Steelers vs. Bengals: Where There’s a D-Will, There’s a Way
By Homer J.
Homer sent a play-by-play, which will appear in italics. I have edited it freely and included commentary when appropriate. He also sent a report card, which will be printed in full. Thanks, Homer!
[DeAngelo Williams] waits, finds hole up the middle for 8.
I think many of us were excited about this start to the game. We were hoping last week’s fantastic running game wasn’t just a fluke, or because the Washington team’s run defense was just awful. Of course, the Bengals gave up a lot of yards on the ground to the Jets as well…
3rd and 1—line gets no surge…DWill stopped cold.
First Bengals series:
Hill runs into [Robert] Golden for one yard. Good run support.
This series was mainly indicative of the rest of the game. When the Bengals tried to run the ball not much happened. When they threw it, this was frequently the result:
First down on pass to left side.
As the game continued it became quite clear that, like last week, Keith Butler, the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, didn’t give a rat’s asp (many rats have pet snakes) as to how many yards the offense gained, as long as they scored a maximum of three points, preferably in widely spaced series. The Steelers’ D is not going to look great on paper, because they are going to give up a lot of yards, but as long as they don’t give up very many points, they are awesome in my book.
During the ensuing punt return, Homer commented:
This is like watching a couple of heavyweights feel each other out at the start of a big fight.
The exciting part for a Steeler fan of the next series:
Ben evades rush, throws high to [Jesse] James, who goes waay up and gets it for first down.
For a Bengals fan, it was this:
Ben throws pick.
After an ensuing three-and-out, Homer comments:
The heavy rain is certainly affecting play calling and execution.
During the next Steelers series Homer was particularly taken with the following:
3rd and 9: Ben jukes, turns spins, buys time and hits Sammie Coates at Cin 21. Great pocket presence, great protection, great pass.
The next Roethlisberger pass was to Xavier Grimble, who caught his first NFL pass and took it into the end zone:
Grimble’s last second toe kick gave him enough elevation to make it across the goal line. X marks the TD.
The next Bengals series was less gratifying, as they made it into the red zone after four plays. However, on 3rd and 6 the two starting safeties stop Giovani Bernard short of the first down, and the Bengals’ first score is 3 rather than 7.
I liked this comment, from the next Steelers series:
Reverse pitch for [Sammie] Coates- nice block by [David] Johnson. PacMan [Adam Jones] injures himself against Coates’ knee. Six yard gain to Cincy 44. Interesting that Cincy players continue to injure themselves against Steeler knees. [Andy] Dalton did last year.
This series, however, ended in a punt, as did the next Cincinnati series and the following Steelers series. Then this happened:
[Jordan] Berry punts to PacMan. Block in back is among THREE penalties on Cincy on this return. Back to 9 yard line.
I would have thought this would mean they started from the river walk, but oh well…
The next Bengals series was a three-and-out, and included this play:
Shazier makes Dalton run for his life. Throws it away. Ryan DAMN Sahzier!
I’m going to give you the entire commentary on the next series, which began near midfield after an uncharacteristically poor punt from Cinci punter Kevin Huber:
D-Will left side no gain
D-Will left side no gain.
Ben stumbles, gets up, and throws to AB who drops a pass off his face mask. Looks like something from football follies. Ben falls, gets up, throws to [Antonio Brown,] who lets ball hit him in the face. Steve Sabol would have loved it. We didn’t.
It looked to me as if Antonio was already focused on the coming touchdown dance rather than actually, you know, catching the ball. But perhaps Homer had it right:
Steelers not moving the football. The weather is negating their quick precision pass game. Receivers can’t cut and can’t stop. Ben can’t get a good grip on the ball.
This would also, of course, apply to the Bengals. What a pity. Homer also interjected a Hemingway-esque ode to our kicker:
Boswell from 49.. No sweat. 10-3. Boss is Mr Automatic.
