Pittsburgh against Cincinnati, in the rain, on a sloppy field. Just like the heated 2015 AFC Wild Card game. It’s the matchup everyone has been waiting eight months for since the final buzzer sounded on that quirky, bizarre ending in the Queen City back in January.
It was a ugly, just not in the way most expected. With the increased sensitivity by the NFL and officials based on the last testy meeting between these teams, the players were on their best behavior, and the only ugly was in the play.
There were a combined 17 punts on the afternoon. Steelers punter Joe Berry, who punted 8 times for an average of 47 yards, pinned the Bengals inside their own 10-yard line five times. That great field position put the Steeler defense in an advantage.
The Pittsburgh pass defense still makes me nervous with this “bend, but don’t break” method that allowed 330 yards to Kirk Cousins of the Redskins on Monday night. Even though they held A.J. Green to only 2 catches for 38 yards, coming off his explosive 12 reception 190 yard 1 touchdown day at the New York Jets last weekend, Andy Dalton still threw for 359 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers D didn’t register a sack, but the constant pressure in Dalton’s face forced him into several erratic low passes and his completion percentage (30-53, .566%) was abysmal.
But, the D also let Dalton off the hook with two dropped potential interceptions by Jarvis Jones and Ross Cockrel that would have ended drives that eventually led to Bengals points. You get those turnovers and this game likely becomes a rout. I’ll say it again, if this team has hopes of winning Lombardi number seven, you can’t give up 300+ yard passing days, even in this era of pass happy football. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will pick this defensive philosophy apart.
There’s always three stats you can look at in the box score that will tell you which team won without even looking at the score. Turnovers, 3rd down conversions and time of possession. I can guarantee if your team won two of these three stats, they won the game.
Pittsburgh did win 2 of them. They lost the turnover battle 2 to 1, but won time of possession (32:55 to 27:05) and the 3rd down battle. Pittsburgh was 7 of 17 (42%)–FYI,they were 10 of 12 for 124 yards and a touchdown last week–while the Bengals were 4 of 16 (25%). That’s why the Steelers are now 2-0 after the 24 to 16 victory.
However, Pittsburgh’s offense looked like a shell of the high powered offense that abused the Washington Redskins for 38 points and 437 total yards in the season opener. Ben Roethlisberger started the first quarter decent going 5 of 9 for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. But, he finished the game 19 of 37 for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He had several balls sail on him, causing him to overthrow open receivers, which I’m sure was related to the wet weather conditions. And, Antonio Brown only caught 4 passes for 39 yards. Thankfully D’Angelo Williams stepped up with 142 all-purpose yards (94 rushing; 38 and a TD receiving).
It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Tomlin and Steelers Nation will gladly take the W. Next up, the battle of Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in the City of Brotherly Love. Kickoff is set for 4:25.
Other notes: With his fourth catch of the day, Antonio Brown moved passed Hall of Famer John Stallworth into 3rd place on the Steelers all-time receptions list. Hines Ward (1,000) and Heath Miller (592) are ahead of Brown who now has 538.
- Xavier Grimble’s first career catch was the Steelers first touchdown of the day. It was a 21-yarder to cap a 5 play, 66 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead.
- The Steelers have now won 3 consecutive games versus Cincinnati, and are 11-3 (including playoffs) since 2010. Therefore I believe it’s only right that I post my favorite Steelers picture EVER.