By Christina Rivers
In a game that was called a “must win” for the Pittsburgh Steelers, three quarters of game play was a back and forth match against the Cincinnati Bengals. An uninspiring first quarter wasn’t caused by the Bengals sacking Ben Roethlisberger and increasing their status of being second in the National Football League at that statistic, but by dropped passes and a fumble and interception by Roethlisberger. Never one to stay down, Roethlisberger rallied the troops and returned to a run-dominant offense as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and offensive coordinator Todd Haley dialed up plays that would lead to the Steelers defeating the Bengals, 24-17. Overall, the Steelers graded themselves at a much higher level than they were earlier in the 2012 NFL season.
Ben Roethlisberger was predicted by Tony Dungy to throw 50 passes against the Bengals due to questions about the Steelers running backs. In the first quarter, it appeared as if Dungy may have predicted correctly that the Steelers would turn the game into a shootout. Then Roethlisberger watched as Mike Wallace dropped passes, including two that could have been touchdowns. Roethlisberger lost a fumble as he did a pump fake and failed to rotate his arm forward as he was hit. He also tried to thread the needle to Heath Miller in the end zone only to see it intercepted.
Roethlisberger then went back to who he has connected exceedingly well with in the past; Miller and WR Antonio Brown. Miller was able to complete passes for much-needed yardage and caught Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown throw on the night. Roethlisberger was wily in the pocket, scampering out to make plays as the Bengals tried to contain him. When he began handing the ball off to Jonathan Dwyer, magic happened. Chewing up 37:30 minutes of game clock, Roethlisberger commanded the offense effectively enough to keep things close and eventually take the game at Paul Brown Stadium away from the Bengals. Grade: A-
With C Maurkice Pouncey unable to play and Marcus Gilbert out as well, Doug Legursky and Mike Adams filled in the offensive line positions. The offensive line was a major question mark going into the game, but as the game progressed, they appeared to pick up more steam. While Roethlisberger was sacked three times, once because Adams got beat easily off his block, Legursky held the center position effectively. Overall, the blocking by the offense was above par as players like Ramon Foster and Willie Colon were able to shift and slide into positions, often opening big holes for the running backs. Additionally, Miller showed how intense of a blocker he can be, especially on end-arounds and short hot-pass plays. Dwyer was a workhorse with 17 carries for 122 yards. Chris Rainey saw significant time on the field as well, carrying the ball four times for 17 yards and his first NFL touchdown. While Wallace struggled to keep his hands on the ball initially, he got his act together in the second half to make a total of eight receptions for 52 yards. His counterpart, Antonio Brown, had an outstanding game with seven receptions for 96 yards. Grade: B+
Despite the fact that LaMarr Woodley returned after a week off due to a nagging injury, he was hungry for action. In the first quarter, Ziggy Hood tipped a ball causing it to fall incomplete and then did it again two plays later, allowing Woodley to grab the interception. The play turned the momentum around for the Steelers. Woodley also logged two hits on Andy Dalton. Criticized of late for not finishing games, the Steelers defense maintained their composure and played their positions. Ike Taylor essentially shut down Bengals receiver A.J. Green, allowing Green a single reception for eight yards and one touchdown. Lawrence Timmons was a Bengal-tamer on the night, leading the team in tackles with eleven. Overall, the defense showed that it could hold its own against key players on the Bengals offense, holding Dalton to just 14 of 28 completions for 105 yards and a single touchdown. While running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis broke through the line for good runs early in the game, the Steelers were able to wrangle him down in the second half and contain any major outbreaks. While the Steelers defense has, at times, been known to use sloppy tackling technique, they did well in wrapping up players in the open field. Grade: B-
Shaun Suisham was perfect on the night with 3/3 field goals and 1 PAT. His longest field goal went for 47 yards. Drew Butler was only forced to punt twice and even Roethlisberger got in a ‘pooch punt’ after the Bengals held the Steelers offense just outside of field goal range. The real breakdown on special teams were penalties. The Steelers’ first offensive series was started with a Rainey return that was flagged when Baron Batch was called for holding. In the second half, Brown was hit on a punt return after he signaled fair catch, but the penalty was offset because holding was called on the Steelers. It resulted in a replay of the down and an offensive series that stalled. Rainey also had a good night returning kickoffs, with four for 122 yards; his longest for 41. Brown had three punt returns for a total of 10 yards. Grade: B
Off to a New Start
With the win, the Steelers improve on the season to 3-3. With the Baltimore Ravens’ loss to Houston, Pittsburgh is now in a better position in the AFC North Division. Following a first half that looked sloppy and a halftime chat by coach Mike Tomlin who said, “We’re still in it,” the Steelers stood their ground and then used that ground to eat up time and yardage to their benefit. While the Steelers still have a lot of football left to play this season, the win over the Bengals should be a motivator. The focus has been on execution, and against the Bengals, they had few true flaws. They’ll need to keep that motivation and work ethic in place to prepare for a pass-happy Washington Redskins team next week.
- A: Near-perfect execution at the respective position(s), near-perfect statistically and effective against the opponent.
- B: Few penalties, some execution flaws at the respective position(s), some statistical difficulties and a positive effect against the opponent.
- C: Penalized more than 5 times, acute execution flaws at the respective postion(s), statistical difficulties and a neutral effect against the opponent.
- D: Costly penalties, major execution flaws at the respective positions(s), negative statistical results, negative results for the team and a sluggish effect against the opponent.
- F: Major penalties resulting in negative yardage, execution breakdown overall and at the respective postion(s), nearly no effect against the opponent, communication breakdown as a team.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Steelers news, see CBS Sports Pittsburgh.
Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.