Quick Hits: Steelers vs Bengals Winners/Losers

It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry.



Keith Butler: There is a lot of praise to be heaped on to the defense but we’ll start with the man who runs them all. It is always tough to gauge the performance of a coach but when you hold a Cincinnati Bengals’ team to 13 points – their fewest since Week Ten of last season – despite the Bengals repeatedly having good field position, you get a gold star. Also thought he did a good job of preparing his unit for their specialty plays. The Bengals flexed out Jake Fisher and ran an Emory & Henry hybrid look. Neither were positive plays for Cincy.

Antwon Blake: I like to think I’ve been very objective about his performance. I’ve been on his case when he fails to make plays, including putting him on the loser’s list the last two weeks, but based on other’s comments, I’ve basically been his biggest defender. Blake needs a lot of work technically but the guy has great speed, the quickest feet on this team, and a smooth turn. Plus, the guy just makes splash plays. An interception in the end zone to stall a Bengals’ drive – who were down by four at the time – was huge and one negative catch allowed to A.J. Green aside, he didn’t allow any glaringly terrible plays.

Steve McLendon: The Steelers’ adjusted their defensive line, starting McLendon at defensive end in base sets. He responded positively by being a force in the backfield and showing some serious closing speed. he ended the day with two tackles, a sack, a TFL, and a QB hit. Helped ease the loss from Stephon Tuitt.

Mike Mitchell: He had a classic dumb penalty but you can’t forget the rest of the plays he’s making in the secondary. Quietly, he’s lowered his aiming point, avoiding penalty-riddled headshots, and laying out Marvin Jones in what could be one of the biggest hits this defense will make all season. He came up with another INT and made several open field tackles, including one that probably saved a Gio Bernard TD.

Heath Miller: Heeeeeeeeath. After being an afterthought with Ben Roethlisberger out, he stormed back today and frankly, was the team’s best weapon today. Ten catches for 105 yards and some hard-earned receptions, highlighted by extending out to take a shot from George Iloka (Iloka was penalized). Today may turn out to be Miller’s best game of the season. Maybe the rest of his career.

Cam Heyward: Cam continues to be Cam. Doesn’t come off the field, collapses the pocket, runs like Rick from The Walking Dead. Dude does it all. If he doesn’t make an All-Pro team this year, it’ll be a travesty.

Lawrence Timmons: He wasn’t credited with a sack but his pressure helped created one or two. A nice bounce-back effort after a sub-par performance last week. Timmons also did a nice job against Tyler Eifert in coverage. Finished the day with four total tackles.


Offensive Line’s Stunt Pickup: It might not be the first thing that comes to mind but it’s burning me up. Part of the reason the Steelers’ passing offense struggled like it did was the Bengals’ ability to rush four, drop seven, and get pressure. At least two of Roethlisberger’s three sacks came on stunts and the second interception by Reggie Nelson. The fault was all-around. I think at least twice Alejandro Villanueva screwed up while another – the INT – came from some issue along the interior OL. The tape will help tell the story better than me trying to watch it live. But poor effort all around and I have to heap a little blame on Mike Munchak for not having his guys ready. This was at home, not on the road.

Ben Roethlisberger: As frustrating as the line was, Roethlisberger didn’t help matters. After a scorching first drive, Roethlisberger – and the Steelers’ offense – went into a shell after they got off script. His INT to Shawn Williams should have just been a throwaway, though Will Johnson needed to work back to the ball, too. His decison to throw that quick spike at the end was bewildering. If you’re going to do it, at least throw it vertically and try to score. 28 of 45 and three picks is not going to do the soul good. Probably not the knee, either.

Kick Return Blocking: A lot of people will blame Dri Archer. But the Steelers’ inability to let him get to the 10 or 15 yard line clean before meeting a defender is unacceptable. Especially when that man was Cedric Peerman, one of the top special teamer’s and a guy Danny Smith knows to get a hat on. The mistakes were individual, and it’s hard to say who is at fault until the Coaches’ Film comes out, but they were clear mistakes. The Steelers had long drives today and poor blocking played a role.

