The Ugly: Wide Open Bengal Recieves Over the Middle
Bending and not breaking has been the structure of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense for a long time. When they manage to force turnovers as they did today, it can mask some weaknesses. Today, though effective enough to win, the decimated middle of the Steeler's defense was handled in the passing game on a number of occasions.
Once again, this is about critiquing the worst aspect. The combination of Patrick Peterson and Eric Rowe at safety and the insertion of Myles Jack alongside Mychal Walker is terribly far from ideal. That quadrant played above the bar of what was necessary to win, but they weren't perfect. Naturally, being the biggest weakness of the team from a depth standpoint, it's hard to look anywhere else after a blowout win for an ugly aspect to analyze.
To further cushion this criticism, many of those green dots on Browning's passing chart in the intermediate section over the middle were the result of the quarterback having the time to go through progression while managing a relatively clean pocket and finding a wide-open receiver over the middle. Those plays can be attributed to several factors, and not necessarily the four players stepping up in the middle of the defensive backfield.
Still, moving forward, regardless of who is in the middle of the defense, this is an aspect that cannot be ignored after a strong performance overall. Jake Browning's ill-advised decisions cost the Bengals the most.
Wiser quarterbacks may not make those same mental blunders. With (possibly) Geno Smith and Lamar Jackson the remaining quarterbacks on the regular season schedule, the Steelers can't leave the middle of the field open for the taking.