By Tyler Sweet
This season has definitely been full of ups and downs. When you think the Steelers are out of it and done for the season, they come out with a victory, and just when they start to look good and gain momentum, they disappoint with a loss. With a hard loss to the Dolphins last week, the Steelers went from playoff contender to playoff spoiler. The Cincinnati Bengals came into this game looking to keep up with the top teams in the AFC in trying to win a first round bye in the playoffs.
Despite coming in as the underdog, the Steelers came out with a chip on their shoulder and wanted to give former Steeler James Harrison and the Bengals a rude awakening at Heinz Field. What we saw in this game was a glimpse of what many people thought the Steelers should have looked like early in the season. The Steelers were looking to hit somebody on every play and attempted to inflict as much pain as possible, in which they had great success.
After a fumble by Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber on his own 1 yard line, Le’Veon Bell pounded the ball in for a quick 7-0 lead. Roethlisberger started the game 12 for 12 and used great field position and line protection for most of the game to put the offense in scoring position. Although the Steelers quickly took a 24-0 lead, the offense was not dominant. With the first TD coming off the fumbled punt on the 1, and another TD coming off a punt return, the offense did not have to win this game on their own.
Le’Veon Bell had a hard time stringing together big gains on the ground, but made up for it with 5 catches for 50 yards out of the backfield. Getting a player of Bells size on the outside against defensive backs was a great strategy on offense and it worked. With a big lead going into the second half, the offense got very conservative and only managed to put up 3 points the entire half. When the Bengals inched their way back into the game in the 4th quarter, the offense responded with multiple punts. Big Ben and the entire offensive unit need to finish drives late in the game. Not a bad game on offense, but not a lot to be excited about either. Overall Offensive Unit Grade: C+
The defensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers may be young and not the most experienced group, but as this season progresses, so does the chemistry this unit is creating together. Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, and Cameron Heyward are starting to play with confidence and showing Steeler fans what kind of value they have within this franchise. All three of these guys played a great game and put pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and only allowed 57 rushing yards. The secondary played a great first half, but as soon as they dropped back into the cover 2 look, the defense looked to avoid big plays, but was getting picked apart for short gains that eventually led to a couple touchdowns late in the game.
Andy Dalton adjusted to the pressure the defense was bringing in the first half and was getting the ball out quickly in the second half. Bad play by Ike Taylor in the redzone resulted in a wide open Bengals touchdown. Ike Taylor is a good not great corner in my eyes and although he plays tough on the best receivers in the game, he always finds a way to give up one big play that should not have happened. Once again Troy Polamalu came up big with another strip fumble on Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham. Overall Defensive Unit Grade: A-
Its about dang time!!! Games are won on special teams and whether it be by luck or being in the right place at the right time, the special teams in many ways won this game for the Steelers. On the Bengals first drive of the game, a fumbled snap on the attempted punt nearly resulted in a safety, then only a couple minutes later, Antonio Brown returned a Kevin Huber punt for a touchdown.
As a fan, I never like seeing players get hurt, but the hit on Huber by Terence Garvin was one of the hardest hits I have seen in a while. The Steelers were throwing big blocks on all special teams plays the entire game. Although the touchdown was great and the hard hitting provided a great spark for the entire team, the cover teams struggled against the return. Brandon Tate averaged 32.8 yards a return on short kickoffs into the wind, setting the Bengals up with great field position in the second half. Great play on the Antonio Brown return, but disappointing on coverage. Overall Special Teams Unit Grade: B+
With a big game next week against a Green Bay team that made an incredible comeback against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers better be ready to play 4 full quarters or they will be looking at another loss. A great, physical start to this game but a little too conservative in the second half.
As always comment or tweet us with your thoughts on the game! @SteelersGab or @Tylersweet87
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