I don’t even know how to write this, or where to began. Before the fourth quarter began I was ready to spend my time talking about how the Pittsburgh Steelers defense put up a dominating performance by holding the Cincinnati Bengals to 0 points. I was also ready to praise the Steelers running back tandem of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman for rushing for a combined 123 yards in the absence of DeAngelo Williams.
But then the fourth quarter happened, and these two teams who have butted heads in the most ugly of meetings in recent memory, put the wild in wild card.
The last two minutes alone involved an interception by Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones that appeared to seal the Bengals first playoff win in 24 seasons, followed by a Cincinnati fumble by running back Jeremy Hill as they tried to salt the game away. Then it got real wild and ugly on the ensuing Pittsburgh drive when the Bengals were called for two 15-yard personal foul penalties, one in which concussed Antonio Brown and set up the game winning 35-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.
There were 18 combined accepted penalties for 221 combined yards in the game. The Steelers 142 penalty yards were 3 away from tying the record set by the 1981 San Francisco 49ers versus the New York Giants in the Divisional round. In a way, didn’t we get what we expected from these two heated division rivals who racked up over $140 thousand dollars in fines just about a month ago?
I’ll let other folks discuss the out of control nature in which the Bengals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I’ll focus on the actual play on the field.
At the start of the day, if I had told you the Steelers would rush for 167 yards without Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, against the 7th ranked rush defense (92.3 ypg) in the regular season, you would’ve laughed and told me to get out of your face because I didn’t know anything about football.The Steelers started the game looking to establish the run game. The combo of Toussaint and Todman gained 50 yards rushing in the first quarter, 73 in the first half for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Pittsburgh ran the ball 29 times at a 5.8 yard per carry clip. It led to the 15-0 lead. To Steeler fans, it looked like old school Steeler football. Dare I say, Cowher Power football.
For three quarters the Steelers D even resembled the efforts of Cowher’s old teams, and completely dominated the Bengals. Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler’s unit only allowed the Bengals to gain 2 first downs in the first half, while holding them to 1/7 on 3rd downs for 56 total yards (2.3 ypp) in the first 30 minutes.
The much maligned pass defense only allowed 188 yards through the air, created 4 turnovers and sacked A.J. McCarron 3 times. But, they were once again exposed in the second half. 142 of those passing yards came in the last 30 minutes, and they gave up 17 first downs, 11 via the pass. Cincinnati took advantage of the secondary to take a 16-15 lead on 25-yard TD pass from McCarron to A.J.Green. It once again looked like the defense had given another playoff game away.
But of course, #7 did what he has done several times for the Steelers, and shrugged off the pain and went 5/7 for 40 yards on the 9 play 74 yard final drive, with the aide of the out-of-control Bengals penalties that set up the Steelers game winning field goal.The player of the game without a doubt goes to Ryan Shazier. The 2nd-year linebacker out of Ohio State forced two fumbles that led to 6 points. He also collected 13 tackles (9 solo), batted 2 passes and 1 hit on the quarterback.
Overall I’d give the defense a C+. I say that because while they played awesome for 45 minutes. They also had an epic collapse that would’ve had Steeler Nation questioning Coach Mike Tomlin and the Black & Yellow had the Bengals and Marvin Lewis hadn’t turned back into… well the Bengals.
However, the Steelers are on to the Divisional Round and will play at the number 1 seeded Denver Broncos next Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:40 p.m.OTHER NUGGETS: Steelers are now 8-3 when scoring first in the postseason since 2004. Ben Roethlisberger is now second in NFL history with 4 postseason game-winning drives in the 4th quarter or overtime. Tom Brady and Eli Manning share first place, each have 5. The Bengals are now 0-14 in their playoff history when trailing at any point.