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

QB Ben Roethlisberger grades poorly in win, but O-line, RB DeAngelo Williams and defensive backs step up.

| 1 week ago
DeAngelo Williams

(Joe Sargent, Getty Images)

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

Get access to grades for every player, complete with positional rankings, in our Player Grades tool.

  • finkmo

    Do offensive linemen get docked or rewarded for getting away with holds? Because the Steelers sure had some doozies! Not sure I’ve ever seen somebody get away with holding a player from behind BY HIS HEAD right in front of the QB. Ben under pressure on half of his drop-backs but only sacked once and ZERO holding penalties. Amazing!

    • T3xassteelers

      Oh shut the hell up lmao. Bungles were ALL over Antonio Brown ALL game and nothing was called. Helmet to helmet hit in the 1st half on DHB when Pacman hit him. There were bad calls all over the place; you’re not the only ones.

  • Dino55

    In all seriousness, I wish PFF would grade referee’s performance weighted by impact (e.g missed holding call on 3rd down conversion, td negated by missed oob call etc..) I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but from my perspective it seems as though Pittsburgh seems to get breaks at critical moments… I wish someone would prove this out. PFF has the capability, credibility and more than enough sample size to do this analysis.

    • Raoul Duke

      While you wish someone would prove the Steelers own the Bengals because of “breaks” wishing does not make it so.

      Consider the possibility that the reason a team has missed winning a playoff game since the George H.W. Bush administration is something other than not getting the “breaks”

      • Dino55

        Oh Raoul no one is saying the Steelers win all their games via referee’s benefit of the doubt, but why doesn’t someone fact check it?

  • nonnb

    I honestly have never seen more holds in a single game. The surprising thing is, none of them were called! shame.

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    bengals offense looks broke without hue jackson, very one dimensional

    • Dino55

      Just faced two top 10 defensive lines and have another one this week. They will get running game on track hopefully soon.