If you were listening to sports talk radio today (I was) or reading about the Steelers and Bengals game online (I did) then you probably got the general idea that the Steelers picked up a nice win although they did it by a semi slim margin. While I understand the sediment of that sort of thinking I would have to disagree with that. The Bengals were taken to the woodshed last night and the Steelers pretty much did whatever they wanted to the Bengals. The game wasn't close, at least not as close as the score may have indicated.
A few people were telling me last night that while the win was good it wasn't as one sided as I was making it out to be. Here are just a few reasons why the game was not as close as the seven point gap:
-The Steelers held a 431-185 advantage in total yardage
-The Bengals picked up only 11 first downs.
-The Steelers were 10-of-16 on third down while the Bengals converted only five third down attempts.
-The Bengals averaged 3.8 yards per play.
-The first Bengals drive lasted 15 plays that spanned 80 yards and took 8:09 off the clock. The Bengals entire second half where you add all of their drives together totals this: 24 plays, 84 yards, 12:17 time of possession.
-The Steelers held the ball for 15 more minutes than the Bengals (37:30-22:30). The Steelers had the ball for a whole quarter more than the Bengals.
-The Steelers averaged 5.8 yards per carry as a team and converted ten first downs via the run.
-A.J. Green - One catch. Eight yards.
So after looking at all of that I think you are start to see where I am coming from when I say that the Steelers dominated this game. Sure, the Steelers gave up a pretty bad drive on the first series of the game but the only other touchdown they gave up was when the offense fumbled the ball away on their own eight yard line. Four of the last five Bengals drives were three and outs. They closed the deal.
The offense turned the ball over a couple of times and really didn't close the game in the early fourth quarter but it was all good. The Steelers converted third downs and the offensive line not only protected Ben so that he could convert third downs and opened up holes for the backs. There were drops that held back the offense but that really didn't factor in on the ability of the Bengals to not be able to stop the offense. The Steelers stopped themselves.
I was also told by a few people that the Steelers need to beat a good team before we can say that things were really good. As if there are all these great teams in the AFC. Before play began on Sunday there were two teams with winning records in the AFC so when you think about it at 3-3 the Bengals had the third best record in the league. I am sorry a division win over a pretty decent team is great. Especially when you move that division opponent to 0-3 in division play.
The special teams was the big black eye with some inability to cover kicks and a lack to not block somebody in the back but in the grand scheme of things it was all good for the Steelers. The Bengals couldn't do anything offensively or defensively no matter how bad they tried. Damn it was good to watch.
Some game thoughts:
-A ton of people are talking about the offense, and rightfully so, but the defense won this football game. This was almost a full 180 of what the Steelers are usually like this year. Typically the Steelers start the game well enough and then crumble later in the game. This time the Steelers looked really bad in the first drive and then just looked like you weren't going to be able to gain a single yard in the fourth quarter. I liked watching this defense.
-The defensive line and linebackers were decent but the secondary was absolutely outstanding. Andy Dalton had no idea what was going on and only threw for 105 yards on the day. Green might be the best receiver in the AFC and he came into the game leading the league in receiving and all Ike Taylor and the defense did was hold him to one catch for eight yards. Keenan Lewis was making plays all over the field and Cortez Allen didn't have his named called out despite playing in the dime. It was all good in the back end for a team that has struggled there. You know I am a Taylor fan and he finally had his coming out party. He was following Green all over the field and he was physical and was playing like the 2011 version.
-The offensive line was great. I can't even pick someone out. They were all good, especially considering the whole right side of the line was filling in for injured starters. Willie Colon was great and was a big reason the Steelers were able to open up holes in the running game. Colon actually was heads up when the offense was sputtering and started a semi fight with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict which got the offense fired up and going. Mike Adams wasn't bad although he was getting some help with max protection and keeping in the tight end but for all things considered it was a huge win for the offensive line.
-When are people going to start talking about Heath Miller? He is the most complete tight end in the game and he gets no love because he doesn't split out and primarily play receiver. Miller made a nice catch to score a touchdown before the half and then made an outstanding catch on the two point conversion to tie the game. He finished the game with six catches for 53 yards but it wasn't even the catches that made him valuable. Miller might have made the block of the game when he pulled across the formation and set up a massive hole for Chris Rainey's touchdown run and threw great blocks all night long. What a weapon to have.
-I am not really sure what Jon Dwyer is but last night he was the man. 122 yards on 17 carries and he was running hard and hitting the hole and taking on contact. Dwyer got the chance because every running back is hurt but it is nice to know that it is there with Dwyer. I really liked Dwyer this year and it seems as if he is coming into his own so he could be a nice option in the backfield. I still think Rashard Mendenhall is the main guy but it doesn't hurt to have more than one.
-Maybe one of the guys that nobody ever talks about but more than deserves his props is Shaun Suisham. Suisham was a perfect 3-for-3 last night hitting three field goals over 40 yards and has only missed one time this year and that was a 54 yard attempt. I was not a huge fan on him coming back to the team but he is not only knocking down field goals this year but every single one of them is right down the middle. It is really impressive. Last season he was only 23-of-31 on field goals and so far this year he is 14-of-15. His kickoffs are getting much deeper in the end zone and it is refreshing to see.
-Ben Roethlisberger is just money. Straight cash. He went out there with a banged up offensive line and had to deal with a ton of drops from Mike Wallace and still did what he had to do. He was his best on third down as he has been all season and right now he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He did fumble and throw a pick but overall he played a pretty nice game. I wouldn't want anyone else.
-Speaking of Wallace, he did not have a really good game. He was targeted 15 times in the game and only made eight catches. He couldn't hold on to anything as he had four drops (I believe) and it could have counted for more. He dropped an easy first down throw and a touchdown pass and it was just really ugly. I know some are mad at him for the holdout and stuff and saying he does this all the time but coming into the game Wallace had only one drop. This isn't him but it doesn't mean this should be excused. Wallace hasn't been good so far this year and it has been disappointing but you just have to feel that he is about to break out. He is a pretty good receiver and while he isn't the Steelers number one I think most teams would kill to have someone like Wallace to stick as their number two.
-The only other big negative were the special teams. Antonio Brown and Rainey were having great returns all night but every single time there was a penalty. On the drive that resulted in the fumble from Roethlisberger was set up by a poor special teams penalty. Brown returned the ball to midfield but thanks to a block in the back it took almost 40 yards off the return and put the Steelers in some bad field position that eventually turned into a Bengals touchdown. On a few other occasions that happened and it can't anymore. Not only were there unlimited penalties on special teams but the kick coverage was very poor. The Bengals averaged almost 27 yards a return and Brandon Tate averaged over 36 yards per return on three returns. Very subpar.
All things considered though it was a big win. Gotta love it. RGIII on Sunday.