By David Todd
After a slow start on both sides of the ball the Steelers put together a workman-like 23-7 win. The defense dominated after the first quarter, scoring both Steelers touchdowns, actually outscoring the Bengals 12-7. The offense did a good job of possessing the ball and moving the chains but continued to have trouble finishing drives. Nonetheless it was a good division win coming off an emotional national television win against Baltimore the previous week.
There were no significant new injuries reported after the game for the first time in weeks. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu appeared to tweek ankle injuries that they carried into the contest, but each remained in the game. Emmanuel Sanders and Ryan Mundy also limped off at different times, but Sanders returned and Mundy\’s injury does not appear to be serious.
*Roethlisberger continues to be a towering presence in the pocket. In the first quarter he turned a botched flea-flicker into a nine yard gain, shaking off three would-be tacklers and completing a pass to Rashard Mendenhall. In the second quarter he corralled a high snap and scrambled 13 yards to the Bengals 5-yard line. He finished 21-33 for 258 yards.
*Steelers receivers made a bunch of acrobatic catches that were crucial to keeping drives alive. Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward each made an highlight-reel catch. Ward had a big day with 8 catches for 115 yards and passed Art Monk for 10th on the all-time receptions list.
*The offense did not turn the ball over and dominated time of possession.
*The Steelers are having trouble scoring touchdowns. Since the first drive of the Buffalo game two weeks ago the offense has scored only one TD and that came when the defense got them the ball on the Ravens 9-yard line.
*The offensive line continues to have big problems. Four more holding calls and four more sacks against a depleted Cincinnati defense sends up huge red flags. Rashard Mendenhall\’s ability to gain yards after contact and Ben\’s scrambling are the main reason the running stats look reasonable.
*Total domination after the first quarter, limiting the Bengals to 190 net yards on the day.
*Two interception returns for TDs. Both Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley picked Carson Palmer with Polamalu going 45 yards and Woodley going 14 yards for six points. Polamalu added another interception late in the game.
*Continued run dominance. The Bengals only got 34 yards on 14 carries (4 yards on 2 carries in the 2nd half) the lowest total against the Steelers this year.
*Shut down Terrell Owens. After a big first game against the Steelers, T.O. only had one catch for 22 yards.
*Getting off the field. The Bengals converted only 2-8 first downs, both in the first half, and one came on an offsides penalty.
*Not much to add here.
*Shaun Suisham is going to have a statue outside of Heinz Field pretty soon the way things are going. Sushi went 3-3 including a 41-yarder, making him 9-9 (6-6 from 40 and beyond) in his short Steelers career.
*Jeremy Kapinos did a fine job in his first action in the Black & Gold. He pinned the Bengals inside the 20 on a couple occasions and got off a 53-yarder when he had some room to air it out.
*Coverage teams continued to do a good job and have been the most improved area of the team this year.
*Antonio Brown fumbled a bouncing punt after waving everyone off, but Anthony Madison was able to make the recovery.
*Excellent adjustments and schemes by Dick LeBeau and the defensive coaches to shut down the Bengals slot receivers who had burned the Steelers in their previous match-up. Bringing DBs on the blitz proved particularly effective.
*Ahead 13-3 early in the fourth quarter, Mike Tomlin decided to punt from the Bengals 32-yard line when facing a 4th and 24 situation. Kapinos pinned the Bengals on their own 10 and LaMarr Woodley intercepted Carson Palmer on the next play and returned it for a TD.
*The Steelers continue to manage the clock poorly at the end of the half. After scrambling for a first down to the Bengals 5-yard line Roethlisberger spiked the ball to stop the clock with 00:34 seconds left in the 2nd quarter and one timeout left. After two incompletions the Steelers settled for a field goal. They went into the half with an unused timeout. In that situation Ben should have absolutely used a timeout and preserved the extra down, giving them an extra chance to throw for a TD.
Big Officiating Calls:
*I know it sounds like a broken record, but Ben got hit three more times in situations that weren\’t flagged but could have been. Once he was hit in the head by DE Michael Johnson and two other times he was hit well after getting rid of the football. It really does make the Steelers and their fans wonder when the non-calls are so obvious and happen repeatedly.
The reeling 9-4 New York Jets on Sunday, 4:15 at Heinz Field. Two weeks ago the Jets got pasted 45-3 by the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. On Sunday they lost at home 10-6 to the Miami Dolphins with ex-Steeler Santonio Holmes dropping an easy touchdown pass. This game all of a sudden has big implications for the Jets playoff chances as the have to go to Chicago the following week.