More on the weather:
Ben goes long again. [Dre] Kirkpatrick outfights Coates for underthrown ball . INT. For those wondering why Steelers keep running the football, this is why. Too damned wet to throw with any confidence. Rain makes ball heavy.
As noted, this effected the Bengals as well:
[Jarvis] Jones misses INT right in his hands. Does best Swaggin’ Ike impression.
And one of the kids shows up big-time:
Dalton throws outside pattern to Green in red zone at 15 with 10 secs left.
GREAT play by Artie Burns to save TD!!!! TERRIFIC COVERAGE!!
As the second half begins:
The weather was a key factor in the first half. Let’s see what the second half brings. Not sure if the Steeler defense has been THAT good, or if the weather has stymied Cincy that much. Think it’s a combination of both. It would, however, be nice if someone lays hands on Dalton. Even to simply shake his hand.
Neither team got much going for a while. Cinci went three-and-out, and after a first down this happened:
Ben once again underthrows Coates and once again Kirkpatrick in better position for ball. Ben is overthrowing and having a bad day with the long ball. Had time, had his man, couldn’t deliver the goods. This is a theme by now.
After the punt Homer notes:
Once again, Cincy pinned back. They have been all day. Berry having a helluva day, as is Boswell. The killer B’s may have two more members.
In the ensuing series Homer’s commentary was so priceless, you are getting it verbatim:
[Javon] Hargrave goes way downfield on defense, but horsecollar is called on him. Play goes an additional 15 yds to 47. Jeez, he covers a lot of group for a middle guard.
Dalton scrambled. Sacked for 6 inch loss by Moats!! May actually be a sack.
Pitch to [Jeremy] Hill upended by Shazier for one yard gain.
Desperation short pitch by Dalton to Bernard who donated his kidney on that play. William Gay separated receiver from his body parts. Anybody need a kidney? Check PNC Park to see if it’s a match. Paging Dr. Wallace!
There’s a lot to like in the next series, too:
Ben throws deep rainbow to Coates at the ten yard line, where he beats Darqueze Dennard. Huuuuge play. Finally hits the deep bomb. We’ve been waiting for that all afternoon.
Ben goes high to the Outlaw, who reaches for the sky and the TD!!! Ben put that ball so high that only James could catch it. Great throw.
In the ensuing Bengals series, penalties backed them up to the 10 yard line for a 1st-and-25. And then:
Dalton hits Tyler Boyd for the first. Boyd may be the best player on the field today. Biiig play for Cincy. Down by 11 – first and 25 – get big first down.
It was a promising drive, but the Bengals were held to a field goal.
After a short (stymied) Steelers drive:
Berry punt taken by Erickson, who doesn’t call for fair catch and was lucky he wasn’t killed. Shamarko was practically in his uniform when he caught the ball, and let up, thinking it was a fair catch. First down at 9.
Bengals went three-and-out, and Pittsburgh took over:
Ben hits D-Will who makes a fantastic juke to the 31 and first down. Will the Cincy defender who left his jock on the field please pick it up?
There were also a couple of great plays by a couple of largely unheralded guys—Darrius Heyward-Bey (who was also the one who saved Eli Rogers’ bacon when he fumbled a punt) and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Brown gets tangled up with defender. Was probably interfered with, no call. Gets all lippy with ref. Steelers have to call time out when they run. AB needs to learn to shut up at times like this. They may need that time out later.
Luckily they didn’t. I love AB, but he needs to think a bit harder about how his actions effect his teammates sometimes, like taking 15-yard penalties for touchdown dances that forced many watchers to throw their hands over their kids’ eyes…
Ben hits D-Will for TD…..23-9. Somebody on Cincy totally blew coverage and Williams is all alone coming out of the backfield and into the end zone. Le’Veon who??????
On the ensuing Cincinnati series, a rookie mistake turns into 6:
Dalton hits Bernard in left flat, Bernard beats Burns to the outside as Burns loses contain.