Martavis Bryant: Four catches on nine targets isn’t efficient and he couldn’t haul in a touchdown that obviously would’ve changed the complexion of the game. It’s another reminder that for all the talent he has, and at times, that was on display today, he’s still a second-year guy growing. Must do a better job at contested catch points.

Penalties: Just a catch all but when you get called 10 times, it’s going to show up here. Especially coming off a game when the Steelers were flagged just once for five yards, like they were last week.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • PittsburghSports

    Tomlin? Loser. Let 38 secs run off the clock. The play clock is 40 secs. There isn’t a person in the world, professional coaches or 11 year old Madden players, that doesn’t call a timeout there after every play until you have none left, except Mike Tomlin. Sure, we wouldn’t have had that last timeout, but a spike to stop the clock wouldn’t have taken 38 secs. We could have won the game with 10… 20 secs there.

  • John

    We scored 10 points with Ben. We cored more with Vick and Jones. The point of Ben’s return was to be able to accelerate the scoring significantly. Ten points is losing football against anyone. The entire offense — including Haley — are losers.

  • WreckIess

    Wasted effort by the defense. Just pissed away every offensive opportunity we had today.

  • Taylor Williams

    We have a good enough defense to win a championship this year and our offense struggles to put points on the board. I knew Ben was rusty but C’MON!!! I know people are gonna blame this on Tomlin, but Ben threw 3 picks.

    The division is likely lost and the playoffs are looking out of reach.

  • steelersfan

    Another stellar defensive performance wasted by the offense. Tough to watch. It’s been a while since Ben has looked that rattled in a game

  • steelersfan

    Bryant should have definitely caught that td. Looked like brown was wide open on the last play of the game. Ben waited too long to throw it

  • Taylor Williams

    This game should’ve been over by the third quarter. We shouldn’t need a 2 minute offense if we scored a touchdown at least twice. When the defense puts us in a position like they’ve have done today, the offense needed to capitalize.

    Blaming this on Tomlin is that casual fan bull.

  • PittsburghSports

    Don’t disagree with that. Beside D Will and Heath everyone sucked on offense. Not sure who’s to blame on the offensive line yet.

  • SJT63

    And even if keeping 1 timeout back for your offense were correct, they could have taken 2 timeouts BEFORE the 2 minute warning and then let the clock run down to 2:00 after 3rd down. Then the FG snap on 4th down would have been at 2:00 instead of 1:51. That extra 9 seconds at the end would have allowed 1 or probably 2 more shots at the end zone.

  • PittsburghSports

    Read my post again. I’m suggesting Tomlin is a loser, not that he lost us the game. Many losers helped us lose this game. Tomlin’s choice not to take a timeout and give up 38-39 secs was a loser move.

  • Michael James

    Mitchell looks like he was made to play for the Steelers.

  • toonasteel

    The next article title should be….”It’s Ben Beating Ben”; Steelers Lose in a Tough One”

  • Hawkeye

    The defense was fantastic! Aside from the Patriots game, they’ve play well all year. Big Ben was terrible today! His innaccuracy and poor decisions cost us today. Hopefully he can shake off the rust and we can regroup offensively.

  • Rob

    A real out of character game for this oline. Ben deserves blame but geez, did he have hands on him. Can’t think of a solid performer outside of Gilbert, and he was flagged at least twice, as far as I remember. Ben held on to the ball probably a bit longer than necessary a few times, and tried to play hero ball once Bell went down, which didn’t help at all. The offense is dooming this team, surprisingly enough. Mike Tomlin’s clock mgmt still confuses me, but I don’t think that the team has ever not been in position to win despite it.

  • Lippslouie

    You missed some glaring losers..

  • Lippslouie

    No it isn’t. He’s a terrible coach! Rode Cowher nucleus to successes, then pushed Arians outta town..

