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Week 13 Steelers-Bengals Recap

After a bumpy 1st quarter, the Steelers pull away in the 2nd quarter and cruise to a fairly easy win in a huge game against the Bengals, 35-7. The keys of the game were turnovers, special teams play and once again some very questionable officiating.

QB – Ben struggled at times when looking downfield and in the process made the O-line look worse than they actually were. Most of his passes were on target, though, he just seemed to wait way too long in the pocket as is the norm with Ben. Later in the game Ben threw more shorter stuff with more consistent success. Big surprise. His deep pass to Wallace seemed way off target or Wallace ran the wrong route. Ben finished with one of his lowest totals in passing yards with just 176 but also had 2 TD’s.

RB – After a bad 1st quarter, Mendy had a number of nice runs, including a nifty cutback TD run. He finished the game with roughly his season average, which is around 3.8. Redman, once again, had arguably a better game, as he ran with real purpose and moving piles on a number of runs. He finished the effort off with a great 27 yard run in the 2nd half. Moore had one run for 13 yards.

WR/TE – Wallace continued his ongoing playing slump in the 1st half, with a bad drop on a deep inside pattern. He was actually lucky that the play wasn’t ruled a fumble, as it looked like he had the ball and took two steps before having the ball get dislodged. I don’t know, maybe the NFL has another new stupid rule about this that I’m not aware of. As I’ve said before, plays like this shows that Wallace is not a complete NFL WR. Later in the game, Wallace made some nice plays, including a smoke screen grab which turned into a great snaking 20 yard TD grab. Great play. Antonio Brown only had two grabs but they were both superb plays. One was a short snag which turned into a 45 yard play. The other was a great grab on a high throw over the middle in tight coverage. The kid is clutch. Ward had 5 grabs and made the most of them for an old-timer. Sanders had just one grab. Miller had 2 grabs but also had a drop. Rookie Weslye Saunders had a terrific snag on an out pattern. And then wasn’t thrown to the rest of the game. The RB’s were never used in the passing game except for one mis-throw to Moore at the end of the 1st half.

OL –There were definitely some leakage issues with pass protection at times. The long pass plays didn’t help, though. The pocket consistently, though, seemed to collapse around Ben but the O-line did hold their blocks a good bit even with them giving up ground. Starks looked horrible at times, though. On one play he embarrassingly whiffed air as the Bengals DE quickly moved around him for the quick sack. Foster seems to be struggling of late. Legs had some issues but didn’t seem to play that bad. The run blocking and some of the pulls were good.

DL –Kiesel and Hood both had a couple nice run stops. Hood also had a great Pee-Wee Herman dance after tackling QB Andy Dalton on a scramble at the LOS on 3rd down. Not much in the way of QB pressures. Hampton seemed to play OK.

LB – After starting off a little slow, Harrison roared back for a 3 sack effort and looks to be back in top form. Timmons was active with 5 tackles and 2 assists. Farrior chipped in 4 tackles. Pass coverage was a little mediocre at times but no big complaints. Did Foote even play in this game? Don’t remember seeing him. Woodley started but left the game early after probably re-injuring his hammy.

CB/S –Ike Taylor vs. rookie sensation AJ Green was a fun matchup to watch. Taylor doesn’t play the ball very well but does most certainly covers the WR well and today wasn’t any different. On a couple plays it looked like Green was coming down with a terrific grab only to have Taylor hit Green as soon as the ball made contact with Green’s hands, dislodging it. Green did have a TD grab but only after Dalton had about 5 seconds to find him in the back of the endzone. Late in the game, Taylor got a gift INT. Gay had a very quiet game. Troy made a couple real nice plays and was active at the LOS a good bit. He had a real nice pass breakup on TE Gresham on a 3rd down. Clark was once again shown to be one of the slowest FS’s in the NFL on the Bengals 1st drive, as AJ Green blew right by him en route to a big downfield catch. Later in the game, Clark actually had great coverage on TE Gresham but still failed to break up the pass. Once again, Clark finishes with a decent number of tackles but doesn’t actually do much as an actual FS.

