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Steelers vs. Bengals Second Half Review: Run game, defense spark dominance over final 30 minutes

There was some big, powerful football played on both side of the ball in the second half of the Steelers 24-17 win over Cincinnati in Week 7. Notably, a power run that Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler won't forget about any time soon.

Andy Lyons

Going over the first half, the general feeling was the offense left a lot of chances on the field, despite having felt like they escaped with the score only being tied at 14.

Pittsburgh is considerably deeper than Cincinnati is. We saw this in the second half, but miscues on offense continued to stall drives, despite the most dominant defensive half of football this season.

  • BenJarvis Green-Ellis goes ahead for six yards, and I see Cameron Heyward lumber from the defensive right hash to where the runner fell on the left hash. Wait, where's Keisel? It's early in the third quarter why isn't Keisel in the-oh wait, he was. Heyward didn't start on the left hash, he just got pushed there. Great.
  • One major first half adjustment the Steelers made. The recognized Adam Jones cannot keep up with Antonio Brown off the line. Off play action, Jones immediately gives up inside position, letting Brown run his route without interruption. It's not even close. A great deep dig by Brown and a perfect throw by Roethlisberger gets 20 yards.
  • They follow that with another play action, this time an end-around to Mike Wallace. Great effort by my buddy Doug Legursky getting way outside to give Wallace plenty of cut-back room, he goes for 13 yards, and managed to hang onto the ball.
  • Geno Atkins shows Wille Colon how big of a badass he is, and drives him all the way back into Roethlisberger for the sack, largely killing what looked to be a very promising opening drive. It wasn't technique, it wasn't quickness as much as it was just raw power. He's the best all around defensive tackle in the game, I don't care what anyone says about anyone else.
  • The run the Miller lead receiver screen to Wallace this time, he picks up 12 yards, but unfortunately for me, Miller didn't destroy any defensive back. Just took out the one poor sap who was on Wallace, springing him free for a nice gain on second and long.
  • A deep pass to Wallace is well out of bounds, suggesting it was really an all-or-nothing look and Roethlisberger threw it away more than anything else. It comes down to the sack. Stalled a good drive and took the shine of some excellent plays by the Steelers offense.
  • If the Steelers are running the ball to the right side, Miller, and not Mike Adams, is blocking the defensive end. What does that tell you?
  • Not that it matters, Carlos Dunlap makes a great play off Miller to stuff Jonathan Dwyer for a two-yard loss. You watch a play like that, and you can see why Dunlap makes the amount of plays he does. Then you wonder why he's not in the Pro Bowl every year. He can't stay healthy. Sorry not sorry, Bengals, that guy would be one of the best in the game if he played every snap of every season.
  • In retrospect, it's a little easier to see what's going on in total. I can see why Bengals fans were as despondent as they were after the game. Dalton is really bad in this half. Much of it is being thrust upon him by the Steelers defense, but he's flat out missing throws and options. Doesn't look comfortable at all.
  • Cincinnati sees the Steelers' approach in the second half really is geared toward gains in the flats, trying to spread them out. If not for Vontaze Burfict, when not being destroyed by Willie Colon, the Bengals defense may have really fallen off. Burfict is all over the ball.
  • I could watch Chris Rainey's touchdown run 50 times and never once need to look at the guy with the ball. Willie Colon is really starting to become a dominant pulling guard. The speed and agility he demonstrates in getting all the way from left guard to the defensive end is impressive. Miller runs through a very tight area very quickly and seals off the inside, giving Rainey plenty of room.
  • Two things I didn't notice the first time, though. One, since Colon came to hit the end - Michael Johnson - Adams helped RG Ramon Foster on DT Domata Peko, knocking him off-balance and unable to make a play, then he releases up to clear out LB Rey Maualuga.
  • Two, Colon drove Johnson out of the play, but then turned back and drove Burfict, who was being blocked by Miller, as well as Miller, into Foster and Peko.
  • Willie Colon shoved four guys to the ground like he was a cue ball on a break. Best part, though, he gave Burfict a bump as Adams hoisted Rainey up in the end zone.
  • Sean Kugler's gonna have a beer and think about that play sometime after this season is over. It was a thing of beauty.
  • The Bengals had some drops in this game, just as Wallace did. Dalton didn't play well, but the Bengals receivers and tight ends didn't help him either. Regardless, the thing I'm most impressed with in this game - outside the Chris Rainey Touchdown Run which has now reached Caps Title Status - was simply that the Steelers defensive backs competed on every throw. It's a pass completion league. Guys are going to make catches. But the Steelers contested all of those catches. There were not many run after catch opportunities.
  • That's a positive note in this game.
  • And it definitely helped, because the Bengals defense looks so disoriented by the end of the game, they don't know where the ball is. Dalton's throwing it to any old spot on the field, receivers looked confused, whole offense looks like they're mentally preparing themselves to watch the presidential debates a few days later.
  • It would have been really nice to see the Steelers offense close this out earlier than they did. Granted, the Steelers defense looked like it could play another three quarters at the end of the game, but they're playing with fire by allowing a unit that had been savaged in all of their previous road games in the fourth quarter to continuously come on the field needing to make a stop.
  • It was a great effort on both sides of the ball, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. Offensively, they left touchdowns on the field. Defensively, they're not getting adequate run support from the strong safety, and there were issues with all defensive linemen at different points - some more noticeable than others (Hampton actually really whipped their center a few times).