Steelers Get Key Win Against Bengals: Instant Reaction


The Steelers desperately needed a win against the Cincinnati Bengals on the road.  Even more, they needed a damn good showing while doing so.  It took some time, but the Steelers held it together long enough and shifted the momentum with some big key plays that they got that win.  They may have even shifted the momentum in the AFC North race away from the Bengals who have commanded the top spot for weeks.

The offense needed a big game by Le’Veon Bell.  The Bengals defense ranked near the bottom in rush defense going into this game, and they should fall even more in those ranks after Sunday afternoon.  The Steelers opened up with a bunch of runs from Bell, clearly showing that they were going to roll with him.  The offense had some good runs strung together but were largely inefficient on 3rd down.  Roethlisberger still had some lingering effects of whatever was causing him to overthrow the ball  the last few weeks.  He missed on several passes and the Steelers kept falling short of getting in any kind of scoring range.

Dec 7, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback

Andy Dalton

(14) runs with the ball for a touchdown in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The defense held the Cincy offense in check by and large for most of the first quarter.  The run defense was fairly sound with Stephon Tuitt getting his first start at defensive end with veteran Brett Keisel on IR with a torn tricep.  The secondary played soft off of the receivers, but they were able to keep most plays in front of them.  All they had to do was get off the field and let the offense get points…. which wasn’t going so well.

This game was looking like so many others this season – the offense had numerous chances to go up early and big, but not able to punch it into the end zone.

The offense finally started to really get into a groove in the second quarter.  Big Ben hit Heath Miller for a 1 yard touchdown pass that put them up 7-0.  They key to that drive was the specific play calls coming from Haley.  Ben hit Markus Wheaton on a roll out for 16 yards to start the 2nd quarter.  The next play was a play action pass between the numbers that hit Lance Moore for a gain of 29 yards.  The drive was capped with a TD pass to Miller that was another play action that freed up Miller once the LB’s committed to going after Bell.

Those plays should not go unnoticed.  Roll out, play action down the middle, and TE stunt – all plays that have been a rarity this season, yet all plays that yield huge dividends.  Those of us who are critical of Todd Haley may sound like broken records, but there’s proof in the pudding with what works and what doesn’t with this offense.  It’s clear, there are answers with this offense.  It’s just whether or not the ever narcissistic Haley can get over himself and call the plays that work instead of showing how smart he is.

But the defense.  Oh man.  Are there any answers?  This secondary is so bad.  So so bad.  Cortez Allen was placed on IR earlier in the week – something that no Steelers fan felt bad about.  Ike Taylor looked rusty in his return last week.  Well, when the rust shook off, Taylor showed his true decline against the Bengals while trying to cover their top wide out AJ Green.  Heavy emphasis on TRY because he was never really successful in his attempts.  Mike Mitchell is the worst member of the secondary on the field… in the entire NFL.  He is complete and utter garbage, and even him taking responsibility for the big Green TD comes nowhere close in the realm of redemption.  But hey, he did lay hands on the ball during an actual play for the first time all season long.  :slow clap:  Troy is no longer any help out there, and William Gay (even though he had an INT that was taken away) is largely inconsistent.

Their best guy out there on Sunday? Antwon Blake.

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Pretty terrible when your two worst signings during the offseason are two guys in the secondary – one of which was horrible until placed on the IR, the other who plays like he is still sitting on the bench.  All teams have to do is protect their QB and exploit this stink’fest of a secondary.  They allowed AJ Green to gain 100 yards just in the first half and finish with 224 yards.

The chickens have come home to roost after years of avoiding drafting corners with early picks a top priority.

It’s gotten so bad that defensive coordinator is waiting until the last second to make substitutions and package changes.  It’s causing confusion and is keeping a low talent defense maintain any sense of cohesion.  It’s exactly what led to the Andy Dalton 20 yard TD run.  Dalton called an audible late at the line, which turned out to be a read-option.  The entire defense fell for the fake handoff and allowed for Dalton to run untouched and with no defenders around him until he reached the 3 yard line.

The defense made some changes during the second half, but continued to fail in applying pressure on Dalton.  Ike Taylor got burned by AJ Green and received no over the help top from Mitchell (which is what he apologized about apparently).  Those were major “give back points” after the Steelers just took a 17-14 lead.  Is there anyone who can’t wait to see both of those guys take the next bus out of Pittsburgh?

The big play stop is elusive for this defense.  In the last four games the Steelers have given up touchdown passes of 67, 80, 69 and 81 yards.  Horrid.

But, all was not lost.  They were playing the Bungles after all.  The Bengals gave the ball up on a Dalton fumble.  That fumble was recovered by Arthur Moats who was filling in for the injured James Harrison.  He had a sack too.  I’d say he was one of the winners of the day.

Alright.  Enough of talk of defense and things depressing.  The Steelers did win, which brings me back to Bell.  Damn, that kid is special.  I had said in a post on Saturday that the Steelers would need to have a big day from Bell if they wanted to win the game.  And a big game they got.  Bell became just the second player in NFL history to record three consecutive games with 200-plus yards of total offense.  Last guy to do it?  Walter Payton.

Bell finished the day with 235 yards and three touchdowns.

I always say that this team lives and dies by the play of Ben Roethlisberger.  The narrative might shift a bit after this season.  The Steelers are really making the case of winning with the run.  Team president Rooney wanted it to happen, and he’s getting his wish.  His run game is paving the way for the passing game.  He’s that good, and the offensive line is getting that good with their run blocking.  If the Steelers are going to make the playoffs this season (and the jury is still out on that one), they are going to do it on the back of Le’Veon Bell.

The Steelers now sit at 8-5 and hold the 6th seed in the Wild Card playoff race.  Steeler Nation should feel good about this win.  But don’t get cocky yet – they play a sub .500 team when they head to Atlanta next week against the Falcons.