The Good, Bad, and Ugly column is a breakdown of several segments of each game into each of a grading category of "good", "bad", or "ugly". To get to the nitty gritty, Joe Kuzma dissects three moments from each game which could be best classified as each of those labels.
Sunday’s Steelers victory over the Cincinnati Bengals wasn’t pretty, but then again, even the bookies were speculating a low-scoring game with an over/under of 38 heading into the game.
That led to inefficient offense from both sides while defensive efforts made the most of the game. It was a bit harder to pick out the good, bad, and ugly in this week’s game because of those lack of splash plays, but I think I made some good choices regardless.
Good – James Washington Touchdown
Steelers Ball: 3rd Quarter 11:22 - 2nd-and-17 PIT 21
The Steelers needed a spark, as their offense just wasn’t getting the job done. In a bold move, Head Coach Mike Tomlin yanked his second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph following the first possession of the second half in favor of playing undrafted rookie Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
Hodges has been a bit of a Cinderella story in the Steel City: he wasn’t drafted, nor was he signed following the draft out of the smaller FCS college Samford. However, he walked into the team’s rookie minicamp and won a spot as their “camp arm” before coming to training camp, impressing the coaches, and returning after the team traded Joshua Dobbs to the Jaguars.
With a bit more anticipation in his throws, Hodges had a warmup throw to Jaylen Samuels before a first down, and subsequent holding penalty, set the Steelers with a 2nd-and-17 from their own 21-yard line.
Hodges patiently allowed the play to develop before throwing 40-some yards downfield to second-year receiver James Washington, who then makes the most of the wide open space by stiff-arming a Bengals defender on his way into the endzone for Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown on the day.
Bad – Rudolph Redzone Interception
Steelers Ball: 1st Quarter 2:00 - 3rd-and-9 CIN 9
You hate to see it happen, but Rudolph’s confidence appears to have been shaken ever since he left the Baltimore Ravens game with a helmet hit. Since, Rudolph has held onto the ball for long periods of time and likely wasn’t looking for his best option on this play either, as Ramon Foster is forced back into the passer with his attempt being tipped and picked off on what was the Steelers longest drive (by far) of the entire game.
In a 0-0 game at that time, the Steelers come up empty-handed in an important division game against a winless foe. These are the types of mistakes which cost teams games and the Steelers were lucky this didn't impact them as the Bengals were unable to translate the turnover into points.
Ugly – Both Tyler Boyd receptions
Bengals Ball: 2nd Quarter 2:00 - 2nd-and-3 CIN 38
There’s no doubting that the Steelers defense has kept them in the playoff hunt this season. Therefore, when the defense gives up big plays, a rarity for much of 2019, it ends up deflating team morale and making the possible seem impossible.
That’s the sentiment which was going around after the Steelers scored the game’s first points following a Chris Boswell field goal. With around three minutes remaining before halftime, the Bengals took the field and immediately stormed from their 31-yard line all of the way across the goal line in only three plays and 1:26 off of the game clock.
Two of those plays were to WR Tyler Boyd, who was blatantly held/interfered with by Steelers S Terrell Edmunds on the first, 47-yard gain: which Boyd still somehow caught one-handed.
The second pass went 15-yards as Boyd beat Steelers CB Joe Haden for a touchdown, putting the Bengals up 7-3 and making it appear as if Pittsburgh could lose this game against the winless Bengals.