CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Keenan Lewis #23 and Will Allen #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers upend Jerome Simpson #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals during play at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Steelers won 24-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
You would think that Bengals wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell would be at the top of their games right now considering that they are both in the middle of contract years. They've each done some good things but they've also looked bad at times too. Against the Steelers, especially after A.J. Green left the game with a knee injury, neither receiver really looked too terribly impressive.
Caldwell caught three passes for 25 yards and Simpson laid an egg, catching zero passes in a game that the Bengals needed him to play his best.
It wasn't just the lack of production that doomed the Bengals, though. Dropped passes and poor route running didn't help either. Neither Simpson nor Caldwell really did their part in helping the Bengals win and, based on the way they played yesterday, they are both working their way out of employment in Cincinnati.
Both Simpson and Caldwell each dropped a very catchable pass that could have extended the drive and even tied up the score.
In the second Bengals possession of the first quarter came the first drop. Dalton dropped back to pass on first down. Simpson, who was lined up alone wide left, ran a slant route and was open behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. Dalton threw the pass that landed right in Simpsons gut but as Simpson was met by William Gay, he immediately dropped the pass.
Caldwell's dropped pass didn't come until the third quarter when Dalton tried to throw a quick screed pass out to Caldwell in the flat. Dalton was in the shotgun alone in the backfield with four wide receivers. Caldwell came in motion from the right to the left and as he got set behind the other two receivers who were wide left, the ball was snapped. Dalton immediately threw Caldwell a catchable pass that just bounced right off the receiver's hands and rolled out of bounds.
That ball hit Caldwell right in his hands, which is apparently the worst place for a pass to hit him.
There were also mistakes when it came to route running that cost each team. On a third down and long play in the second quarter, Andy Dalton dropped back to pass. He found his target, Caldwell, who was running a deep come-back route that was angled toward the sideline beyond the first-down marker. Dalton threw a pass to the open area on the field where Caldwell should have been, but Caldwell wasn't there. He was about five feet away where he had just stopped running. I'm not sure if Caldwell didn't think the pass was coming to him or if he thought Dalton would throw it to him where he was but Dalton was visibly unhappy with what happened and it was clear that he thought Caldwell didn't do what he was supposed to do.
Caldwell cutting his route short. Had he kept running he could have caught that pass.
That was a problem throughout the game and one could make an argument that it sealed the fate of the Bengals. On the team's last drive of the game against the Steelers, a drive in which they could have forced overtime by tying the score at 24, Dalton threw an interception. The Bengals were driving down the field and found themselves on the Steelers' 25-yard line in a second-and-nine situation. Dalton took the snap and dropped back to pass. Simpson was wide right and ran a slant to the inside. Dalton threw the pass to where Simpson should have gone but Simpson just stopped and waited for it. He was even falling back a little as the pass was coming to him. That enabled William Gay to step right in front of him and intercept the pass. It may not have been the best decision by Dalton but it was a very poor effort by Simpson.
William Gay stepping right in front of Simpson, who stopped on the route.
Both Simpson and Caldwell were out performed by Andrew Hawkins, an undrafted free agent, and when Green left the game, both failed to step up and take the place of the team's No. 1 receiver. The loss can't be blamed on just two players but neither Simpson nor Caldwell helped the team win.