The Steelers picked up their first road win of the season, and improved to 3-3 after defeating the Bengals. This game, though close, was far from the nail biters they have been most of the season. The heavily injured Steelers dominated in just about every single category except for turnovers. The offensive line was superb in pass blocking and opened up some lanes for Jonathan Dwyer. The defensive line improved their play to help get just enough pressure on Andy Dalton. That pressure led to better play by the corners tonight, none more especially than the struggling Ike Taylor. Big Ben continued his dominance on third down efficiency. Heath Miller grabbed another catch in the end zone. Yes, it certainly is a good feeling turning the tv off for the evening and seeing the Steelers walk away with a solid win in their division.
So, have the Steelers turned a corner?
I’m going to take a play out of Green Bay Packer’s coach, Mike McCarthy, when he was asked that very question last week when the Packers beat up on the Texans – ask me again next week and the week after. Maybe by then you’ll have an answer.
Even though the Steelers improved on my facets of the game – better blocking, better pass rushing, better pass coverage – the Steelers still had numerous miscues that is keeping me from fully believing that the team has turned the corner and is surging to the top of the AFC North. Memorable miscues from last night include:
- Two turnovers from Big Ben: I knew I jinxed him when I pointed out in an article earlier on Sunday that Roethlisberger has the lowest INT % in the league for starting QB’s. He threw a bit of a forced ball to Miller in the end zone. I can’t blame him, however, for throwing it. Miller was doubled up by the time the ball made it to the end zone, and the safety help was on the downfield side of Miller. Three or four inches lower, and that pass would have been reigned in by Miller for 6. Big Ben also fumbled a ball while being pressured in the pocket. A pump and clutch, he then tried to reload and had the ball swatted away. The Bengals capitalized on the fumble with a touchdown because they started inside the Steelers 10 yard line.
- Ike Taylor still can’t cover deep: Taylor played much better, but for two reasons aside from skill – 1) Pressure during key plays when AJ Green went deeper than 15 yards forced Dalton to either throw quickly to someone else or throw an errant pass. 2) For some odd reason, Bengals head coach Marin Lewis did not have Green run many deep routes. However, when he did, Taylor left Green open as he has been doing all season with each team’s top receivers. Late in the 2nd quarter, Green went deep to the end zone. Dalton fired a pass down the field that surely would have been a touchdown, except that Keenan Lewis left his cover man very early and headed for the endzone to give what could have been mistaken as ‘safety help.’ Lewis jumped and tipped the ball away from a wide open Green. Taylor was a good two yards off of his upfield shoulder and turned all around.
- Outside LB pressure (or lack thereof): Aside from Woodley’s interception from a tipped ball off of a helmet/shoulder pad at the line, Woodley and Harrison were dead quiet. NBC and Cris Collinsworth (even though I hate them so) ran a good video comparison of Harrison from last season pre knee injury against video of Sunday night. Harrison’s angle, while he continues to get back at full strength is getting a fairly poor angle against lineman when he blitzes. It takes away all of his speed, power, and ability to cut around the edge to get to the quarterback. Until that improves and Woodley finds more ways to beat blockers, the Steelers pass rush will continue to only have small glimpses of success. Did I also mention a lack of intensity?
- Mike Wallace’s hands: He may have speed, but Mike Wallace has always been ‘dropsie’ prone. Wallace has dropped over 10 passes this season and is well on his way to graduating from Dez Bryant Drop So Hard U. Anyone else thinking ‘Thank God we didn’t overpay and sign this guy to a long term deal yet!’ Well, I know I am. I thought that Mike would step up his game in order to avoid being franchised by the Steelers next season. Hell, he keeps this up, not only will they decide to say ‘See ya later Mike’ next season, Ben might stop passing to him altogether. A couple of missed first downs and a TD catch – that’ll help you lose games. Dude needs to get rid of the stone gloves.
The team did some great things too. The offensive line stayed healthy for a game. That in itself is incredible and deserves a pizza party from Mike Tomlin. Antonio Brown continues to prove he’s the best receiver on the team. Heath Miller continues to prove he’s the best underrated TE in the league. Shaun Suisham is still over 90% in FG’s with tacking on three more on Sunday. Willie Colon proves that there is still fire somewhere within this team – they need to keep playing that takedown of LB Vontaze Burfict everyday for the rest of the season in the locker room.
Turning the corner? Not quite. More like taking a good peak around the corner. Let’s see if they can take a big step around next week against the RGIII and the Redskins at Heinz Field. And then ask me again after the Giants and then the Chiefs and then the Ravens.