Congratulations, you’ve won the Pennsylvania lottery. Certainly, sir, we’d love to give you a refund. Sorry for the long wait, please have an extra chalupa on us. Oh my, it’s soooo big.
All things I thought I’d never hear.
“The Steelers offensive line has played an excellent game tonight.” used to be on the list. Miraculously, that one gets crossed off because I actually heard it last night when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10. Granted, it was spoken by Cris Collingsworth, who is so in love with his own voice I bet he talks dirty to himself, but kudos are kudos.
To be fair, the line did perform well in surrendering zero sacks. Okay, the Bengal defense was pretty banged up and sure they don’t have much of a pass rush even when healthy but remember Baby Steps. QB Ben Roethlisberger was afforded a nice pocket on almost every play and the team managed to rush for a total of 121 yards with three different backs. Plus, they managed to avoid getting flagged for the zillion holding penalties which plagued them last week.
The 121 rushing yards were shared by a three man RB-by-committee. Fast Willie Parker started the game and looked awful. The weather, field conditions, or a flare-up of his knee injury really affected his performance to the point Coach Mike Tomlin yanked him from the game for the entire 2nd half. He had none of the burst he showed last week and would stutter step/hesitate instead of hitting the hole. Subtract one 15 yard scamper and his stat line is an ugly 13 carries for 22 yards.
Luckily, the calvary was on its way in the form of Mewelde Moore. Moore stepped in to provide a capable rushing attack (56 yards) while also being a threat on screen passes (41 yards). I dare say without his valiant efforts, we would have been in deep trouble. Gary Russell also came up big, first on a 35 yard kick return which gave the Steelers field position and then later converting a key 4th and 1 near the goal line. That call, where Tomlin channeled his Inner Cowher by passing up a chip shot FG for a first down conversion, was the turning point of the game.
Cincy came out guns blazing, even without the services of malcontent WR Chad Bozo Clowno. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick moved the team right down the field, picking on newly signed CB Fernando Bryant. Fernando did not look mah-velous. It’s no mystery why this guy was out of the league as of two weeks ago. He has the speed to keep up with WRs but gets juked and faked all over the place and in the NFL all it takes is leaning the wrong way for a split second for a window to open up. He got burned on a long pass early in the drive and then got toasted in the end zone for a quick 7-0 Bengal lead.
The Steeler offense came out flat as FWP couldn’t get on track and the passing game seemed out of synch. WRs Nate Washington and Hines Ward have had some big games and big catches this year but they’ve also had big problems with dropping easy ones. Drives floundered when both failed to make plays in the first half. The Steelers finally ended their TD drought after 8 quarters in the 2nd when O-Coordinator Bruce Arians, who seems to have figured out you’re allowed to throw to your TE, decided to try it with Heath Miller. Miller’s 14 yarder after a penalty moved them back and TD catch from 3 yards out were sandwiched around a 36 yard strike to Hines. A Skippy Reed FG later in the quarter and it was déjà vu all over again as the teams went to halftime with the same exact 10-7 score they had in their first game.
When play resumed, the Steelers chewed up some clock (and added another FG) with Mewelde Moore taking advantage of a beat up Bengal defense that lost two more starters as the game progressed. Gary Russell finally rammed the ball in from the 2 for his first TD as a Steeler on a drive that was set up by Double M’s 15 yard run followed by a 22 yard screen pass. Also interesting to note was Carey Davis joined FWP on the pine with blocking FB duties being performed by Sean McHugh. He did a rather good job which is yet another case of backups on this team outperforming the supposed starters.
In the third, Cincy finally got some offense going after the beautiful violence of the Blitzburgh Defense had pretty much stifled them all game. Their drive was aided by P Paul Ernster and his inability to kick anything but wounded ducks. I usually ignore kickers and concentrate on the real football players but I have to say Ernster is quickly becoming an embarrassment. One could argue the poor weather contributed to the lousy punting yesterday (Cincy’s kicker had a rough outing, too) but over two games now Ernster’s average has to be hovering around the 30 yard mark. How sad is it that the punter with the torn hammy kicked better than the punter with two healthy legs?
Anyway, Cincy took advantage of starting at midfield and drove the ball down to the 8. Once there, the Steelers benefited from Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis’s distinct lack of testicles when he kicked a FG on 4th down. You play to win the game, Marvin.
On the subsequent drive, a heavy dose of Mewelde Moore, a clutch third down play (Ben broke free from a sack and scrambled to find a heads up Limas Sweed), and the game was sealed when Ben broke away from another would-be sacker and darted in for the score. It wasn’t always pretty and there is definitely more than one area that needs to be worked on but as I said in my preview Baby Steps. With the cream puff section of their schedule over, the Steelers look toward games against NE, Dallas, and Tennessee, making now the time to put their best foot forward.
Topics: Arians, Bengals, Big Ben, Billy Crystal, Chad Johnson, Cincinnati, Collingsworth, Cowher, Cris Collinsworth, Ernster, Face Me Ike, Fast Willie Parker, Fernando Bryant, Gary Russell, Grinning Jackal, Heath Miller, Holmes, Ike, Lewis, Mewelde, Mitch Berger, Moore, Ocho Cinco, Parker, Roethlisberger, Russell, See Me Now, Tomlin, Ward, Washington