Tim Benz: Airing of grievances after all-too-difficult Steelers win over Bengals | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Airing of grievances after all-too-difficult Steelers win over Bengals

Tim Benz
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph runs the ball under pressure by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson during the first half an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Cincinnati.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won a divisional road game with their third-string quarterback to move back into a playoff position.

So what’s to complain about, right?

Well, when the result was a scattered 16-10 nail-biter in the shadow of the Cincinnati Bengals 0-11 “Escaloser” at Paul Brown Stadium, I hope you’ll grant me a little latitude to vent about a few details.

Here is this week’s Steelers “Airing of Grievances.”

The quarterback play

No, not just Mason Rudolph. Duck, too.

Indeed, Rudolph was bad enough to get benched with a passer rating of 39.8.

However, Devlin Hodges didn’t exactly light it up aside from his 79-yard touchdown pass to James Washington.

Beyond that play, Hodges was just 4-for-11 for 39 yards. Combined, the quarterbacks were only 13-for-27 for 179 net yards to go along with a touchdown, an interception and three sacks (which lost 24 yards). All that for a total passer rating of 70.5.

Their spotty performance was a big reason why the team was 0-for-4 in the red zone and 5-for-16 on third downs.

Passive pass catchers

You can’t put it all on the quarterbacks, though. As usual, the receivers were nothing special.

No receiver had more than three catches. No one besides Washington (98 yards) exceeded 35 yards receiving. And that 35-yard mark was set on one play from brand-new guy Deon Cain.

Vance McDonald had one catch for one yard. That was the total contribution from the tight ends.

And even Washington — aside from his great 79-yard catch and run — only hauled in two of the remaining six targets that came his way the rest of the game.

Those catches totaled a mere 19 yards.

It’s not all their fault. It’s the play calling. It’s the quarterbacking. It’s the pass blocking.

It’s everything.

Which why this week’s likely upcoming non-stop debate between which of the two below-average quarterbacks should start is probably a moot point.

What was everyone thinking?

I hated the play call on third-and-5 at the Cincinnati 8-yard line with 3:25 left.

With the Bengals out of timeouts, Hodges threw an incompletion and the Steelers ended up kicking a field goal to make it 16-10.

The Steelers should’ve run the ball there. That way, if they didn’t pick up the first down, the clock would’ve run until the Steelers called timeout on their own to stop the play clock before the field goal attempt.

Instead, the clock stopped on the incompletion and the Steelers essentially gave the Bengals a free timeout.

Perhaps Hodges got instructions to run forward or just take a sack instead of throwing the ball away. And maybe he ignored them.

But the coaches never should’ve trusted a third-string quarterback to do that in such a situation. They should’ve taken the decision-making out of his hands.

Defensive duffs

The defense saved the day again, totaling four sacks and two turnovers.

It had a few bad moments, though.

Joe Haden dropped two potential interceptions, and Mike Hilton dropped one. Devin Bush’s strip of Tyler Boyd was a wonderful effort. But it came after a long completion with 8:45 left in the game while nursing a 13-10 lead.

Haden had a rough start to the game, particularly while trying to guard Boyd early.

Also, after Hodges hit the long touchdown pass to Washington, the defense really looked weak on Cincinnati’s next drive. The Bengals moved with ease on a nine-play, 69-yard march to tie the game at 10-10 in the third quarter.

Cleveland clowns

The Steelers didn’t exactly shine in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, up I-71 in Cleveland, Browns fans looked much worse.

Did you see their Mason Rudolph tailgate pinata?

That woman swinging the helmet was blind, flailing, inaccurate, and confused.

Much like most Cleveland fans who have tried to defend Myles Garrett in the wake of his actions last week.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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