Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15

PITTSBURGH -- High marks all around after the Steelers’ most impressive win of the season, given the opponent and the circumstances.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be after the Steelers built an early three-touchdown lead. Roethlisberger completed 20 of 25 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown, and finished with a passer rating of 95.2. The only marks against him were the interception he threw on a deep ball that became caught up in the wind, and the Steelers’ inability to score touchdowns when they were twice inside the Bengals’ 10-yard line. Grade: B+

Running backs: Le'Veon Bell scored the first touchdown of the game, but he averaged just 2.4 yards on 22 carries. Despite his limited production on the ground, Bell still flashes the kind of ability to make you think he is going to be a very good running back in this league, such as when he planted Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson with a wicked stiff-arm. The Steelers got some nice production out of Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones. Grade: B-

Receivers: They caught just about everything that came their way, and weren’t asked to do too much after the Steelers seized control of the game early. The receivers made a couple of key catches after the Bengals had crept back into the game. Antonio Brown again found the end zone, and he has caught six touchdown passes in the past seven games. Grade: B

Offensive line: The unit didn’t open up a lot of holes for Bell, but it kept Roethlisberger clean. The Bengals managed just one sack and two quarterback pressures, and Roethlisberger has been dropped just five times in the Steelers’ past five games. There were a couple of in-game injuries, but nothing that caused the kind of shuffling that has happened all too often this season. The line did not commit a holding penalty despite playing against a physical defense. Grade: B+

Defensive line: It might have played its best game of the season despite the absence of two starters. Ziggy Hood and Al Woods shined while filling in for Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon, respectively, and the Bengals averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. Cincinnati’s longest run was 9 yards, and that came off a read-option by quarterback Andy Dalton. Hood recorded the Steelers’ only sack of the game. Grade: A

Linebackers: Vince Williams made a textbook read and tackle early in the game, stuffing BenJarvus Green-Ellis for no gain on third-and-1. That led to the muffed punt attempt that set up the first touchdown of the game. The linebackers were stout against the run all night, though they could have put more pressure on Dalton. Grade: B

Secondary: A.J. Green caught nine passes for 93 yards, but the Steelers were more than happy to keep the Pro Bowler in front of them after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Green averaged just 5.2 receiving yards per target, and the Steelers excelled at tackling after the catch. They did not allow a catch of 20 yards or longer, and their two leading tacklers, cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor, combined for 14 stops. Grade: A-

Special teams: They received a couple of gifts -- punter Kevin Huber dropping a snap and Cedric Peerman getting penalized running with the ball after calling for a fair catch on a kickoff that negated a lengthy return. Brown broke free for his first punt return for a touchdown since 2011, and Shaun Suisham banged home all three of his field-goal attempts despite the swirling winds. Grade: B+

Coaching: So much for the Steelers mailing it in with little to play for in a stadium that had its share of empty seats. They dominated the game for three quarters, then made the necessary stops and first downs to blunt the Bengals’ fourth-quarter rally. All three units played well off one another, and the Steelers simply wanted the game more than a playoff-bound team that had everything to play for Sunday night. Grade: A