  • PittsburghSports

    They could’ve stopped the clock at 2:38. Timeout. Next run took 5 secs. 2:33. Timeout. Next run took 4 secs. 2:29. Timeout. FG took 4 secs. 2:25. KO ran no time off the clock. We would’ve had 2:25 on the clock, no timeouts, but the 2 min warning. Instead we started at 1:47. If you just cancel out the timeout and the 2 min warning, then that’s an extra 38 secs we would’ve had to work with. 38 secs Tomlin gave up for no reason. The guy is a complete idiot when it comes to clock management. I hope David Todd grill him on Tuesday.

  • George Kroger

    AB was open at the goal line, but it looked like they (both he and Ben) were not looking for that throw. They were relying on a hail Mary. IMO, it was just a bad play call.

  • George Kroger

    Agree…two minute warning gives you the timeout that you wanted, Mike.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I would add tomlin to the losers for losing 30 valuable seconds near the end of the game and not trying a makeable FG when they were at the 35yard line in a close game. I also add Wheaton for being invisible.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Alex people will want to blame Dri Archer because he deserves some blame. Blocking can definitely be better and that deserves blame too but he continues to play slow and be indecisive and it is like his body refuses to react and make people miss. He has to be better than that to be worth giving a helmet to. I would LOVE to see Todman field a couple back there.

  • George Kroger

    Tomlin is a very average coach. He’s not the worst in the league, but he is definitely not elite. I feel the same about Ben…he’s better than average, but not elite. If he was, he’d have 4+ rings (like Brady).

  • George Kroger

    Yes, let’s not forget Haley. Play calling again was very suspect. Medium distance throws were there all day – they rarely went to them.

  • George Kroger

    Yes, can we please see Todman return one. Then everyone will see how bad Dri is.

  • SJT63

    Completely agree, just pointing out that given Tomlin was absolutely intent on saving 1 timeout, he couldn’t even execute that correctly.

  • steelersfan

    Yeah looked like it. You would think that close to the endzone you wouldn’t have to draw up a Hail Mary though

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I don’t even want to hate on Dri too much because he has had some decent returns but I still think it is a case of “every dog has his day”. Dri is just not a very good football player. He doesn’t play to his speed, doesn’t move well for a guy his size and still doesn’t seem to have much vision.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    A shame that we wasted such a great effort by the D.
    REALLY, REALLY liked the move of McClendon to DE (obviously he IS capable of playing 3-4 DE), and the use of McCullers at NT with little to no Cam Thomas. Kept one of the best Os without a touchdown for more than 3 quarters. Great effort.
    Didn’t one of the frequent readers of this site suggest doing just that the other day? 🙂

  • PittsburghSports

    ha, yeah I wasn’t disagreeing with you. just needed to post that. Cheers!

  • SnoopDogg123

    Archer had no business returning some of those kicks. The blocking may been bad, but the decision by Archer was worse.

  • Seymour Bottoms

    Tomlin should be added to the Losers list, his clock management was terrible. Before all you Tomlin lovers flock to this post to tell me how great he is and it wasnt his fault at all just save it because nothing he does wrong will ever change your vision on him, he has been a HC in this league for quite some time now and still makes rookie mistakes week after week.

  • John

    With the exception of the 49er game and some garbage TDs against NE, we really have not had much offense all year regardless of who played QB. This is a big problem and someone needs to answer for it. Ben was drawing up plays for others but cannot figure out how to move the ball when he plays? Something is very wrong.

  • George Kroger

    Agree completely…

  • George Kroger

    “REALLY, REALLY liked the move of McClendon to DE”

    “Didn’t one of the frequent readers of this site suggest doing just that the other day? :-)”

    Fans have been calling for this for years. McClendon is not a NT and is actually a decent DE. Funny it took coaches this long to realize that.

  • George Kroger

    Can you please tell Haley that…I don’t think he’s aware of it.

  • SteelerMike

    It makes no sense to me absolve the HC in this situation just because the offense played bad. Tomlin failed to give his team a couple extra chances to realistically win the game. That’s on the HC, no matter how horribly the offense played. And if the clock did not run out on them and they actually scored to win 17-16, that horrible offensive performance suddenly becomes a winning offensive performance. Tomlin deserves to be one the Loser list as well.

