Making his return after a shoulder injury suffered in November 2015 during a Week 11 game against the Cardinals, and an ankle injury that occurred during the first week of training camp, Darqueze Dennard had a shaky outing in Pittsburgh. After a multitude of injuries during his first three years in Cincinnati, Dennard has yet to accomplish much on the field. He was just starting to show what he was capable of prior to his untimely injury against Arizona last year.
Last week against the Jets, Dennard’s replacement, Josh Shaw, had quite a performance, which included a game-sealing interception. But, after practicing all week and getting healthy, Dennard assumed his role as the team’s slot cornerback and unfortunately, was in coverage for a number of the Steelers’ biggest plays during their win over the Bengals on Sunday.
In the first quarter, Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates caught a 44 yard pass with Dennard in coverage. That proved to be costly as a few plays later, the Steelers scored their first touchdown of the afternoon, taking a 7-0 lead. Later on, Dennard allowed a nine-yard grab from Eli Rodgers. And again, in the third quarter, Coates torched Dennard for a 53-yard catch that set up the Steelers for another touchdown and the 17-6 lead.
But, Dennard is admitting to his faults and miscues from the Bengals’ loss.
“I have to take accountability of the long balls. You can’t have them and they scored both times,” Dennard said via Bengals.com. “I have to play up to the caliber of the guys.”
I’m willing give Dennard a pass as it was his first game back since November and after missing most of training camp, but he’s right in alluding to that he was the weak link among the cornerback unit on Sunday. Overall, the Bengals’ cornerbacks had a solid outing in Pittsburgh, limiting Antonio Brown to 39 yards on four catches and keeping the high-powered Steelers offense to 24 points after scoring 38 in Week 1. Dre Kirkpatrick had one of his best games in stripes as he grabbed an interception and nearly had another. Adam Jones also snagged an interception early on during the matchup. Of the Steelers' 259 receiving yards, 106 can be traced back to plays with Dennard in coverage. Though, Dennard actually thought he came close to picking off the Steelers longest passing play of the day.
“When I saw the ball, I thought I would pick it off,” Dennard said of the 53-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Coates in the third quarter. “But the ball was sailing to the left side. The ball was thrown away from me and I was just going for the PBU.”
As Dennard continues to practice and work his way back this week, hopefully we’ll see less rust going forward, starting with when the 2-0 Broncos come to town on Sunday.