Bengals Report Card: Grading the 29-14 loss to the Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers shakes hands with Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals at the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on October 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers shakes hands with Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals at the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on October 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Here is the report card from the 29-14 loss the Cincinnati Bengals suffered against the Steelers at Pittsburgh on Sunday:

RUSH OFFENSE

The Good: Joe Mixon averaged 6.9 yards per carry with a season-long run of 25 yards on the first touchdown drive and a jaunt of 17 on the second TD march before being abandoned in the play calling.

The Bad: Giovani Bernard averaged 2.7 yards per carry, while Jeremy Hill averaged 1.7 as nine of the team's 13 running back carries produced 2 yards or fewer.

Key Play: Mixon's 25-yard run on his first touch of the game, which came after the hole closed and he cut back and found an opening, was yet another glimpse of the game-breaking ability the rookie has.

›› Mixon frustrated with lack of carries in loss to Steelers

Grade: B-

PASS OFFENSE

The Good: Dalton was excellent on third down in the first half, completing 4 of 5 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals converted three of their first four third downs, all of which came on third and 5 or longer.

The Bad: Both of Dalton's interceptions went off a receiver's hands (A.J. Green and Josh Malone), and the offensive line gave up all four of its sacks in a span of five plays covering three series.

Key Play: Dalton's second interception was the dagger for the Steelers, coming at the Pittsburgh 42 with the Bengals down by 12 with more than 18 minutes still remaining in the game.

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Grade: D

RUSH DEFENSE

The Good: Cincinnati limited the explosive Le'Veon Bell to 3.8 yards per carry, and the Bengals stopped former teammate Terrell Watson on a fourth-and-1 play on the first snap of the fourth quarter, keeping alive their slim hopes of a comeback. They also stopped Bell on third and 1 on the first drive of the second half, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal.

The Bad: Vontaze Burfict was a non-factor with just four tackles while playing all 69 snaps, 43 of which were runs, and the tackling team-wide was one of the worst performances by the Bengals in recent memory.

Key play: Bell's longest run of the game was a 15-yarder that came on the second play of the second half, setting the tone for what was to come over the final 29 minutes.

Grade: C+

›› Steelers burn Bengals right before halftime … again

PASS DEFENSE

The Good: Will Jackson played well while starting for the injured Adam Jones as the Bengals limited Antonio Brown to just four catches on 10 targets for 65 yards.

The Bad: Ben Roethlisberger was 12 of 16 for 193 yards and two touchdowns alone in the first half as the Bengals only got the Steelers into one first down on their two 75-yard TD drives. Also, the team's NFL-best streak of 34 games with at least one sack came to an end.

Key play: JuJu Schuster-Smith's 31-yard touchdown that put the Steelers up 14-7 early in the second quarter was way too easy, coming via miscommunication that led to a blown coverage. It's something the Bengals thought they had cleaned up after giving up a couple of similar big plays early in the year.

›› Jackson plays well in starting role for injured Adam Jones

Grade: C-

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Good: Punter Kevin Huber continued to be a force, averaging 50 yards on his five punts while dropping two inside the 20. Fifteen of Huber's 31 punts this season have been downed inside the 20, which is tied for third most in the league. Alex Erickson added a 19-yard punt return. And the coverage units allowed just one kick return for 16 yards and one punt return for 7.

The Bad: The Bengals basically gift-wrapped the fake punt the Steelers executed when no one went out to cover the gunner, Darius Heyward-Bey.

Key Play: The fake punt resulted in a 44-yard reception down to the Cincinnati 16 with 6:15 to go, eliminating whatever sliver of hope remained for a rally.

Grade: B

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COACHING

The Good: Marvin Lewis won his first replay challenge since the playoff loss to the Steelers at the end of the 2015 season while going 2 for 2 for the first time since Week 12, 2014. And Lewis' decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1 resulted in a Dalton touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft on a great play-action call by coordinator Bill Lazor.

The Bad: The Bengals continue to trot Hill out as the starting tailback despite his ineffectiveness, and Sunday they doubled down on the curious move by starting the second half with Hill even though Mixon had a great first half in limited action.

Key Play: Any one of the final 24 that didn't involve a handoff to Mixon.

Grade: D

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