  • Alex Kozora

    Some of that stuff we don’t know. There are times when he’s given the green light by Danny Smith based on game situation, strength (or lack of) or the opposing return unit, etc. Lot of factors and it’s hard to know if he *should* or not, unless the situation is super obvious.

  • SnoopDogg123

    Archer sucks man, get over it. He runs a great 40 yard dash in shorts on a track, but the kid isn’t an NFL football player.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Tomlin absolutely deserves to be on the loser list. There’s just no excuse or justification to let 38 seconds run off of the clock at the end of the game. I also question not kicking the 53 yard field when you have a kicker that is 7-7 with a few from long range. A fan who was at the game called in to a local station to say wind was not factor. It seems like the Steelers can’t go a game without questionable decisions and clock management by Tomlin.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    #46 is a huge Loser today! Ben was ready to slowly go down the field and win the game. I know it was a broken play but Johnson is coming back for the ball, then, inexplicably, unbelievably, he stopped and waited for the ball to arrive. WTF! When I was 11, I was taught that you are flying back towards the ball with a guy behind you, and you better keep coming back for the ball. As soon as you stop the guy behind you takes 2 steps and steals it from you for an INT. Johnson, a Pro, screwed that up so bad. I know Ben wanted to scream at the time, but we know Ben would rather take the blame for the loss.

    That was a horrific play!

  • juliusmidfield

    His stupidity extends beyond time management. When you’ve got the right person running the show stuff falls into place, it happens by design and the thoughfulness, the right decision becomes a way of life. With Tomlin it all feels disjointed: injuries, lack of prep, suspect play calling, abysmal time management, wasted high picks like Archer and J Jones, out coached, out prepped on a regular basis. In spite of the games’ inherent mayhem precision and attention to detail are qualities baked into winning franchises. We once had that. Precision and detail are not emotions, they are the product of intelligence and effort.

  • Chad Sanborn

    This post is spot on! Use all 3 timeouts and then you still have the 2min warning to stop the clock and regroup.

  • juliusmidfield

    3rd round pick. You’ll get sick if you see who else was on the board. Draft J Jones 1st with 4.86 speed and other weak measureables when SEC insiders knew he was a mirage.

  • PittsburghSports

    And more to that point, if he did take all 3 timeouts, and it was 2:25 when we got the ball back, the sack would’ve still probably drained the time down to the 2 min warning without a timeout, but that’s better than it being 1:23 with a timeout. That’s still a difference of 37 secs. When we finally used our last timeout, it was after a 12 yard gain, and most likely it would’ve taken us 10 secs to set and spike the ball. So, we saved 10 secs with the timeout. Instead of using it before to save 38 secs. That’s a difference of(38sec-10secs) 28 secs more we wasted.

  • PittsburghSports

    Hey I actually thought McLendon did well too. Gonna have to watch the game a couple times more, but played way better than he did last week, and McCullers was getting really good push at NT. And everyone gets their wish. Less Cam Thomas lol.

  • Chad Sanborn

    The reason this team is 4-4 with all this talent isn’t injuries. Its COACHING. Plain and simple. The middle of the field was open today and has been all season. Finally today, Ben found Heath there for some great yardage. Then just as quickly, that play evaporated. With as often as Heath is open for 10 yard gains he should be having a career season. Bell went down and DWill came in and ripped off the longest running play for us of the season! Yet he only touched the ball a total of 9 times. This is unforgivable when you know going into the game that the Bungles are suspect against the run. Haley still hasn’t figured out that you need to create mismatches. He never lines up to get Bryant matched up on a linebacker. Thats something I have been licking my chops for. Yet no Bryant in the slot. They say he has “alien speed”, yet no slant and go play where he can catch the ball in stride. Other coaches would kill for our offensive weapons. Yet our inept coaches still don’t know what to do with them. And THAT is why we will finish the season 9-7 or 8-8 and praying for help to get to the show.

  • PittsburghSports

    Agree. Only thing worse than that is the Offensive coordinator putting him on the field in a 3 TE set with playaction called and only 1 WR(Bryant) on the field. Why would you take AB off or even Wheaton and DHB with the game on the line.

