What we learned from Pittsburgh Steelers win vs the Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals to earn a much-needed AFC North victory
I don’t know about you but even though the Steelers won the 2022 season opener on the road against the defending AFC North Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, it feels like a loss. I say that because no less than three of our players went out with injury. The season may be in jeopardy depending on the severity of those injuries.
What really infuriates me is the fact that we had a fourteen-point lead that evaporated rather quickly but we still had an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter. Instead, we forced overtime and eventually kicked the game-winning FG.
Let’s see what we learned on the offensive side of the ball.
The Steelers offense is anemic, uncreative, and unsustainable
Look, we have been talking about how awful the Steelers offense is since last season. Against the Bengals, it was on full display. According to ESPN, the offense managed a total of two-hundred and sixty-seven yards, seventy-five of which came on the ground.
The leading rusher for the Steelers was Chase Claypool. Yes, a WR was our leading rusher thanks to those ‘jet sweep’ plays that we have grown accustomed to seeing from Matt Canada. In all seriousness, the play calling against the Bengals was good at times, but, for the most part, it was predictable and unimaginative.
It took until the last drive of overtime to finally get something going long enough to secure victory. We were fortunate to have even gotten to the final drive of overtime. The Steelers had an opportunity late in the fourth quarter to put the game away, but we were only able to manage two yards and were forced to punt.
All we needed was probably one first down to put that game away but because the offense could not effectively run the ball or could not call a play where a ‘middle, high, low’ concept was employed, we had to punt.
Let’s see what we learned on the defensive side of the ball.
The Steelers defense came to play against the Bengals
To say that the defense came to play against the Bengals is an understatement. Here is the stat line: Four forced INTs and seven sacks and several passes defended. What is unfortunate and potentially season-ending is the injury to T.J. Watt.
We do not know the extent of the injury at this point, but if Watt is out for any extended period of time, the entire dynamic of the defense changes, and probably not in a good way. Against the Bengals, the pressure was relentless. It was the ability to apply pressure that led to the aforementioned INTs, sacks, and defended passes.
On the flip side of the stellar defensive performance is the fact that we surrendered a fourteen-point lead. Generally speaking, when the Steelers defense is protecting a fourteen-point lead, we win the game without having to wait until the very last drive of OT to do it.
Let’s see what else we learned.
The Steelers beat the Bengals on the road in overtime but the price may be too much to overcome
I do not think it is a stretch to say that Mike Tomlin may have some very difficult decisions to make when it comes to the players who were injured against the Bengals. Hopefully, the injuries are not serious and all the players who sustained injuries will be able to contribute going forward.
Let’s assume for a second that the injuries to Watt and to Najee Harris are injuries that will keep them out for an extended period of time. The ‘next man up’ mantra will be tested more than it ever has. What other player on the roster can replicate what Watt contributes? I dare say no one.
Who else on the roster can replicate the potential that Harris brings in both the running game and the passing game? I dare say no one. So, what does Tomlin do? Does he place both players on IR, does he roll with our backups, or does he swing a trade for a player or players of equal quality?
I do not want to overreact or underreact to one overtime win, but the Steelers are already in a position where the win against the Bengals may have cost us the season. I hope that is not the case, but hope is not a plan. A plan is a plan so let’s see what plan Tomlin has up his sleeve.