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David Todd: Quick Thoughts – Steelers Versus Bengals


By David Todd

The Steelers lost their second game 20-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati falling to 0-2 for the first time since 2002. In a script that closely resembled their season-opening loss to Tennessee, the Steelers took an early lead, this time 3-0 as opposed to 2-0, but later in the first quarter fumbled inside the red zone, lost momentum and never found any offensive rhythm. The Steelers again lost the turnover battle 2-0 and had trouble getting any type of ground game established, rushing for only two yards in the second half. Also for the second game in a row, the Steelers failed to get a first down in the third quarter. Two late drives into Bengals territory ended in an interception and time running out. The Bengals ran 24 more offensive plays than the Steelers and had a massive 11:08 advantage in time of possession. The defense played well enough to keep the team in the game, but a lack of big plays and key stops plagued them once again.

Injuries:

The Steelers appeared to come out of this one in fairly good shape, one significant change from week one. Isaac Redman appeared to get his bell rung on the opening kickoff and did not start the game as he was evaluated for a concussion. Redman did return and Mike Tomlin did not note any other injuries in his postgame press conference.

Offense:

The Good:

*The offense did put up almost a hundred more yards that in week one, but 101 of the team’s 278 total yards came in the last eight minutes when the team was desperately trying to get back in it.

*Derek Moye and Ben Roethlisberger hooked up on a nice back shoulder fade for a one-yard touchdown late in the first half. Good throw and a good first-career catch by Moye with a Bengals DB draped all over him.

*The top two receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders had solid games combining for 11 catches for 135 yards.

*A very good first half read and reaction by Ben seeing a Bengals blitz on a stretch handoff to Felix Jones. Ben opted to keep the ball and turned a potential five-yard loss into a six-yard gain. Yep, slim pickings on the offensive side again.

The Bad:

*David Paulson fumbled on the Cincinnati 13-yard line late in the first quarter nullifying a 34-yard gain and completely changing the momentum. Much like the Redman/Roethlisberger fumble in week one, this was a killer.

*The offensive line continues to struggle mightily. At first blush it appears the Fernando Velasco did a solid job getting the start at center, but the Steelers again failed to establish any kind of running game and Ben had very few opportunities to step up in a clean pocket and make throws.

*Steelers running backs ran 14 times for 43 yards which included a 14-yard gain by Felix Jones on 3rd-and-16 in the first quarter. That just isn’t going to cut it.

*Play-calling and formations didn’t seem to match what the Steelers were trying to do. After losing Pouncey and LaRod Stephens-Howling in week one the team apparently had to abandon much of their offensive game plan which included using Kelvin Beachum as an extra tight end. They appeared no better prepared in this one with a long week to work. Beachum didn’t play as an extra tight end in even one play that I noticed and tight ends Michael Palmer and David Johnson and fullback Will Johnson were hardly utilized. David Paulson is clearly overmatched as a blocking tight end. 11 personnel would not seem to be the answer for what the Steelers wanted to do, but it was the most common grouping. If they were trying to spread the Bengals in order to run the ball, it didn’t work.

*With all the speed options at wide receiver, how do you choose to run an end around with Jerricho Cotchery, who also had an uncharacteristic drop in this one?

Defense:

The Good:

*Ike Taylor was excellent. He limited wide out A.J. Green to six catches for 41 yards on 14 targets as he again followed him all over the field and received little or no help. Green’s long gain was 10 yards.

*Jarvis Jones continues to impress. There are certainly going to be mistakes, but Jones led the team with seven solo tackles and has clearly separated himself from Jason Worilds at the right OLB position. Jones = playmaker.

The Bad:

*Many Steelers defenders had solid games, but as we saw so often last year and in week one, they failed to come up with any big game-changing plays. They didn’t cause any turnovers and had zero sacks.

*After being dominated by the Titans in time of possession at 34:01 to 25:59 in week one, the Bengals had the ball even longer, with an 11+ minute advantage. They sustained 14 and 10 play drives in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were desperate to get the ball back. The Bengals ran 79 plays to the Steelers 55.

*It looked like Ryan Clark completely blew the coverage on the Dalton-to-Eifert catch and throw for 61 yards. Clark bit on a pump fake and left the middle of the field and Eifert was off to the races up the seam. It also looked as if Clark missed a couple of tackles on the night as well.

*Kion Wilson appeared to stumble and take a bad angle on the 27-yard checkdown for a touchdown to Gio Bernard. Bernard was impressive. He and Eifert are two nice weapons the Bengals have added at the top of this year’s draft class.

