As Cincinnati wrapped up its season with nothing to play for but pride, they gave the Steelers all they could handle at home with the playoffs on the line. The injured and beleaguered Bengals put up an admirable fight, but fell to the Steelers, 16-13 at Heinz Field.
Here are the best and worst individual performances by Bengals players in their 10th loss of the season, the latest to the Steelers in Week 17.
Shawn Williams: The Bengals safety had a rough outing against Cleveland, but atoned well against the Steelers. He was flying around the field, nailing receivers after receptions, but also had a critical pick-six in the first half.
Alex Erickson: The veteran utility player stepped up nicely in the wake of so many injuries, as he led the team in receptions (6) and yards (63). By the way, have you ever seen more potentially-effective kickoff returns from a player negated by horrible penalties?
Christian Westerman: Alex Redmond left the game after the second quarter (more on that in a second) and Westerman came in at right guard. He helped to solidify the line in which Joe Mixon ran for yards against the Steelers.
On multiple occasions, he was seen stonewalling his man to take him out of the play. Although he had an egregious false start penalty on the team’s final offensive drive, he showed promise.
Christian Ringo: The backup defensive lineman had a nice day against the Chargers, but it continued in Week 17 with increased snaps. He had a sack in the first half, but cooled off in the second half.
Joe Mixon: Is it possible for a guy who had just 14 total touches to comprise the entirety of an offense? If so, Mixon had 13 carries for 105 yards, as the rest of Cincinnati’s offense was completely anemic.
John Ross: Part of the reason Ross makes the “losers” list is because Jeff Driskel can’t seem to get him the ball downfield. Furthermore, Ross dropped an easy pass early in the game and slipped on a route on the team’s final drive. He finished with just one catch for one yard.
Alex Redmond: It took 16 and a half weeks, but Marvin Lewis and Frank Pollack finally decided to bench Redmond for Christian Westerman. Redmond had two killer personal foul penalties in a span of a few plays. One of which both forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal and gave the Steelers great field position on the ensuing kickoff, where they capitalized with a field goal of their own.
KeiVarae Russell: The backup defensive back was victimized on a critical drive in the third quarter. With the Bengals up 10-3, Ben Roethlisberger found James Washington, who beat Russell for a big 47-yard gain.
Two plays later, Big Ben went to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who juked Russell to get into the end zone for a tying score. And, with the game tied late in the fourth quarter, Russell continued to be victimized by Roethlisberger and Co., as he gave up two completions and missed a critical tackle on the go-ahead drive.
Jeff Driskel: It’s understandable that a backup quarterback is going to have skittish feet against the Steelers’ pass-rush on their home turf, but there were times that Driskel looked totally rattled. He often bailed out of longer pass plays for the easy dump-off passes, which netted minimal yards.
Yes, many Bengals pass-catchers were out of the lineup, but Driskel keeps proving that he’s a borderline NFL quarterback at best. On a critical 3rd-and-2 in the fourth quarter, Driskel had happy feet and took a sack to force a field goal and stifle another golden opportunity for the Cincinnati offense.
Giovani Bernard: The usually-reliable back had a really rough game against the Steelers. On the few occasions he caught a pass, it was on a useless dump-off for minimal yardage. Bernard did have two drops on the day though, and finished with just three carries for seven yards and two catches for eight yards.
Nick Vigil: It’s probably a combination of Vigil’s lack of prowess, as well as the coaches putting him in poor positions and the linebacker group being decimated with injury, but he was a step or two behind on many plays. Vigil is supposedly the team’s most able coverage linebacker, but he was seen chasing backs and tight ends on short routes frequently.