  • George Kroger

    I agree completely. Seems like fans don’t want to face this fact.

  • steelburg

    I’m sure others on that oline struggled, but Villanueva doesn’t have the recognition skills to pick up some of those complex stunts I said this last week in a post. If I was calling the shots I would probably go with a healthy Mike Adams if he becomes available.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Yes, although I haven’t seen any mentions of it the last couple weeks despite Tuitt’s injury.
    To me it just seems like such an obvious move given McCuller’s growth, and I give Tomlin credit for swallowing his stubbornness and doing it!
    Hell, I would rather see us play with two DL and FIVE LBs rather than put C Thomas in there!!!
    Just couldn’t help mentioning it, and hopefully this could be the beginning of the end for Cam Sta Puft Thomas!!!!

  • It’s hard to find too much at fault on defence. It was another exceptional showing against a really good offence, and that the fact that they did it without Tuitt just made it even more impressive. Just a great bounce-back effort after breaking against the Chiefs last week.

    But the offence, oh, where to begin? I get that the starters haven’t been together all year. I get that the unit has been ravaged by injuries. And I get that Ben was, to say the least, rusty. But this is still a team with a lot of talent that just can’t seem to put up points. Penalties and self-inflicted wounds are a huge part of it, sure, but they just seem to lack any identity and sense of purpose when they’re out there. So Ben is a “loser,” yes, but the problem is unit-wide, it seems, and I do think a lot of the blame has to go to Tomlin and Haley. It’s the atrocious clock management, it’s the inability to play with any urgency, it’s the inability to stick to a game plan — and, really, the inability to translate obvious individual talent into points. We came into this season thinking the offence was elite, or close to it, that it was the offence that would produce any success this year. We were wrong.

  • Agreed. As I wrote above, there has been a failure to translate significant individual talent on offence into points, and it’s been a problem not just this year but over the last few seasons. Teams regularly put up points in the NFL — just look what Oakland did to the Jets yesterday. Yet the Steelers continue to struggle week after week after week. And that just puts way too much pressure on the D, which already has enough on its hands.

    And this, to me, is a failure that can be traced right back to the coaches.

  • The most disappointing thing about this loss, besides the loss itself, is the season-ending injury that occurred to Le’Veon Bell in the second quarter. Bell suffered an MCL injury to the same knee late last season. This injury appeared to be worse than last year’s. I’m hoping because it’s the same knee, it won’t wind up hindering Bell’s running ability for the rest of his career. (It’s quite a coincidence that it happened against the same opposing team as last season.)

    It’s just been one of those seasons, folks. We get our star QB back, then we lose our star RB. It’s the way the cookie crumbles, and unfortunately for us, it’s been constantly crumbling all around us. I thought our OL did a good job, considering we have a backup Tackle in Alejandro Villanueva, who will be filling in for Kelvin Beachum for the rest of the season, and a backup Center in Cody Wallace starting for Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. The unit did give up three sacks, but so did the Bengals’.

    With Bell out on IR, DeAngelo Williams is back in the spotlight. Williams had a decent showing as he ran for 71 yards on 9 carries with a 7.9 average per carry. That average is high, largely because of his nice long-run of 55 yards. We just signed ex-Rams RB Isaiah Pead to help Williams with the RB duties as the season progresses. That was a good move, but we also still have Jordan Todman. That’s a pretty good 3-way attack.

    Ben Roethlisberger had a very nice 12-play, 80-yard opening drive that ended with him tossing a pass to Antonio Brown in the right side of the end zone for a 1-yard TD. That drive took 7:14 off the clock. As the game went on, Ben seemed to have a bad case of nerves after he took a slight hit to his knee. After that happened, he seemed to be feeling some discomfort and the knee brace seemed to have him a bit on the stiff side at times. He was overthrowing WRs and TEs at times, but I expected that to happen in his first return to action in just over a month.

    Big Ben was 28 of 45 for 262 yards with a TD, and 3 three INTs, and was sacked 3 times as I mentioned earlier.

    Andy Dalton was 23 of 38 for 231 yards with a TD and 2 INTs and was sacked 3 times as well.

