Another week, another win for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Outstanding defense in the middle part of the game, just enough late offense, and admirable job ball security wise throughout all helped Pittsburgh escape Week 12 with a 27-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Some thoughts on the game:
* Although we didn't learn much about the team tonight necessarily, I would contend that when Pittsburgh has faced inferior opponents this season, the team has demonstrated it is not so fatally flawed as to fall flat on its face at any given moment, regardless of the opponent. What am I talking about? Well, last year we stumbled against the Jets and the Cardinals in games where our opponents did not play overwhelmingly solid.
* It'd be hard to hand out a grade of A+ or even A to our offensive line, but I don't see how you could ding them too badly for their efforts tonight either. 0 sacks allowed, and 121 yards rushing. Mind you, those 121 rushing yards came on 37 carries, good for just a 3.3 ypc average. But the second half rushing figures were substantially better than the 1st half numbers.
* # of 3 and outs for Pittsburgh offense: 3.
# of 3 and outs for Cincinnati Offense: 7! Including 6 straight at one point!
* I didn't think it was possible for our defensive numbers to improve too much tonight. They did. The Bengals accumulated just 208 total yards on 58 plays. The 3.6 ypp is lower than our already historically impressive 3.8 ypp. WOW.
* Sure, the sack numbers weren't what we thought they might be, but really, matters not. It was obvious that Bengals QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was going to get rid of the ball before the Steelers pass rushers could make 'game-changing' type plays with their pressure. The result was throws made out of rhythm and before WRs had found much separation. Fitzpatrick finished the night 20/37 for just 165 yards.
* Aaron Smith is good at football. You know what? He's really underappreciated as a sick athlete too. He's not just a savvy blue-collar, bring your lunch pail to work player. He's both. Awesome.
* So is Jeff Reed. No, no. Not the crazy good athlete part. Just good at what he's paid a hefty salary to do out there. Missing FGs like the ones he made can change the complexion of games, particularly at home when it's best not to give the visitors any extra reason to think they have a shot. Not long kicks or anything, but in the snow, I'm just pleased he's cash so often.
* 37 runs, 30 passes. That's the kind of balance and distribution I think most of us would prefer to see. Let's take a step back though. The temptation to abandon the run in the 2nd half was VERY real for Bruce Arians. We were really struggling to run it in the first half which told me that it was clear Arians had every intention of being patient with the run this evening. But after an entire first half of general futility, it could have been very easy to not stick with it in the third and early fourth quarters.
* We'll see what 10 days does for Willie Parker and his sprained knee. You have to admire his toughness last week rushing for 100+ yards with a throbbing shoulder. But knee sprains are an entirely different animal. He's such a competitor but it's just nearly impossible to make an impact with that kind of lingering issue. I think we can get some things done with Mewelde Moore and Gary Russel, but I sure hope FWP gets healthy enough down the line to make a few more critical contributions to our team.
* Speaking of Moore. Just when we're about ready to write him off as somebody who's valuable but not quite capable of being relied upon consistently, he comes through with a tremendous second half to help propel us to 17 2nd half points and the victory. He finished with 56 yards on 14 carries, and something like 44 yards on a 60+ yard TD drive in the 2nd half.
* William Gay may not look like Champ Bailey or Bryant McFadden physically, but he's got a nice little football mind. Other than the 4th and 1 play along the sideline by Amani Toomer in the NYG game, I'm having a hard time thinking of an instance where Gay's been out of position out there. I hope his dropped INT though was not a sign that he's got a little bit of Face Me Ike in him.
* Again, beating the Bengals 27-10 doesn't really tell us much about how much we may be improving, but like I said, I think it's a sign we're certainly not heading backwards. Just thought I'd say that again. And yes, I agree, that should be the case as a year progresses, but it's not always so for a myriad potential reasons. Just look at last year.
* I wasn't thrilled about the design of the running attack we deployed for most of the first half. Between Parker's ailments and the slippery track out there, I thought it wasn't too wise to try some of those slower developing 'stretch' runs off guard or tackle. It was clear to me that it was a touch too difficult for both RBs and OL to firmly entrench their feet to either make cuts or stay on balance enough to seal off linemen. Better job in the 2nd half, though I guess Moore deserves some of the credit springing some positive plays on similarly designed calls.
* Anybody else remember how teammates and coaches said Limas Sweed was too hard on himself this offseason? Anybody catch how digusted with himself he looked on the sideline following his mistake on special teams that turned the ball back over to the Bengals? He'll learn. He's trying. I'm glad he got a chance to make a couple of plays in the 2nd half.
* It was meaningless in the outcome, and there's no question about whether or not Polamalu is heading to Honolulu, but it's always nice to see such an amazing player and teammate garner a bit more attention due to personal statistics.
* Of the 11 times the Steelers have played, opposing fanbases have had to hang their heads and discuss a defeat. I'm glad we have less practice feeling that way.
* More later, including an update on the always dynamic injury situation. Thoughts?
* P.S. NFL Network's simulcasts online are a joke. If their intention was to make me want to purchase the network, they failed.
* P.S.S. Snow be damned, our punting was sad tonight. For those scoring at home, we averaged 28.4 yards per punt. Might we be welcoming in our 4th punter of the year by the time we take the field next in 10 days?