Hines Ward was very candid on why he thought Bruce Ariens was fired. For the rest of us and the Rooney family, the Steelers were not playing “Steelers Football” on offense. Todd Hailey came in and the Steelers were throwing the ball more than ever while the running game was worse than ever. However, leave it to the Bungles to make all right in the world again.
Behind an actual running game and an inspired second half defense, the Steelers overcame mental blunders to make a 24-17 win look easy. The most intriguing part was how the newer faces of the Steelers stepped up in a big way to play “Steelers Football.”
The most obvious was Jonathan Dwyer. The running back has been labeled a lazy head case after struggling with weight since joining the team in 2010. Dwyer showcased his power and vision between the tackles to constantly reach the second level of the defense. If he can continue to run the ball like this in the coming weeks, he would make a very strong case to become an integral part of the offense. Having a bruising, time crunching back like Dwyer is something that every Steelers fan would love to see again.
Dwyer wouldn’t have had those holes if it wasn’t for an offensive line performance that surprised many. Cincinnati has one of the most underrated front four in the game and the offensive line played their best game of the year against them. Leading that effort was Willie Colon, who absolutely manhandled anyone in front of him. His move to the interior of the line hasn’t been pretty at times, but it finally looks as if it will yield great rewards for the Steelers, especially once Pouncey returns.
And of course, “Steelers Football” wouldn’t be complete without a great defensive performance. Woodley, Timmons, Foote and Harrison led the linebackers in assisting inside the box, but the struggles of the defensive line put stress on the corners. Ike Taylor outplayed A.J. Green, but Andy Dalton didn’t have a Plan B thanks to Keenan Lewis. Lewis’ performance was especially impressive considering the secondary was thin after Will Allen was knocked out early. If Lewis can keep up the consistent play, the Steelers may be able to finally end some of the issues in the passing defense.
While this is one single game at the beginning of an extremely challenging set of games looming on the schedule, the Steelers may have finally found some of their mojo. They were battered going into this game and came out the more physical team. They found emerging stars who may bring Steelers Football back to Pittsburgh. That may be just enough to get the Steelers back on the right foot at the right time.