ST –Maybe the best game by this unit all year. Kapinos had a few real nice punts (and a bad 39 yarder as well). Brown had a great punt return for a TD (with a block in the back on Curtis Brown that wasn’t called). Stevenson Sylvester had a great jab on a kick returner that led to a fumble. Curtis Brown had a great hustle and tackle on a punt. Cameron Heyward blocked a FG (GREAT play). I have no idea why Isaac Redman is back on kick returns and Suisham did miss a 50 yard FG, but that was simply a bad decision by Tomlin. No way is he making that.

Arians –Some people might look at the score and think the Steelers offense is “back on track”. They couldn’t be more wrong. The Steelers offense had two really good drives in this game. Outside of those drives, the offense had the usual bone-headed playcalling and gameplanning. To start the game, this was the sequence –

– Hand off off tackle for no gain (where have we seen that before?)

– WR screen for a loss (Bengals didn’t see that coming!)

– Horribly executed 3rd down slant where Sanders and Brown both thought the ball was thrown to them. Does this offense practice during the week? Incomplete. Punt.

The offense, most of the game, was Ben sitting back in the pocket waiting for a WR to get open downfield. In other words, business as usual and the results were less than stellar of course (1 TD punt return for a TD, one TD from a turnover deep in Cincy territory, one TD aided immensely from a bad PI penalty). The good news is the run game and the run blocking was really solid and the Steelers second good drive (which was in the 2nd half) was one of their best drives ALL year. the offense actually looked like they had a purpose, the playcalling seemingly complimented each play. Smart short passes, effective runs. It was great to see. Unfortunately, these kind of drives are rare to see. It amazes me how the Steelers have all these weapons (rookie TE Weslye Saunders looks like a legit passing threat) and consistently they are never used much in a concerted way. Saunders makes a great snag in the 1st half (he had a great TD grab last week) and then is never used again. Just amazing to me.

Lebeau –Lebeau’s defense started off on a bad foot with plenty of 3 man rushes (ie, no pressure on the QB) and Troy, for some reason, playing about 25 yards deep in the secondary. Basically, the last place he should be. And the Bengals offense took advantage of that on the opening drive as they marched all the way down for a TD pass that was called back on a false start penalty. The Bengals offense repeatedly shot itself in the foot in the 1st half, and especially on the first drive, as it eventually ended with a blocked FG. Lebeau seemed to tighten the screws as the game progressed and managed to get some pressure on Dalton (mostly thanks to James Harrison) and with the score getting out of hand the Bengals offense seemed to eventually quit. All in all, a pretty solid game by the defense and Lebeau.

Tomlin -Decent game by Tomlin, aided immensely by a mistake heavy (and heavily penalized) Bengals team. The decision to kick a 50 yard FG was dumb but luckily the game was pretty much over by then. And the end of the 1st half time clock management was a little questionable once again.

Overall, a huge win,  as the Steelers keep their divisional champ hopes alive as they closely trail the Ravens for the divisional crown.

I have to comment on the officiating again. There was a horrible penalty that played a big role in the outcome of this game. At this point in my life as a sports fan I am not a “win-at-any-costs” kinda fan, I want to see teams (yes, even the Steelers) be rewarded with good play and execution not with ticky tack bullshit calls that play huge roles in the outcome of games. It’s a competitive sport, get the refs the fuck out of it unless it’s actually warranted. There was yet another horrible pass interference call, this time on a Bengals safety who was covering Mike Wallace on a deep pass that was WAY off target. Or maybe Wallace ran the wrong route, I don’t know. But the call was so ticky-tack especially considering the ball was probably uncatchable but these kinds of calls happen all the time now in the NFL. It’s ruining the game. I know fans don’t complain about these calls when they go against the other team, but they need to start doing it for the love of the game.

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