Special Teams:

The Good:

*Felix Jones opening kick-off return for 34 yards and Antonio Brown’s 40-yard punt return were two key plays that afforded the Steelers better field position than they saw any time in week one. They turned Brown’s return into three points and an early lead.

*The Steelers coverage teams were excellent led again by Jarvis Jones who was in on a bunch of plays.

*Zoltan Mesko and Kevin Huber both punted seven times for 326 yards, a 46.6 yard average, but Mesko had a 42.7 yard net versus 38.4 for Huber.

The Bad:

*Nothing really to comment on here.

Coaching:

The Good:

*The Steelers only committed three penalties for 29 yards versus nine for 84 for the Bengals. One of those penalties however, was a questionable tripping call wiping out a big gain as the Steelers were trying to get back in the game.

The Bad:

*As I wrote last week, “When the offense plays that poorly the offensive coordinator is sure to come under fire. With Roethlisberger under constant pressure and the running game going nowhere I’m not sure how much blame Haley should take…” I’m sure both Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley and Mike Tomin are going to come under fire this week. Nothing the Steelers drew up offensively worked and the Steelers again came out after halftime and laid an egg. Two games, zero third quarter first downs and two rushing first downs on the season.

*As mentioned above the distribution of playing time and the offensive personnel groupings were a bit head-scratching.

*In another late game move that probably didn’t effect the outcome, the Steelers probably should have tried a 51-yard field goal with 24 seconds left. it was the more-likely, out of two highly unlikely ways, to get 10 points at the end.

Big Officiating Calls:

*The tripping call against Marcus Gilbert early in the third quarter nullified a 33-yard completion to Antonio Brown. It was a questionable call at best.

Up Next: The Steelers take on the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field Sunday September 22. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 and the game will be on Sunday Night Football.

ReminderYou can hear me and Tom Bradley on the postgame show on the Steelers Radio Network after every Steelers game. You can listen on the Steeler Gameday app, the Steelers Nation Radio app on iHeart Radio or DVE or 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh. You can hear me weekdays on 970 ESPN from 4-7 pm and you can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd

Read more: http://www.970espn.com/pages/970_david_todd.html?article=11659495#ixzz2fB3KybfB

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  • Jeff

    Less Jason Worilds, more Jarvis Jones please… I think it’s time to plug him in there for good with less of a rotation with Worilds. There’s going to be mistakes, but I don’t think it’s a good time to get picky with that – let him learn from them. Steelers are 0-2 and need some answers quickly. Hopefully Heath coming back provides at least a spark for the offense.

  • steeltown

    Actually this may be the best possible outcome, Jarvis seems to be the better option and playmaker and he’ll gain experience in his rookie season by starting.. all while Worilds backs up both Right and Left OLB, which in turn makes him cheaper to retain next year when he’s a UFA

  • steeltown

    I still do NOT understand… on a Team that is struggling to keep its QB on his feet why the hell didn’t they play Johnson and Johnson and Palmer more

  • http://www.amazon.com/The-Sibyl-Reborn-ebook/dp/B009KNQHSM James P. Kelly

    With just 26 more yards, the Steelers can top 100yds rushing [total] for their first three games.

  • schlong

    The Bears D is going to eat us alive. 0-3 is coming right up

  • Jay Jaber

    Idk if u saw what I saw last night Jarvis had a lot of qb pressures and almost had two sacks he was starting to get a rytham going and they take him out i don’t get it. Jason worilds is a non factor and a wast of a second pick

  • cencalsteeler

    I’d like to see them implement some 22 personnel groupings. Miller and Beachum at tight ends and Will paving the way for Felix or Dwyer depending on the play called. Also, I think we take a page out of the Bengals playbook. On third and short, put Fangupo back there at fullback. Let him open some holes for someone. This will also create one on one situations on the outside with the receivers for Ben to recognize and check into if needed. Got to get the run game going!
    Side note: I’m not so quick to throw the towel in on the oline. They are a young group of guys, and if coached right, can continue to improve on a weekly basis. Rome was not built in a day. We, as Steelers fans, need to be patient with this young group. They are our future and given time, hopefully they turn into a dominant line in the weeks to come. (The Bell injury might be a blessing in disguise as these lineman need more time to develop).

  • Bilgewater D

    You said it Dong.

  • Jeff

    I remember talking about this with you a few weeks back in preseason… This really was the best possible outcome..

