Bengals vs. Steelers: Takeaways from Pittsburgh's 30-20 Win over Cincinnati
The wind chill was brutal in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, but that couldn't cool down the Pittsburgh Steelers. They had a big first half and held off the Cincinnati Bengals to pull off the home upset, 30-20.
By halftime, the Steelers had built a 27-7 lead and appeared to be on their way to an easy win. The second half, the Steelers got a little conservative, Cincinnati got a little aggressive and the Bengals started to march back.
But in the end, the Steelers defense stiffened and held off the Bengals. This left Pittsburgh's playoff hopes dangling by a thread with two games left to play.
Here are some quick takeaways from the Sunday night win.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
The No-Huddle Offense Worked
It seems that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has finally gotten on board with the power of the no-huddle offense.
With the Bengals utilizing multiple sub-packages to account for the absence of defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the no huddle was a killer.
The tempo kept the Bengals defense off balance and the Steelers offense humming. Ben Roethlisberger did a nice job at the line of scrimmage reading the Bengals defense and taking what they gave him.
The Offensive Line Stepped Up
As the season has gone on, the injuries along the offensive line have been significant. However, on Sunday night, this group played very well. That's not to say this team might not still want to add some talent in the offseason, but it might not be as serious as first believed.
The Steelers topped 100 yards rushing, which for a team near the bottom of the league, this was a huge accomplishment and a credit to the offensive line.
Bengals Special Teams Not So Special
In the first half of Sunday night's game, the undoing of the Bengals was on special teams. On the opening drive for the Bengals the snap was sideways in the wind, and the Steelers down it on the 1-yard line.
They scored a touchdown shortly after. On the Bengals next drive, they punted to wide receiver Antonio Brown, and he returned it 67 yards for another score.
Roethlisberger Effecient in Win
It is hard to continue to come up with ways to describe how well Roethlisberger is playing. Other than the one underthrown pass that was intercepted, Roethlisberger was on point. That throw was essentially a punt that netted no points for the Bengals—so no harm, no foul.
Some may point to Roethlisberger only throwing for 191 yards, but completing 80 percent of his passes on a windy night is something most quarterbacks cannot do.
More Al Woods Is a Good Thing
Since the preseason, I have clamored for more of defensive tackle Al Woods. His size and power, especially in the run game, are impressive. Sunday, he started at nose tackle for Steve McLendon. His impact was evident.
Woods appears to be much more of what the Steelers need on the inside, and he should see increased reps going forward.
Woods finished the game with two hits on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and a pass batted down. This is what the Steelers need from their starting nose tackle.
Steelers Defense Gets Physical
It was clear once the Steelers stepped on the field, their goal was to hit the Bengals in the mouth. And they did that all game long.
Once the Steelers had the lead they started to tee off and really pop the Bengals. Where it was most evident was on dropped passes by the Bengals where you could just see that the coming hit was on their minds.
The Steelers harassed Dalton all night long and stuffed the Bengals run to the tune of only 57 yards rushing. Every time the Bengals had the ball, the Steelers went out of their way to hit just a little harder than they did.
What Went Wrong in September?
Watching how the Steelers played on Sunday, it just confuses further why this team went 0-4 to start the season. The two things that have stood out to me over everything else are the presences of running back Le'Veon Bell and tight end Heath Miller.
Both of these players have had such a positive impact on this offense. It is hard to imagine they don't win some of those games if both are on the field.
This Game Was Far Too Close
The Steelers did their very best in the second half to let the Bengals come back and win this game. They crept back, chipping away at what the Steelers built in the first half.
Fortunately, Cincinnati's comeback push fell just short, and if all you saw was the box score, you'd think these two teams were pretty evenly matched up.
However, the reality is, the Steelers were the better football team on Sunday night by a significant margin. The lapses the Steelers had in the second half were fleeting and didn't figure into the final outcome. The Bengals made mistakes in tackling and on special teams, and the Steelers capitalized.