Prime Time Showdown
The Steelers waited until game 14 to turn in their finest performance of the year, fortunately it was against their hated division rival Cincinnati Bengals. The offense was crisp and efficient, Big Ben was a cool 20-25 for 191 yards and 1 TD. Ben was only sacked once despite playing behind a rotating line and third string center Cody Wallace. What was most impressive was the fluidity of the offensive execution and play calling. Mixing in the no huddle with Todd Hailey’s calculated quick hit passing game, the Steelers were able to keep a good defense on their heels and move the ball. What I like most of all was the determination from the men, again a little too late for the motivation of winning, but moving forward it can’t be view as anything less than a step in the right direction. Heath Miller caught some crucial pass on 3rd down, AB was his reliable self, and even Emanuel Sanders stepped up with five grabs and a nifty screen pass which he took for 25 yards.
After a seasons worth of late game lead changes and letdowns, I was waiting for the defense to give up those big plays that have become a signature of their losses, but they held their own. The Bungles were 4-14 on 3rd down, but allowed 3-5 conversion on fourth downs. Troy Polamalu was able to strip tight end Jermaine Greshim at the start of the 3rd quarter, but the offense was unable to turn that into any points. AJ Green was held to 9 receptions for 93 yards, but made no real impact. Andy Dalton was scattershot for most of the game, but again the upshot being the defense held the lead.
Special teams got the ball rolling, literally, with a stop on a botched put from the Bengals one yard line. Two minutes before the end of the first quarter the Bengals punted to Antonio Brown and he hit the seem right in the middle of the field and took it 67 yards to the house. Nothing more exciting than a punt return for a TD, AB has picked up right where Randal El left off. The punting was good and the coverage was good as well, Sean Suicham was 3-3 on fields goals and hit all of his extra points. Always great getting contributions from Special Teams, this was a unit I was concerned with coming into this season, no major gaffes and they really stood out in this game. The big controversy was on the punt return by AB, linebacker and special teams ace Terence Garvin put hit on Bengals Punter Kevin Huber and simply laid him out. Huber’s jaw was broken on the play in what was a pretty violent hit. The play was not flagged nor penalized, but later deemed illegal by the NFL.
I’ll give the Coaching staff kudos in this victory, the combination of Haley’s quick pass play calling and Big Ben running the no-huddle, worked like a charm. Coach Tomlin was 2-2 on challenges and had the team ready for the prime time challenge.
Always a great feeling to win, an even better feeling putting our hated division rival Bungles in their place. Albeit a disappointing season for the Black and Gold and all of us die hard fans, at least we had something to cheer about on December 15, 2013 at Heinz Field. A great game in all three phases.