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09-28-2009, 12:58 AM
Steelers Report Card: Game Three vs. Cincinnati Bengals
GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in a 23-20 loss against the Bengals yesterday:
Monday, September 28, 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Quarterback (B)

Ben Roethlisberger made only one ill-timed throw, and it wasn't his fault -- a 30-yard interception return for touchdown to start the second half, in which Santonio Holmes ran the wrong route. Until then, he had made a number of big plays, throwing for 180 of his 276 yards in the first half and scoring on a 1-yard sneak. He also made a nice play on a 27-yard touchdown by Willie Parker.

Running backs (B)

Willie Parker had his best outing of the season, rushing for 93 yards on 25 carries and scoring on a 27-yard catch-and-run. He had 72 yards rushing in the first half, including a season-long 24-yarder on the first series. After that, Parker was held to 21 yards on 11 carries in the second half, though he had a 10-yard run to the Bengals' 4 that set up Roethlisberger's 1-yard score for a 20-9 lead.

Wide Receivers (C)

Rookie Mike Wallace finished with seven catches for 102 yards and ran by CB Johnathan Joseph on a 51-yard catch to set up a field goal. He also had a big catch on third-and-13 to keep alive a scoring drive. But Limas Sweed did it again, getting behind a defender and dropping what would have been a 34-yard touchdown. And Holmes ran the wrong way on Roethlisberger's interception return.

Offensive line (B-)

The first half was a clinic for the offensive line when the Steelers rushed for 78 yards on 15 carries and Roethlisberger had plenty of time to throw. What's more, DE Antwan Odom, who came in with a league-best seven sacks, was never a factor. But the running game disappeared in the second half -- 24 yards on 13 carries -- part of that was because TE David Johnson was out with a leg injury.

Defensive line (C)

The Steelers did a good job to disrupt Carson Palmer's passing lanes, deflecting four of his passes at the line -- two by DE Brett Keisel. And NT Casey Hampton had one of the two sacks. But, Cedric Benson rushed for 58 of his 76 yards in the second half, including a 23-yard touchdown run around the left side. The Bengals finished with 100 yards on 19 carries, but 21 came on a fake-punt run.

Linebackers (C-)

For the second game, the linebackers did not make enough plays to get off the field. James Farrior, who got caught outside on Benson's 23-yard TD, failed to cover RB Brian Leonard on the fourth-and-10 conversion that led to the winning score. OLB James Harrison got his first sack of the year and dropped Benson for a 2-yard loss to help stall a drive. But where is the outside pressure?

Defensive backs (C)

Carson Palmer completed only 7 of 16 passes for 81 yards in the first half, but he made the plays he needed in the fourth quarter to overcome a 20-9 deficit. He completed 11 of his final 16 passes and produced nine first downs on the two fourth-quarter scoring drives. CB Ike Taylor was near-heroic on the final drive, making three pass breakups -- two that could have been touchdowns.

Special teams (C+)

The Steelers wasted a 56-yard kick return by Stefan Logan to the Bengals' 40 after an interception return for TD. And they got snookered on a 21-yard run by safety Chris Crocker on a fake punt in the third quarter. But Jeff Reed converted two field goals after his Chicago disaster, Keyaron Fox had a big hit on kick coverage and Dan Sepulveda didn't have to punt until the fourth quarter.

Coaching (D-)

The game started to turn when coach Mike Tomlin decided against a punt and the Steelers were stopped on fourth-and-4 at the Bengals' 35 with 1:15 remaining, leading to a Bengals field goal. After having success with the run in the first half, the Steelers opened the second half with three passes, the last of which was returned for a touchdown. Just like that, the Bengals were interested agai

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