may not be the play of DeAngelo Williams. Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton were not sharp in this game. Heath Miller led the team in receptions with ten for 105 yards. The Steelers were only able to create 356 yards of total offense and six points after they watched their teammates on defense go get them the ball.
Steelers defense: A
Outside of penalties, like taking a helmet off to taunt a Bengals player and a few facemask calls, the Steelers defense gave a solid performance this week. By keeping Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on his toes, they bottled up rusher Giovanni Bernard and limited A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert for most of the game. Dalton was dropped for a sack three times with Steve McLendon and Bud Dupree earning one apiece and Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones splitting one. The Bengals were held to just four of 15 third-down conversions.
Antwon Blake had the defensive play of the game after Cam Heyward came up big to block a Nugent field goal. Reading Dalton, Blake jumped the route in the end zone and scampered along the sideline for a 42-yard interception and return. On the next Bengals possession, Mike Mitchell was the benefactor of a ball tipped by Green after a nice hit by Ross Cockrell. Unfortunately, every defensive edge was translated into zero points on the scoreboard.
Special Teams: A-
The only reason the special teams did not earn a higher grade was because kickoff returner Dri Archer exited the end zone twice on kickoffs when he should have just allowed to be touchbacks. Heyward’s field goal block was accentuated by a solid performance by placekicker Chris Boswell.
There is no excuse. Mike Tomlin didn’t get Roethlisberger to calm down and relax in this game, instead asking his veteran to come out and generate offense with a team that really looks a bit like a deer in the headlights right now. There is no one area that can be patched right up. The coaching staff once again wasted an opportunity to call a timeout before the two-minute warning at the end of the game, a call Tomlin said was because he felt a later timeout was more important. It cost the Steelers 28 seconds on the clock, time that may have given Roethlisberger at least one more last-ditch opportunity.
Overview and Projection
This is a Steelers team that can’t get itself righted when things, like big defensive turnovers, fall in their laps. It has been a theme with this team in 2015. The Steelers host the Oakland Raiders in Week 9. The only way to right the ship in Pittsburgh is for the Steelers to avoid the trap game situation and dominate Oakland.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on