But as Homer pointed out:
Burns saved a TD in the first half. Gave up one here. Players slipping and sliding all over.
Not much time left. It would have been nice to run the clock down, but:
Ben incomplete. AB mugged but no call. Terrible no call. 4th down. Brown can’t get a flag. Fans wonder if his antics have anything to do with him not getting interference calls.
Punt to PacMan. Dirty Red on the tackle. Matekevich sighting!
But a Deebo hurting on Tyler Boyd and an alert Robert Golden pickup of the consequent fumble gives the ball back to the Steelers with less than two minutes to play. The Steelers keep the ball until the field goal kick with eight seconds left, and a lateral attempt by the Bengals ends in a fumble, a Cameron Heyward recovery, and a glorious victory.
Homer J. Report Card:
THE REPORT CARD GRADES WERE CANCELLED BECAUSE OF RAIN. Homer was unable to accurately grade individual performances because of weather factors, but will offer these insights instead;
As we learn in the good book, in Matthew 5:4, the rain falls on the just (the Steelers) and the unjust (the Bengals in this case) alike. That, brethren and cistern, is our scriptural passage of the day. (As a purported cistern, I take umbrage at that—although perhaps an umbrella would be more useful…)
The weather was surely a factor, as Bob Prince used to say. It totally negated the Steelers short passing game. Receivers could not cut, lost their footing, and Ben couldn’t properly grip the ball. Touch passes were a joke. Sideline passes often were waay too high. And long passes fell short in the heavy rain.
The offensive line did well protecting Ben, and the running game got more than 100 yards in the muck and mire. DeAngelo Williams was Mister Everything, running, receiving, blocking, and, like every day, celebrating his birthday. D-Will ran 32 times for 94 yards, caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, blocked well, and was clearly the Steelers’ MVP and deserves the game ball. The standard is the standards, and he certainly upheld the highest standards.
Tight ends were the big difference. Grimble’s big catch, run, and stretch gave the Steelers a lead they would never relinquish. James went to the heavens for the second touchdown. Johnson played extremely well. I never believed I’d say this, but they really didn’t miss Heath today, as great as Heath always was. The next men up really did the job.
Antonio Brown, by the way, had a bad day. Although you have to wonder if he’s not getting calls because of his antics. Coates played very well, with a huge catch in the fourth quarter on a bomb.
DEFENSE: Solid, solid game with a lot of three and outs….thanks in part to eight dropped passes. When the rain fell on the unjust, the Bungles kept dropping the football, It’s great to see the defense get off the field after only three plays.
The defensive line played well, and the linebackers were – at times – spectacular. Very few big runs up the middle. Tuitt and Heyward were more than solid and made some huge plays.
Artie Burns made a great play in the first half to rob Cincy of a TD, but gave up one by giving up the outside to Bernard. [Sean] Davis played well, but again gave up his body yet missed tackles. Golden had one helluva game with some very big plays. He has really stepped up. Golden may have been defensive MVP.
It looked again like a LeBeau defense, giving up yards, but not touchdowns. However, once again, the defense repeated the storyline of not stopping the other team after a Steeler score. When they had Cincy 1st and 25 after a Steeler touchdown, they gave up a first down. They need to develop that killer instinct. Twice, Cincy immediately answered Steeler touchdowns with scoring drives of their own.
Once again, no sacks, unless Moats’ six-inch loss of Dalton was counted, but they rocked Dalton several times. And 135-year old James Harrison made the hit of the day on future All-Pro Tyler Boyd, creating the fumble that sealed the victory. Golden was golden, being in the right place at the right time, picking up the loose ball for the biggest turnover of the day.
On special teams, Berry and Boswell were perfect, and the Steelers had the big advantage of field position throughout the game. In muck and mire, field position plays a critical role, and Berry and Boswell have been all you could ask for, and more.
And it didn’t look like anybody got seriously hurt, which was the best part.
A great team victory. Congrats to everyone. 2-and-0.