  • Jeff

    I was thinking the same thing… I don’t have any stats or anything to support this statement, but it seemed like the bengals moved the ball much better when Worilds was in there…. I’m not sure if I was just being biased based on how highly I think of Jones though

  • dgh57

    I’m trying to figure out why no Beachum as a blocking TE in this game!

    After last weeks effort in both pass/run blocking and this game starting off with 3 straight runs which looked like they were trying to establish some sort of a run game and then they turn around and don’t play the players that can help create
    the needed blocks to get something going!! I thought surely starting Velasko a Center was so that Beachum could play blocking TE! Mind boggling decision were made by this coaching staff in this game!

  • Mkeller

    Agree completely. One thing about Jarvis…and this goes for special teams as well…when he is in position to make a big hit he delivers. He made 2 big WOW hits on STs last night and another big hit on the tackle for the loss while crashing down from ROLB. He looks to be getting closer to getting his first sack. I refuse to complain about the defense. If you’re on the field as much as they have been the last 2 games teams are bound to make some plays. Need to get some sacks/turnovers…hopefully that will come against Cutler.

  • steeltown

    Good point(s)

  • srdan

    I am with you. 21 personnel too with Will and Beachum. I don’t quite get the drastically different game plans over the last two weeks. I thought all off season the idea was to punish defenses that are getting smaller because they want to stop the new trend of throwing a lot in the NFL. I really thought that was the reason for drafting mammoth offensive lineman high in drafts, followed by a bruising running back. That was the plan for the Titans even, but went down with Pouncey’s knee. But the Bungles game plan I don’t understand.

    I like this new center. He should be around for a long time. I saw a lot of improvement with this O’line. Ben had time last night.

    I agree with the podcast, a 2-2 start is not bad. If we can improve as much for week three as we did for week two, we will win at home this week.

    I am an eternal optimist.

    Can’t agree with you more, let’s be patient with this team AND coaching staff.

  • Jay Jaber

    No your not being biased jones popped out on the screen worilds did not at all pop out to me he didn’t even have one qb pressure and he looks like an old lady coming off the edge

  • Jay Jaber

    Bears d is overrated they are not that good they just get a lot of turn overs

  • schlong

    Which is why we are in trouble. We commit plenty of TO’s and can’t force any. That’s a simple recipe to creating a losing team

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I noticed something that the receivers and backs need to work on – break off the route and come back when Ben is extending the play. One play stood out late in game where Ben evaded a sack, scrambled to his right and not a receiver inn sight – not sure how often this is happening but recall seeing Hines Ward scarfing many completions by helping Ben out while extending a play.

  • Simon Cutts

    Sanders had a good game, really?!
    Two games, and all he does is drop balls, fails to get open deep, fails to catch deep balls, fails to retain the ball to the ground, and fails to catch in bounds. Oh but he’s really good like brown in making stupid first down signals when actually does what he’s paid to do. Wheaton should replace him immediately.

  • RASTA

    We started the game with three runs and no throws from our $100 million dollar Quarterback! I assume that piece of genius work is all Haley correct? Does anything else even have to be said at this point? Let’s try one experiment (it can’t get worse so where’s the downside?), let Big Ben run one entire game from behind center and no play calls from Haley and let’s see how we do! All in favor? Go Steelers

  • schlong

    And to think, Tomlin was adamant in picking Worilds over Sean freaking Lee…ugh

  • alex

    the good…low penalties…good special teams…mucho young participation on D…

    the bad…everything else…

    we really need to have some creativity out of our 12 and 22 sets…the line didnt do that bad, especially with a new center against that front 4…Valasco will only get better for us…they just had little help from the packages as discussed…lack of RB blocking, and indecisiveness is getting old…WR look out of sync most of the game…

    and if Paulson holds on, then we have a completely different game…happens every week every game in the NFL…

    we scored 11% more points than in week one, so by 7 or 8 we might be competitive

    ps…i really thought Cotch might step into Wards old role…:(

  • Bilgewater D

    That’s a relief to hear. We don’t turn the ball over needlessly.

  • Busforever

    I’m not ready to call our WR’s performance ”solid”, or good. They were anonymous. They didn’t bring something special, no more than every average NFL WR would give you. WR need to be playmakers, and no one caught a hard ball, or a big throw with a defensive threat who would make a difference in the game. Good WR takes more than what defense gives him: he creates big plays, At least, that’s what you expect from a young and talented receiving corp. Those guys seem to play with no passion, no fighting spirit (and i say ”seem” because what we saw is not what happens in their heads; but that’s my impression when I see them play). They need to unleash hell!

