The Pittsburgh Steelers moved to 9-3 on the season with their 35-7 thrashing Sunday of the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. I have gone through the game a second time and here are my notebook observations from the game.
The Steelers special teams were very special indeed on Sunday. Rookie Cameron Heyward really sparked things on the block of the early field goal attempt and fellow rookie Curtis Brown had two nice solo tackles and assisted on another. You can see why he was touted as such a good special teams player at Texas. Stevenson Sylvester caused the fumble that was recovered by Emmanuel Sanders on the kickoff return. Not to be left out are Cortez Allen, Weslye Saunders, Jason Worilds, Lawrence Timmons, Bryant McFadden and Mewelde Moore, as they all were in on special teams tackles. McFadden also had a great block on the punt return by Antonio Brown for a touchdown. Punter Jeremy Kapinos was booming punts and kicker Shaun Suisham had a few touchbacks. The only down spots was the field goal miss by Suisham and the penalty on Will Allen. Special teams coach Al Everest really has done a nice job and has great talent to work with.
The offensive line really looked good and got stronger as the day went on. Left guard Doug Legursky really had a great game and was excellent on the counter lead plays. Max Starks was beat pretty clean for one sack, but the others were a result of Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch holding the ball too long. Initial views through the tape show that Ramon Foster also had a good game. I will have the offensive line report up earlier this week and expect it to be a much better showing than last week.
It amazes me how many people continue to knock the bubble screen. Sure a few of them might go nowhere, but then you have those like the one that went to Mike Wallace for a touchdown. You want to get the ball in the hands of your playmakers and this is an easy way to do it when the corners play off. It also sets the trap for future plays deep when the corners cheat up to protect against it. Play calling is a chess match and that means one play can set up future plays.
One example of setting up future plays is the success with the counter lead I mentioned before. This lead to the Steelers running the fake counter lead on the first Wallace touchdown and everybody on the Bengals defense nearly fell for the fake. Excellent call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to take advantage of the early success they had running it.
Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman really ran hard on Sunday and kept their feet churning. Mendenhall certainly earned both of those touchdowns he scored and Redman runs very violent. Both hit the holes very quickly.
You could tell LaMarr Woodley really did not have full strength in his legs early on and he was even pancaked on the Bengals opening drive deep in the redzone. If you listened to the podcast the past few weeks, you will know I was pretty worried about him being brought back too soon. He certainly was not 100%.
Brett Keisel is having a great season and was able to provide pressure through the A & B gaps on Sunday quite a few times. He was just as effective against the run a few times as well splitting the gap.
Foster had one hell of a bury in pass pro on the 2nd series when he pulled left. Unfortunately that was the play that Wallace was separated from the ball on 1st down.
Saunders just ran away from Manny Lawson for his lone catch of the day and Roethlisberger seems to really be gaining confidence in him.
Lost in the first touchdown run by Mendenhall was the block by Marcus Gilbert who turned Geno Atkins out of the hole. He exploded off the snap very low.
Ike Taylor got his feet tangled up on the touchdown pass to A.J. Green, but the interception and early pass breakup to Green more than made up for it.
Chris Crocker never argued the pass interference call on Wallace after hooking him and that would have likely been an easy 6 for Wallace on a nice deep ball by Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger added another great block on the double reverse to Brown a few plays later.
Troy Polamalu broke out the kung fu chop on Jermaine Gresham to break up a second quarter pass.
On the punt return by Brown for a touchdown, McFadden gets 3 Bengals with one block and knew Brown was gone after he made the block.
Starks stayed on his block for a good long time and it allowed Redman to spin out of the pile for his huge gain. Redman also nearly broke the ankles of Reggie Nelson on the play, and had Brown been able to block Pacman Jones better, Redman would have added another 20 yards.
Sanders had a great block on the Wallace bubble screen that went for a touchdown. Brown had a great crack back block on the 38 toss play to Mendenhall that he scored on.
David Johnson was late getting on the field for the missed field goal by Suisham. It would not have mattered if Suisham had made that kick because of the penalty on Johnson and you have to wonder if it distracted Suisham with him running on very late.
Ryan Clark has really contributed greatly coming up and offering run support. He can really lay some pops as well.
James Harrison really took over outside as the game wore on. He did have the one play when he was caught in no-mans land however. That happens to the best of them.
The inside linebacker play was kind of silent on the day, but it was good. The same can be said about Worilds and Ziggy Hood with their play. All four I spotted getting pressures on the day and nose tackle Casey Hampton almost had him a sack.
It was good to see Roethlisberger, Mendenhall and Polamalu all get out of the game early. Maurkice Pouncey was also removed and I like that he had issues with getting sat down as he is a big time competitor.