The Steelers entered Week 11 with a chance to improve their record to 4-6 and a 2-1 AFC North record. Instead, the Steelers sit at 3-7, needing to go 5-1-1 or better to get back to .500.
But in this pivotal loss, the Steelers showed a lot of good mixed in with their failings. Let’s look at who played well, and who didn’t, in Week 11.
In Week 10 Kenny Pickett and the Steelers passing game were better than they had been so far in 2022, with Pickett setting season highs for passer rating and yards per attempt for full games of play. One of the keys for Week 11 was for Pickett to continue to play well against a much better Bengals defense, and he did, setting a new high for passer rating and his second-best yards per attempt, while throwing for a touchdown and again avoiding turnovers.
Pickett’s top target was Pat Freiermuth, who was targeted a career high 12 times, gaining 79 yards. George Pickens was targeted 6 times, catching 4 for 83 yards and a TD, while dropping a pass that would have very likely added a touchdown and 49 yards to his total. Pickens, like many of his teammates, had a roller coaster of a day, making big plays, but also his big drop, and worse, his actions on the onside kick that rightly got him ejected and will likely also see him getting a letter from the league this week.
It stood out to me that it was the Bengals pulling out a hard-fought win while it was the Steelers losing their composure. Let’s hope the team solves that issue quickly. The Bengals are one of the better run defending teams, and even with defensive tackle D.J. Reader returning, the Steelers ran for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns, with Najee Harris averaging 4.5 yards on his 20 carries.
The Steelers 30 points is their highest total in 364 days, and their 2.3 points per drive would be a top ten offense this season. At the same time the Steelers failed to gain even 10 yards on 7 of their 13 possessions, the Steelers were a mixture of the team we’ve been hoping they could become and the team we are hoping they can stop being all at the same time, but it was a big improvement and they put up plenty enough points to win.
Honor Roll: Run blocking, Kenny Pickett’s continued growth, Pat Freiermuth, Pickens’ catches.
Demerits: Pass blocking, Kenny Pickett’s random dumb plays, Diontae Johnson, Pickens’ dirty play on the onside kick.
Final Grade: B
T.J. Watt’s second game back is usually the one where he shows up in a big way, and while he only recorded a half-sack, he also had a ridiculous interception. Alex Highsmith got the other half of that sack, and despite good effort only had one tackle to go with it. The big story of this game for me was the job the Bengals’ tackles did facing Watt and Highsmith. Cameron Heyward had a strong game, though the rest of the line didn’t stand out much at all.
The linebackers did a good job in run defense, but Myles Jack and Robert Spillane were exploited in coverage, and the Bengals running backs gained 94 yards and 3 touchdowns on 7 combined targets.
Levi Wallace joins the list of players who had an up and down game, recording an interception, and showing some top notch coverage snaps but also getting absolutely destroyed on several snaps that led to big plays.
Honor Roll: Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt’s interception.
Demerits: Inability to cover Tee Higgins, or any running back, or even Trenton Irwin, who more than doubled his career receiving yards.
Final Grade: F
The theme of the game was mixing really good plays and terrible ones, and special teams is no different, especially Steven Sims who had a number of really good returns mixed in with horrible ones. Pressley Harvin III had some disappointing punts, but at least the good outweighed the bad for him. Matthew Wright had a very good game, hitting all three of his field goals and consistently dropping kickoffs right outside the end zone, leading to a good number of Bengals drives starting behind the 25-yard line.
Honor Roll: Matthew Wright, punt coverage.
Demerits: Steven Sims going backward.
Final Grade: C
This loss was costly, and it feels bad, but frankly? This game felt like the Bengals being back to the team they should be more than the Steelers being bad. It took a lot of mistakes from the Bengals for the Steelers to win in Week 1, the Steelers were right in this game despite the Bengals playing a much better game. That doesn’t make up for the results, just tempers the harshness of my grading. Frankly, the Steelers looked like a much better team than they have for most of the season. I nearly gave this team a C for this game.
Final Grade: D
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Grade the Steelers Week 11 loss to the Bengals
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