  • John21

    I know there is a lot to complain about but one thing I was watching last night was whether we were trying to cause turnovers-stripping the ball etc. Didn’t see one attempt. Heyward had a great chance on Dalton but it never occurred to him. We were told that they practice it. Just looking for an edge…someone to make a play. Watch out this week against the Bears-they do it as well as any team.

  • charles

    This is a very good point. That blame goes on the DC. Just can’t emphasize what a colossal missed opportunity that represents.

  • charles

    One problem Steeltown is that offensively we don’t have team speed, many times last night Chincy had 8 or nine in the box. Huge TE will make us even slower. Further Oline gave Ben much more time than in the first game.

  • charles

    We are too sloooowwww offensively but your points about time for the Oline to mature are excellent.

  • charles

    Right, but Wallace always broke long. It is time to give Wheaton more reps. The end around to Cotch was a laughable waste of a play.

  • charles

    After reading these comments nobody seems to realize that the opposition is crowding the line of scrimmage. There is no fear of getting beaten long or being outrun. If that doesn’t change it will be a long season. Is that Haley’s fault? Somewhat but not entirely.

  • Richard Edlin

    It’s hard to make a splash play when the ball’s thrown away from you. Dalton started inaccurate, got more conservative, and improved. Ben started okay but quickly went longer and more ambitious, and his accuracy suffered. I’m surprised there were only the two turnovers and I don’t think Chicago will be as generous.

    Someone needs to tell Ben that he shouldn’t try to do much more than game-manage for a week or two … the “responsiblity” is not helping his game.

  • Mike Carroll

    Yep, Heyward actually hit Dalton’s hand with his helmet which means if he used his arm it should have been an easy strip. It was a bordeline fumble as it was.

  • Mike Carroll

    I’m not the biggest Sanders fan by any means but I thought he played a decent game yesterday. The play where he couldn’t get his feet down in bounds was very tough and I thought he did as much as possible to make the play.

  • Fr33th1nk3r

    Our opponents have been taking that option off the table by playing press coverage and both Sanders and Brown are too small to fight through that.
    Our oppoents are doing what we should have done to stop the Pat’s dink and dunk game for years– play press coverage to give your pass rush more time, and bring the pressure.

  • AndyR34

    Why argue with someone that is irrational and tries to cover it up with hyperbole?

  • steeltown

    Exactly they stacked the box because we cant win the line of scrimmage, Paulson is NOT a burner, so why not have Palmer or Johnson or whomever in their for in-line blocking..

  • Callentown

    Steelers will be 0-4 going into their bye week. Let’s face it my Steelers brethren, this is now officially a development year – or it will be once we reach the bye week.

    Offense is the worst in the league and the defense can hold people for the most part but cannot reach the QB or make ANY significant plays. We are the bottom dwellers this year unfortunately.

    Also, why is Isaac Redman even on this team??

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Bad special teams: A brown let a punt ‘sail’ over his head, which bounced at the 12 and went oob at the two. Should have been fair caught at 12 or 13 yard line.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Worilds and/or JJ need to play in the middle on running downs. V Williams/K Wilson got dragged on every single attempted tackle. Pretty sure they had zero stops combined within 5 yards of LOS

  • Steeler Wheeler

    He went up high ner the sidelines and caught that ball with his shoulder pads. Needs to go up and catch that with his hands and get feet in bounds. He’s about $2M overpaid.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Cotch is a solid vet and can contribute to a solid team. Getting open quickly, beating man-to-man, running end arounds are not his game. He’s a nice 3rd or fourth option against a zone if QB is given time. But, he’s no Hines.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    It was clearly a fumble. Dumbass defenders have got to jump on that ball just in case. Tomlin should have called a timeout to let the booth get a better look, Because no one covered it, it would still be Cincy’s ball, Heyward would get credited with a sack/ff, and the whistle blew while the ball was three yards behind LOS. Ball would have been moved back…Maybe next time, someone jumps on ball.

  • steeltown

    Not true about V.Williams, but I agree I would like to see more Jarvis in the middle

  • Bradley Campbell

    Adams is no LT. Sign Starks-yes I said it, and move Adams to RT.

  • Mike Carroll

    I agree that is was very disappointing to not see the defenders jump on the ball regardless of the call/whistle blown. You wouldn’t think that would be an issue with a team struggling mightily to create turnovers.

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