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Steelers Report Card: Grading the 28-21 thriller over the Bengals in Week 6

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BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after their jubilee in the jungle.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The time has come, once again, for the grand disclaimer. You know the story. I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. I had mixed emotions regarding the Steelers chances to get back in the AFC North Division race with a possible win over the team they’ve beaten in six straight contests. I was cautiously optimistic that things can continue to go in the right direction and that the Steelers could build on the momentum of last week’s big win over the ATL. But I was downright pessimistic that somebody was going to get disemboweled. Luckily that didn’t happen, but what did transpire was a victory of most satisfying proportions.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense:

Cincinatti’s defense is tough to penetrate. They are physical as hell and make you earn every inch of real estate. Plus, their secondary is suffocating. But the Steelers were able to move the ball on the ground and in the air. The quintet of Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert were tremendous. They out-physicaled Cincy. These guys opened gaping holes for James Conner that assisted his physical day of 111 yards and two (should have been three) trips to the end zone. They also kept Ben Roethlisberger sack-free and gave him plenty of time to complete 32 of 46 passes for 369 yards and a score. Ben was sharper this week. His receivers were clutch. Antonio Brown (5 for 105), JuJu Smith-Schuster (7 for 111) and Vance McDonald (7 for 68) came up huge at different junctures. The unit was on-point as a whole.

Overall Offense Grade: A

Poll

What grade would you assign the Steelers offense after their 28-21 win in Cincinnati?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    A
    (684 votes)
  • 38%
    B
    (442 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
1150 votes total Vote Now

Defense

Keith Butler’s defense still has a lot to be desired, but it held ground enough for the win. Three sacks and solid run-defense (for the most part) kept the Steelers in the game. The defensive line was good, with Javon Hargrave and Stephon Tuitt getting sacks. The linebackers were okay. The secondary still got exposed, had struggles and almost blew it. C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Boyd victimized Cam Sutton and Artie Burns. But Joe Haden was solid again, especially against A.J. Green (7 for 85).

Overall Defense Grade: B-

Poll

What grade would you assign the Steelers defense after their 28-21 win in Cincinnati?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    A
    (34 votes)
  • 48%
    B
    (545 votes)
  • 44%
    C
    (496 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (5 votes)
1118 votes total Vote Now

Special Teams

Jordan Berry had one bad kick (36 yards) and a huge one (64). Chris Boswell seemed like his old self again. However, the kick coverage was awful. Alex Ericson shredded them twice in the first half. The short kick before halftime put this game in jeopardy.

Overall Special Teams Grade: C

Poll

What grade would you assign the Steelers special teams after their 28-21 win in Cincinnati?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (6 votes)
  • 10%
    B
    (109 votes)
  • 46%
    C
    (493 votes)
  • 38%
    D
    (406 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (43 votes)
1057 votes total Vote Now

Overall Team Grade: B+

A genuine thriller. While it didn’t have to go down to the wire, the opponent was formidable. The total-team win saw the non-flawless Steelers snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. While improvements are necessary....the result is still satisfying.

Poll

What overall grade would you assign the Steelers after their 28-21 win in Cincinnati?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    A
    (155 votes)
  • 72%
    B
    (749 votes)
  • 12%
    C
    (127 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
1037 votes total Vote Now

Valedictorian: The Offensive Line

Honor Roll: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Conner, Xavier Grimble, Jesse James, Vance McDonald, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Randy Fichtner, Joe Haden,

Detention: Artie Burns, Kameron Canaday, Kickoff Coverage