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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals AFC Wild Card report card

The Wild Card game between the Steelers and Bengals ended with a Steelers victory in the final seconds of the game. Here's how the team graded out by position group.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 18-16 in an incredibly harrowing game on Saturday.  The defense in particular played astoundingly well through the first three quarters before their effectiveness waned in the final quarter of the game as Roethlisberger left with an injury and the Bengals defense imploded.

We know the Steelers came away with a victory. Lets take a look at how the team grade out by position.

Quarterbacks: C-

Ben Roethlisberger was not in top form, throwing one pass too high to Martavis Bryant in the first half, and nearly throwing an interception in the end zone with seconds left in the second quarter. Overall, it was a lackluster performance.

Perhaps his worst moment, was holding on to the ball so long he ended up sacked, injured, and carted into the locker room.

After Landry Jones took the field, the team struggled even more. A successful Jones drive was one that didn't result in a turnover. He was so bad that an injured Roethlisberger took to the field after a last-minute turnover by the Bengals gave the Steelers another chance.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: B

The first half was marked by short passes. As the rain increased, ball security became an issue, as Markus Wheaton fumbled a ball that was recovered by the Bengals.

Martavis Bryant had one of the most incredible touchdown receptions ever. (No exaggeration.) Maintaining control of the ball involved acrobatics, concentration, more acrobatics, and magic.

Toussaint was a reliable receiver for the Steelers, a pleasant surprise in the absence of DeAngelo Williams and, of course, Le'Veon Bell.

Running Backs: B

Without Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers' run game could have been a disaster. Instead, it was decent. Maybe even OKish or good. Jordan Todman also had skillful and productive moments.  Martavis Bryant had a fantastic run in the third quarter that advanced the squad 44 yards. Toussaint also proved his worth during the game, racking up yards on the ground and through the air.

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line did some phenomenal run blocking that allowed both Toussaint and Todman to run the ball well. In terms of protection, however, they allowed Roethlisberger to be sacked three times. Sometimes Big Ben held on to the ball too long, but the line made other mistakes as well, incurring avoidable penalties that backed the Steelers up at critical times.

Defensive Line: B

Cameron Heyward had a phenomenal sack in the second quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Bengals and creating a 3rd and 23 situation. Cam Thomas recovered a fumble and ran it back for a bit in awkward, big-man fashion. Like the rest of the defense, the line experienced a decline in performance in the fourth quarter.

Linebackers: A

Ryan Shazier made countless huge plays, stuffing run plays behind the line of scrimmage andappearing out of nowhere to make key tackles. He also recovered a fumble that would have been returned for a touchdown if the referees hadn't erroneously blown the play dead.

Bud Dupree made effective plays as well. On the second quarter Antwon Blake interception, Jarvis Jones was able to put massive pressure on A.J. McCarron. He also had a sack.

The linebackers struggled towards the end of the game to stop the run and put pressure on the McCarron, but still came through with big plays, like Shazier's forced fumble, recovered by the Steelers, just when nearly all hope of a Steelers victory was lost. He also batted down McCarron's Hail Mary to insure a victory at the end of the game.

Secondary: B+

Antwon Blake came up with a huge interception towards the end of the first half and nearly had a second later in the game. William Gay thought he had recovered a teammate's fumble and then scored a touchdown. He celebrated accordingly. Touchdown did not stand. Penalty incurred for his celebration did. Unfortunate.

Will Allen made big plays and tackled effectively throughout the game. In general, tackling was much better this week. (Better late than never, right?).

In the fourth quarter, the secondary played markedly worse than they had in the first three quarters, playing soft and giving up way too many yards through the air, which included a touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter.

Shazier and Ross Cockrell teamed up for a forced fumble and recovery that gave the Steelers renewed hope in the final minutes of the game.

Special Teams: A-

Unfortunately, the Steelers had a lot of punting practice during the game. Overall, Jordan Berry punted well. Several times the Bengals had to start their drives with very unfavorable field position, to the credit of Steelers special teams. Boswell was also a key contributor, scoring six points in the first half and six more in the second half, including the game-winning field goal with just seconds left.

There were also some bad moments. One of the dumbest moments of the game was (another!) interference call on Shamarko Thomas after he careened into the punt returner. Adam Jones had a 40 yard return with about 3:30 left in the game.

Overall: C

The number of penalties was astounding. For that fact alone, the Steelers deserve a C grade. The Steelers penalty problem said, "This week we are giving away free yards instead of free Primantis! Enjoy!" The Steelers lack of consistency was also troubling and could have cost them the game. They need to clean that up for next week.