PIT-CIN grades: Roethlisberger makes big throws in Steelers’ win

Big plays on both sides of the ball are critical in Pittsburgh's comeback victory. Bengals QB Andy Dalton earns a poor grade.

| 6 months ago
(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

PIT-CIN grades: Roethlisberger makes big throws in Steelers’ win

Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways for Pittsburgh’s 24-20 win over Cincinnati in Week 15:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 83.7

Roethlisberger makes big throws in crunch time

It’s been an inconsistent season by Ben Roethlisberger’s standards, but this was a strong game even if he didn’t light up the stat sheet at 21-for-36 for 286 yards and a score. His touchdown capped a fourth-quarter comeback after the Steelers were forced to settle for six field goals over the first three-plus quarters of action. He made the big throws needed down the stretch, including a well-placed post route on 3rd-and-8 to nearly seal the deal for the Steelers.


Top offensive grades:

LT Alejandro Villanueva, 83.3

TE Ladarius Green, 80.4

LG Ramon Foster, 79.4

WR Antonio Brown, 77.8

C Maurkice Pouncey, 73.0

Left side of the line stands strong

The Bengals managed just two hits on Roethlisberger, as a number of players played well up front for Pittsburgh including both players on the left side of the line in Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster. Villanueva gave up only three pressures on his 45 attempts, and he led the way with an 88.9 grade as a run-blocker, while Foster ranked right behind him at 84.2. WR Antonio Brown was held in check from a statistical and fantasy standpoint, with only three catches for 58 yards, but he was also the victim of a defensive hold and a defensive pass interference, which factored into his strong grade.

Top defensive grades:

LB Ryan Shazier, 85.6

S Michael Mitchell, 78.9

LB Lawrence Timmons, 78.6

CB Artie Burns, 78.4

S Sean Davis, 75.2

Linebackers provide the big plays in the middle

Shazier was the star on the defensive side of the ball, especially considering the defensive line got pushed at the point of attack in the run game. He had a team-high four stops while also doing a nice job as a pass-rusher, with a sack and a QB hit on his seven rushes. Timmons had one of his best games of the season, with three stops and an interception. Rookie CB Artie Burns continued his strong stretch of play after a slow start with two pass breakups on five targets, allowing only two catches for 23 yards.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback grade: Andy Dalton, 43.2

Poor decision-making from Dalton fuels Bengals’ second-half collapse

In one of his worst games of the season, Andy Dalton put the ball in harm’s way far too often, first getting bailed out on a deep underthrow due to a defensive pass interference, and finally getting burned when he misread the coverage and threw the ball right to Lawrence Timmons for his lone interception on the day. He also threw one right into Shazier’s hands that fell safely incomplete. Dalton made a few nice plays when moving out of the pocket, and he stuck one throw in between the corner and safety against a Cover-2 look for his best throw of the day, but it wasn’t enough to maintain Cincinnati’s early lead.


Top offensive grades:

RG Kevin Zeitler, 83.0

LT Andrew Whitworth, 83.0

WR Brandon LaFell, 82.5

RT Jake Fisher, 76.2

C Russell Bodine, 75.2

Offensive line does its part in pass protection, but is inconsistent in the run game

With Dalton under pressure on only six of his 28 dropbacks, there were positives up front for the offensive line, as the Bengals were only charged with two pressures as a unit. The run game was hit or miss, as RG Kevin Zeitler finished with an 85.1 run-blocking grade that included a beautiful pair of blocks on RB Jeremy Hill’s touchdown that featured a strong double team and climb to the second level. The lack of playmakers on the outside, with A.J. Green out injured, combined with some poor decision-making from Dalton ultimately proved too much for the offense to overcome.

Top defensive grades:

CB Adam Jones, 85.6

DI Geno Atkins, 81.8

S Shawn Williams, 76.9

ED Margus Hunt, 74.2

S George Iloka, 68.7

Defense holds strong for most of the game

The defense did its best to hold the fort with six field goals forced before Roethlisberger’s fourth-quarter touchdown. DI Geno Atkins was his usual disruptive self, with a sack, QB hit, and six hurries on 35 rushes, while CB Adam Jones gave up only 16 yards on his six targets while breaking up two passes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a pass rush beyond Atkins, while CBs Dre Kirkpatrick and Joshua Shaw combined to give up 117 yards on five catches and a score to go with three Kirkpatrick penalties.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Steelers LB Ryan Shazier

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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