Although Troy may disagree, style points don’t matter. A win is a win, and the Steelers have outlasted the Bengals to go 6-2. They are neck and neck with the Ravens, and absolutely must keep winning.
That being said, our boys in Black and Gold must learn from their mistakes. They’ve blown fourth quarter leads against the Bengals too many times, and Monday night was too close for comfort. After leading by 20 pts in the 4th, the Steelers gave up a couple touchdowns to let the Bungles back in the game. Thankfully our D stepped up in the end and our big playmakers…well, they made big plays.
I live in MN. Fans here are ridiculous. They don’t understand the game, and if they do, their view on the rest of the NFL is skewed and inaccurate at the best. Every week people say the same thing, “Oh you’re playing [insert team here]? that will be an easy win.” I always respond the same way, “Yeah well, nothing is ever easy for the Steelers.” I believe that, I really do. I grew up listening to my dad talk about how it was like every game was the Super Bowl when the Steelers play, and I am beginning to understand what he meant. Teams know they’re about to face the greatest franchise in the history of professional football. The worst teams in the league get up and play like its do or die when they play the Steelers, regardless of their record. As well they should. A win against the Steelers can give you confidence and swagger, and can be a big momentum changer for your season. Just see this year’s New Orleans Saints after their win against the Steelers. All that really means is the Steelers need to be more prepared mentally and physically than any other team they play, because it is never going to come easy.
Aside from all of the atrocious calls the Steelers had to overcome, they also had to overcome injuries to some of their top offensive linemen, and a myriad of poor playcalling from our friend Bruce “the spruce” Arians. I’ve never liked that screen pass to Ward. I always feel like its a play they run to keep his (well deserved) consecutive catches streak alive. Running it two plays in a row though? When the max we’ve gained from the play after running it a million times is maybe 7 yards? I’d be willing to guess that play yields an average of two yards. Why run it twice in a row? As we saw Monday night, the second of two screens in a row (one to one side, and the second to the opposite side) to Ward resulted in a (albeit rare) Ward fumble. Brilliant.
I loved seeing Rashard pound it down their throats late in the 4th though. Just wondering why we don’t pass it on 3rd and 4 at the end of that drive? We spent $100 million on our savior Big Ben. Stuck by him when he made some very poor desicions, why not go for the first down and put the game away? After a Rashard 2 yard gain, Jeffy went ahead and missed the game-ender anyway.
I’m done with Jeff Reed. He’s been reliable for a long time, but he isn’t anymore. Plain and simple. Good kickers get it done when the game is on the line. Had he made that kick, he could have probably done anything in the upcoming weeks and we would have let him get away with it. He’s lucky our D was able to hold them off, otherwise I’m sure we’d being hearing even more cries from the Yinzers in Pittsburgh.
I am a little concerned, I must admit. Big Ben seems like he’s not all there yet. Where most QBs have had 8 or 9 games with their team, Ben has had 4. Against the Bengals we started to see for the first time Big Ben going out there and changing the play at the line of scrimmage on a more regular basis. Its a sign that he is starting to feel comfortable in the offense, and that he’s getting his head wrapped around the feel of the game again. Something else seems to be missing though. That old time Big Ben magic we’re used to seeing seems to be a thing of the past, at least for now. We see flashes of brilliance, but he’s still making very poor throws, and under throwing Mike Wallace nearly every time Mike gets fee down the field. Ben is big and strong enough to get it to him, I wish he’d just chuck that thing down field! Some of this may not be Ben’s fault, as we did experience some injuries to the already struggling offensive line, and the usually inept pass rush of the Cincinnati Bengals was all over Big Ben all night.
Rashard looked pretty good, though. I liked how instead of bouncing him outside like we tried to do too many times, we just started running it right at them. Rashard is showing agility, quickness, and vision, and running him up the middle seems to be much more productive than some of these other running plays (22 Double excluded) have been.
I am always hesitant to blame the defense for anything since they’ve given us so many things in the past decade or so, and I feel we should be able to beat anyone in the NFL if we can keep them 20pts or less, but something is amiss here as well. Our pattern of giving up 4th quarter leads started over a year ago, and is creeping back again to haunt us. We blamed it on Aaron Smith being out, and Troy being out, but there is something else going on here. Our secondary still seems extremely vulnerable. I have never liked the way Willy Gay plays, and I never will. He makes a big play here, and then gets burned for a touchdown or two there. McFadden is getting beat too often, and Ike Taylor is making costly mistakes. Its also been a while since Troy has come up with a huge interception at a big moment that we are so used to seeing from him. TO is an aging veteran. Smart, but slower than he used to be, and there is no excuse for him having the kind of game he had Monday night. I follow a lot of Steelers players on Twitter, and of the ones who tweet regularly, namely Ryan Clark and LaMarr Woodley, I can hear their frustration in how they are playing. Clark is always saying something like “Well, a win is a win, but we know we need to get better. About to go hit some game tape.”
Bottom line: We need to get better.
Props to Emmanuel Sanders for having another huge game with a forced fumble on special teams. This guy is going to be good, and if he keeps playing like this, we won’t see Antonio Brown again until Ward retires. I’d really like to see Sanders running all of El’s routs. Never been a huge fan of Antwaan as a wide-out, though its nice to have him back for some trickery.
Jon and I head out to Pittsburgh to attend the game at Heinz Field this weekend. Can’t wait to cheer on our boys in person. The Patriots have been winning, and under the radar. I really hope we come prepared, cause I really don’t want to drive 17 hours to see us lose to the Patriots <-Maybe the team I hate the most in the NFL.
There will be video and pictures from the game next week. Until then, I leave you with this: