Pittsburgh Steelers: Avoiding a Heart Attack in the Queen City
Everyone recovered from last night's game? After almost blowing a 20 point lead, the Steelers hung on with a big defensive stop in the last minute to preserve a 27-21 victory.
There was a lot of fodder last night for an article, so let's start as the game started—with the special teams. On their first two opportunities, the Steelers special teams gave their offense scoring opportunities deep in the Bengals red zone. I thought I was hallucinating, but came back to reality later when they gave up a 60 yard kickoff return. All in all, I'll take that any week.
The offense continues to be nothing if not frustrating. While he ended the night with a great game, Mike Wallace didn't see a ball come his way until three minutes before halftime. He is by far the Steelers' biggest threat and he needs to be involved earlier, and with more variety, than just down the sideline.
Bruce Arians' play calling continues to baffle any rational observer. Throw a bubble screen to Hines Ward that gains no yards, so what do you do? Of course you run it the very next play. I hadn't realized it was this bad, but one of the announcers made the comment that almost a quarter of the Steelers pass completions were within a couple of yards of the line of scrimmage. Ugh.
On a series in the second half, Arians called three consecutive running plays off of the left tackle. Can you say punt?
Reaffirming my position all season long from the soap box, Jon Gruden made the comment that the lack of a fullback in the Steelers offense is a problem. Tell that one to Arians.
On a positive note, the offensive line has to be commended for doing a heck of a job even as they were dropping like flies. Even though he just missed cracking the 100 yard mark, Rashard Mendenhall played a great game, continually battling for extra yards. I will also give credit where it is due—I loved the fake sweep and pass from Antwaan Randle El.
The defense is continuing to drive me insane. In the first half, they picked up right where they have been for the past month, rushing three and four in passing situations. However, they turned on the blitz in the second half and put great pressure on Carson Palmer, resulting in not only sacks, but also a lot of bad throws. Disappointingly, they went back to plan A towards the end of the game and almost left with a loss as a result.
As far as individual performances go, Ziggy Hood was the invisible man last night and right now, he does not look like the long-term replacement for Aaron Smith. We all know about James Harrison's troubles with the NFL, but I'm sorry he gets held almost every time he rushes the quarterback and was part of the hit on the Bengals' Jordan Shipley that sealed the game. Game ball to him.
The worst play and defensive call of the night goes to William Gay, who got burned badly right up the middle of the field by T.O. in the second half for a touchdown. I implicate the defensive play call in this because there was double coverage on both outside receivers and in the short middle of the field. If anyone in that secondary needs help, it is Gay.
No comment necessary on Jeff Reed's inability to make a field goal in the 40-49 yard range.
Overall, and despite all these issues, it was a big win because that was the type of game the Steelers would lose as they were going into the tank last year.
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