Al Woods, Cameron Heyward combine for impressive defensive line performance

Justin K. Aller

The Steelers held Cincinnati to 57 rushing yards, and kept the explosive Bengals limited to one big play of 19 yards. Al Woods said that was because Cameron Heyward was pushing him.

The fact undrafted rookie Brian Arnfelt was on the field for a few snaps wasn't as much a look at the future as many fans perhaps wanted during Pittsburgh's 30-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15.

All he did was to serve as a distraction from the two-man wrecking crew that was nose tackle Al Woods and Cameron Heyward.

Woods started in place of Steve McLendon, who was out with an ankle injury, and made his presence felt early and often in the game. The Bengals' power running game was all but abandoned early, as Woods drove center Kyle Cook into the backfield repeatedly.

"I was feeding off of Cam," Woods told Post-Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac. "Cam told me to go and get after it and I did."

It's hard to ignore Heyward, if you're a teammate, an opponent or a fan. His energy and pursuit make it seem more like he's a linebacker than a defensive end. In relentless pursuit of the ball, "Wreck It Heyward" was in on only three total tackles, but he was around the ball all night. He gave left tackle Anthony Collins fits, and helped the Steelers defensive line hold Cincinnati to 2.6 yards a carry and 57 total rushing yards - well below their season average of 118.

The youth movement of this defense is apparent, even with the constant reminders from whichever network is presenting the game. Their average age of starter on defense is over 28 - which is disputable, because it depends on who starts. More than anything, though, their problem has been giving up big plays.

The longest play they allowed in Week 15 was a 19-yard reception from wide receiver A.J. Green. They held Green to nine catches on 18 targets, giving up 93 yards on 18 targets.

Ziggy Hood started in place of Brett Keisel, who's foot injury has hampered him hugely down the stretch. Hood had a sack and recovered a Jermaine Gresham fumble in the second half.

It was an outstanding performance from the younger players on the defensive line. Maybe Arnfelt will get his next week.

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