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Report Card: Grading the Steelers Week 1 win over the Bengals

Pittsburgh leaves Cincinnati with a win, but how did they play?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s always great to start the season off with a win, but while winning was the goal of the game, that doesn’t mean everything was great. Let’s dig into the details and see how the team performed against the Cincinnati Bengals.


The Steelers had thirteen possessions in Week 1, and the team scored 23 points. However, you can’t give any credit to the offense for Minkah Fitzpatrick’s defensive touchdown. With 13 possessions and 16 non-defensive points, the Steelers offense averaged 1.23 points per drive. The NFL’s least effective offense of 2021, the New York Giants, averaged 1.31 points per drive.

The Steelers defense forced five turnovers, one was returned for a touchdown by the defense, meaning the Steelers offense had four possessions starting from a turnover. In those four drives the Steelers offense scored 10 points. The two field goals the Steelers scored that did not come from a forced turnover were the game-winning field goal, and the field goal to start the fourth quarter that followed a 15-yard drive.

Looking beyond the awful scoring numbers, the Steelers were bad on third down (27% conversion rate), running the ball (22 rushes for 75 yards) and only managed one drive of more than 45 yards. The Steelers did not turn the ball over, but beyond that the offense was mostly terrible. The Steelers still won due to a last-minute scoring drive, so I won’t give them an F.

Honor Roll: Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson’s amazing catch, Matt Canada’s trick plays.

Demerits: The entire run game, Matt Canada’s non-trick play offense, Mitchell Trubisky’s accuracy on short passes.

Final Grade: D


The Steelers defense needed to play an incredible game just to give the Steelers any chance of winning this game. They did so much more than that. The first five drives of the game for the Bengals resulted in four turnovers and 96 total yards of offense. In the first half the Steelers defense actually outscored the Bengals offense 7-6. The Bengals are one of the more powerful offenses in the NFL right now and yet the Steelers thoroughly dominated them while receiving very little help from their offense. Multiple players had memorable individual performances including a career high 3 sacks for Alex Highsmith, a sack and interception for T.J. Watt, a sack, fumble recovery and constant dominance from Cameron Heyward, and, of course, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick-6 and blocked extra point.

It’s hard to picture a more dominant defensive performance against an offense as talented as the Bengals in the current NFL.

Honor Roll: Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith.

Demerits: The injury to T.J. Watt, penalties.

Final Grade: A+

Special Teams

Pressley Harvin III punted 8 times for 388 yards, and the Bengals only managed 31 yards in returns. One punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback, and one pinned the Bengals inside their own 10-yard line. The Steelers looked to have a really good punt team on paper, with gunners Myles Boykin and James Pierre leading the way. The punt team consistently gave the defense room to breathe when the offense couldn’t.

Chris Boswell narrowly missed a 55-yard field goal that hit the upright and then made a 53-yard field goal to give the Steelers the win. Add in Minkah Fitzpatrick’s blocked extra point and 20 yards on the Steelers only punt return and it was a good day for Danny Smith’s unit.

Honor Roll: Myles Boykin, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pressley Harvin III.

Demerits: Kuntz’s holding penalty, Olszewski’s muffed punt at the end of regulation.

Final Grade: A


As bad as the offense played, the defense played all the greater. For a final grade, the injuries to Najee Harris and T.J. Watt are bad, but a win over the Bengals does a lot to help me cope. But mostly, if that was T.J. Watt’s only game of the season, it was a heck of a game and I’m not giving it anything but an A.

Final Grade: A

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 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

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