The Steelers wanted to be like its hockey counterpart from last night. They played a pretty bad first quarter/period and then dominated the rest of the game. The only difference is that instead of winning by a single score the Steelers took the Bengals to the woodshed and routed them 35-7. This was the definition of a team win and knocked the Bengals out of any chance they may have had at winning the AFC North and now have them on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture.
As I said the first half was pretty bad for the Black and Gold as the offense couldn’t get much going and the Bengals had the offense going getting into Steelers territory twice and even getting into the red zone on its first drive. Problem for the Bengals, which was a problem all day, was that they couldn’t help but shoot themselves in the foot. On a third and goal play from the five they completed a pass for a touchdown but it was called back for an offside by AJ Green. After failing to score a touchdown they line up for a 27 yard field goal and make it but it doesn’t count due to a delay of game. That backs them up for a 33 yard try which gets blocked by Cam Hayward. It was a look into things that were going to happen the rest of the day for the Bengals.
Once the second quarter started the Steelers went for the knockout punch and got it. Pittsburgh scored the first 21 points of the game and then added another score after the Bengals got on the board to go up 28-7 and it was really all over from there. Rashard Mendenhall scored a pair of touchdowns from three and five yards out and then Mike Wallace scored on a 12 yard toss from Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals answered back with a 10 play 80 yard drive to make the score 21-7 and after the Steelers gave the ball back up to the Bengals right after that you had that sick feeling that the Steelers might be in for another comeback from the Bengals and you might need to have the hospital on speed dial for the heart attack you might have.
Fear not Steelers fans, the Steelers let you rest easy. The defense came up big with a three and out and that set up Antonio Brown taking the punt 60 yards to the house with a minute and a half left in the half to give the Steelers the 21 point lead and such any and all momentum out of the Bengals and really put this game almost out of reach. The Steelers came out of the break and sputtered a little bit but put together their second drive to the tune of 10 plays and 93 yards that culminated in a Wallace 19 yard touchdown catch where he juked out about 15 defenders to score. Sick. The defense took over after that.
On Mike Wallace’s first touchdown grab he gave a pretty sweet celebration.
For all of those people who were complaining that the Steelers didn’t win good enough against the Chiefs I hope this shuts them up. In a rare twist it turns out that this win, by 28, was worth just as much as a win by six like they got in Kansas City. Weird.
The special teams were really the stars of the show tonight. I already talked about the blocked field goal by Cam Hayward and the punt return for the touchdown by Antonio Brown but you can’t leave out the coverage units again today. After the Steelers were up 14-0 Stevenson Sylvester forced Ben Tate to fumble and Emmanuel Sanders recovered it. Bryant McFadden had his starting corner spot taken away from him after week one but finds a way to contribute and had the crucial block on the Brown punt return as he blocked like six Bengals with one block. Oh yea, let’s not forget to leave out Jeremy Kapinos who averaged 54.2 yards per punt on five punts. When people say it was a team effort they suaulyl mean offense/defense but this game also included a great effort from the special teams unit coached by Al Everest.
In the preview I talked about running the football and talking about if the Steelers were successful they would get up over 30 carries and have a handle on the game. The Steelers ran the ball 33 times for 136 yards and a pair of scores. Rashard Mendenhall was very effective with 60 yards on 16 carries but I thought he ran a bit better than his numbers indicated. He was running with a good bit of power and was able to skirt to the outside when he needed to in order to pick up some big yards. Isaac Redman had a really nice game also to give the Steelers a really good 1-2 punch. He ended up with 51 yards on eight carries which included a near game breaker of 27 yards. I would be remised if I didn’t bring up the blocking as a huge reason as why the run game worked so well today. The guys up from dominated the Bengals defensive line and made it easy to call whatever plays they wanted to and have a good chance of it being a big play.
Roethlisberger was pretty good today even though he really didn’t have to do much. He only threw for 176 yards but found the end zone twice and completed 15-of-23 passes. The Steelers were having a really good day running the football and had a huge lead and were able to rest Ben for the final 10 minutes of the game. Despite having the fractured thumb he looked like he was hitting the windows he needed to and if it were not for a couple of drops he could have had 17 or 18 completions but I guess you can’t have it all. I mean you need something to complain about next week, right? Ben also set a record for career completions passing Terry Bradshaw with 2,026 completions.
The receivers had a pretty nice day and the trio of Wallace, Brown and Sanders played a pretty solid day. None of those three had more than three catches but as I said the Steelers didn’t throw the ball a lot so there wasn’t going to be much going around. Hines Ward actually led the team with five grabs and is only a handful of catches away from a 1,000 for his career. Ward also broke a milestone for receiving yard as he went over 12,000 yards receiving. He is only one of 19 players in NFL history to have 12,000 or more receiving yards and only one of three that have two Super Bowl rings. What a career.
The Steelers were 4-of-4 in the red zone. Money.
While all the positives will get looked at with a score like this there were also some bad things in the game. The Steelers only converted 2-of-10 third down conversions. Going to need to be better than that going forward but it is really hard to bitch about one thing when that is really the only bad thing that happened today.
The defense has taken a lot of heat this year for not creating turnovers and sacks and giving up late leads but truth be told this defense has been pretty darn good at not giving up points. They only gave up a total of 232 yards today after giving up almost 100 in just the first quarter alone and picked off a Andy Dalton pass. Oh yea, they also sacked Dalton a season-high three times for a kid that has only been sacked 14 times before in the previous 11 games. Really nice all around effort from the defense.
While I have been pretty vocal about the year Ike Taylor has been having today was not one of his beset games. He was tasked with following AJ Green and Green was able to have a pretty nice day with six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown on a play that Taylor was covering him. To be honest it was mainly in the first half that Taylor struggled but he played a pretty good second half and even intercepted a pass. I know, right?
James Harrison is a monster. I don’t know how you would think anything different after what he did today. Three sacks of Dalton and he was a terror all day. The scary part about this is that is that Harrison says that he is almost back to his old self. Man. During the broadcast they said that when Harrison was hurt he was only able to squat 300 pounds. Now that he is healthy he is now able to get that weight up to about 600 pounds. Good Lord.
Just a great overall effort form the team. The defensive line was outstanding today including Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton and Brent Keisel. Those guys don’t get a lot of pub but they did an outstanding job controlling the line of scrimmage and also getting some good pressure on Dalton.
Well, now the Steelers have to turn around and play in like six seconds against the Browns on Thursday night. Good grief.