Boy, do the Steelers know how to respond to a theme, or what? Last week, after their ugly, 13-9, victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday Night Football, most of the talk centered around whether or not the team had the killer instinct necessary to put teams away when they had the chance. "What's up with all this sloppy play?" people wondered. I wondered the same thing as the Steelers prepared to take on the Bengals for the second time in three games.
But, the Steelers responded to the naysayers by throttling the Bengals, 35-7, and making it pretty darn hard for people like me to complain about anything this week.
If people were complaining about Mike Wallace's recent production, they can't this week, as the speedy receiver caught two touchdown passes against Cincinnati--one of them even coming after one of those quick receiver screens that we all hate.
If people were complaining about the Steelers red zone efficiency--and we were last week after they squandered away several red zone opportunities against the Chiefs--we can't complain about Sunday's red zone performance. All four Steelers offensive touchdowns against the Bengals came from inside the 20 yard line.
People like to complain about Rashard Mendenhall's toughness and ability to score near the goal line. Well, at Heinz Field against the Bengals on Sunday, Mendenhall recorded two touchdowns from inside the five yard line.
Speaking of the running game. Fans have wondered if the Steelers even care about rushing the football these days. Well, Sunday afternoon, the team totaled 136 yards on the ground. That might not be extremely dominant, but it's an indication that maybe the team hasn't forgotten about the run just yet, and that they can have an effective ground game when they need it.
But what about Hines Ward? He's simply disappeared. That's just so depressing as a long time fan of Hines' big smile........not so fast. Ward led the team in receptions on Sunday with five. Okay, they only totaled 30 yards, but it's the thought that counts, and Hines is still a part of the team.
Speaking of passes, Bruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger are way too pass-happy, right? Not on Sunday, they weren't. Roethlisberger only needed 15 completions to accumulate a very efficient 176 yards through the air to go along with two touchdown passes.
But what about the pressure on the quarterback? People have been complaining about the lack of a pass rush recently--and with only one sack over the previous two games, the complaints were warranted--but maybe James Harrison just needed some time to bust out. The former Defensive Player of the Year recorded three sacks and made like difficult for rookie qb Andy Dalton.
What about the lack of takeaways this year? I know I've been very vocal about it. The Steelers recorded two takeaways against Cincy and now have eight in the past three games.
His entire career, people have been complaining about Ike Taylor's inability to hold onto interceptions. With his 4th quarter pick on Sunday, Taylor now has an interception in two straight games. Vote for Ike? If not this season, when?
As I suggested at the beginning of this piece, people have been complaining about the team's inability to put its opponents away when they have the chance. When the Steelers jumped out to a 21-0 lead, I was wondering if they would let the Bengals hang around or put them away early. After Dalton connected with A.J. Green for a touchdown late in the first half, I feared that the Bengals great comeback ability and the Steelers "lack of a killer instinct" would mesh together to create a very nerve-wracking ending. However, Antonio Brown returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown right before the half, and I had no reason to worry any longer.
There would be no comeback for the Bengals. And, for good measure, the Steelers got a touchdown late in the 3rd quarter to snuff out any remaining doubt.
Heck, Mike Tomlin even inserted Charlie Batch into the game with almost an entire quarter remaining. He must have known there would be very little for us to gnash our teeth about and even removed the "why was Ben still in the game so late" question from the post-game press conference menu.
I couldn't even complain about Sunday's weather. 50's on December 4th? Man, what a day!