Coming off a blowout win over the Falcons last week, it's only natural to expect the Steelers to finish in a nail-biter against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 6. This contest didn't come without its usual share of ups and downs for both the offense and the defense. Here are my winners and losers from the Steelers win over the Bengals this week.
Conner was the best player in this football game, and I'm not sure it was even that close. He churned out consistent yardage, chewed up big gains, and punched the ball in for a score on two occasions. Though he was robbed of his third rushing touchdown of the game on an acrobatic move to cross the goal line, Conner finished with 111 yards and 2 TD on just 19 attempts (5.8 yards per carry).
After two early drops, JuJu quickly turned things around - catching 7 of 11 targets for 111 yards. He also made the contested catch of the year - tearing the under-thrown ball away from the defender and landing on his head inches short of the goal line.
Though his late fumble may have prevented the Steelers from picking up a crucial first down in the 4th quarter, McDonald was again dominant in this contest. He was amazing after the catch- punishing Vontaze Burfict and company. Vance finished with a respectable stat-line of 7 catches on 8 targets for 68 yards.
David DeCastro and the offensive line
The offensive line deserves a lot of credit in this one. They paved the way for James Conner and did a fantastic job keeping Ben on his feet. Most notable of the group (to nobody's surprise) was David DeCastro. The All-Pro guard was dominant off the line of scrimmage and proved once again why his name belongs in the conversation for the best in the league at his position.
Though Brown was quiet for much of the game, he exploded late and was extremely efficient with just 6 targets - catching 5 balls for 101 yards and a game-winning touchdown. Brown also drew a couple of key penalties.
Charged with the assignment of matching up against one of the league's best receivers in A.J. Green, Haden did a good job in this contest. Green gained 85 yards on 12 targets, though not all of which Haden was responsible for. Joe Haden also had two key pass breakups against the Bengals.
Williams had his ups and downs against the Bengals. Though his stat-line would indicate a very good game (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit), Vince Williams took some bad angles against the run and was picked on in the passing game. Williams is a serviceable player, but he just hasn't been as good without Shazier by his side.
Artie Burns is a frustrating player. At moments he will display great coverage. However, more often than not, he leaves you scratching your head. Burns gave up a touchdown to Tyler Boyd on a play where he wasn't even in the vicinity of the receiver. The Steelers wanted William Jackson in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, and I still get frustrated to this day that they settled for Artie Burns when Jackson was taken by the Bengals just one pick before them.
I typically have nothing but good things to say about Cam Heyward. He's a great leader, a good personality, and a hard worker. However, the former All-Pro was completely non-existent in this game - so much so that he failed to record a single stat. I don't expect this trend to continue, but I'm sure this is a personal performance Heyward wishes he could forget about.
I don't have a problem at all with the play-calling in game. However, Tomlin once again wasn't good with his challenge flags. He had a spot challenge early on a play where Ryan Switzer clearly fell short of a first down, then he failed to challenge the spot of a James Conner run that likely would have resulted in a touchdown to help seal the game. This may not be all Tomlin's fault, but whoever is watching these replays for the Steelers upstairs needs to get their act together.