    The Steelers averaged 5.3 yards per play, while the Bengals averaged 4.6. It was a pretty even game overall, and it was a game I thought the Steelers should have won. If Bell hadn’t gone down, I think the end result would have been different. He was starting to get into a groove, and I was just waiting for something big to happen.

    Antonio Brown finished the game with 6 receptions for 47 yards, a 7.8 average and a long of 17 yards to go along with his one TD, while Martavis Bryant had 4 receptions for 49 yards, a 12.3 average with a long of 21 yards.

    Needless to say, not a very productive day for either wide-out. Granted, some of Ben’s passes were high and ill-advised as he threw into coverage quite a bit, but some of his other throws were right on the money, yet the receivers just couldn’t handle them. Right-handed QB, then a left-handed QB, then a right-handed QB…………does that really matter? Perhaps, but when you have receivers with the skills of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, they should be able to catch the ball at least some of the time when they’re in heavy traffic, but against the Bengals, it just wasn’t happening.

    Bengals’ A.J. Green finished with 11 receptions for 118 yards, and his one TD was the dagger in the hearts of Steelers fans all across the world. Unless something extraordinary happens, the Bengals have just won the AFC North.

    This was a pretty even game. I mean most of the stats were virtually equal. The Steelers had 21 first downs to the Bengals’ 16. T.O.P. was in the Steelers favor, but only for 58 seconds as they held the ball for 30:09 to the Bengals’ 29:51. Total yards were in the Steelers favor also, but again, not by much as they had 356 to the Bengals’ 296.

    I thought both defenses played well. There were some jaw-jarring hits out there as there should have been in a divisional game. Especially a divisional game that would more than likely determine whether or not the Bengals would win the AFC North this season. I know I already said it once, but unfortunately for us, it looks as if the Bengals took that crown from us on Sunday at our very own Heinz Field.

    Both Antwon Blake and Mike Mitchell had very nice interceptions with good returns, but we couldn’t capitalize on them. That hurt badly. Cameron Heyward had another good performance and he even blocked a FG. That was a sweet play! Ryan Shazier showed flashes of his quickness and played better than he did last week. He didn’t get injured, and that’s always a good thing, but let’s wait to see if that changes come Wednesday.

    For the most part, our kick coverage wasn’t too bad. As for Berry, most of his punts had a lot of hang-time on them. Once again, Boswell was money when asked to come in and kick a 32-yarder for us.

    A few other things that need mentioning:

    Before Big Ben got injured earlier this season, in his first 2 games, he had already passed for 720 yards, 4 TDs and only 1 INT. He was right at 39,969 career passing yards when he got hurt. He only needed 31 yards to reach the milestone of 40,000 career passing yards. He surpassed that against the Bengals on Sunday, and now is the only Steelers QB to ever do so. He is also only the 16th QB in NFL history to reach that total.

    Remember, last season Big Ben was tied for the most passing yards in the league with 4,952. He has passed for over 4,000 yards in 4 of the last 6 seasons. Did he have a pretty lack-luster game on Sunday? Yeah, but consider what he’s done for this organization over the past decade or so. One thing is for sure, we may have lost the division title on Sunday, but one QB you can never count-out is Big Ben. He simply never gives up. That’s just one of the reasons why he’s one of the greatest QBs of all time.

    I also have to mention Heath Miller. It was just last week that we were all wishing him a happy 33rd birthday, and on Sunday he explodes with 10 catches for 105 yards. He looked like a linebacker when he tackled a Bengals defender after an interception thrown by Ben. Heath is as solid as they come. Pay no attention to outsiders, We all know what the deal is when it comes to Heath Miller. The guy is clutch. BIG TIME!

    Well, here come the Raiders. It really sucks that we have to face an organization that the Steelers have had so many great battles with over the decades without our star RB, Le’Veon Bell. One thing is for sure, we have to start winning games. Especially these AFC match-ups! The playoffs are right around the corner. So even if we can eke out a few wins while Ben fights his way back to 100%, I’ll take ’em. A victory by one point is still a victory.

    Until then, as always…………GO STEELERS!