After the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, fans were left with this weird feeling in their stomach. Excited about the win, not sure what to think of the brutality which was displayed, and concerned about Ryan Shazier’s overall health.
Nonetheless, as different outlets decide to cover different angles of this AFC North grudge match, it should be noted there was a lot of good to come out of this game. While some will focus on how the Steelers barely won another game on the road in which they were favored, I wanted to focus on some of the positives which came out of this tough, hard fought, divisional win against a desperate team.
- James Conner ran well
Conner had just 3 carries for 12 yards on Monday night, but he ran the ball hard. What was a pleasant surprise was how his carries came up the middle, and not outside the tackles, where he has had success all season. Other than a one-on-one meeting with Vontaze Burfict in the hole, which didn’t go Conner’s way, Conner proved more than worthy to be able to spell Le’Veon Bell and give the defense a change-of-pace back.
- 4th and 1 call
If I am honest, I never thought the Steelers would actually run a play on the 4th-and-1 play in the fourth quarter. I expected Ben Roethlisberger to attempt his hard count and draw the undisciplined Bengals offsides. Nonetheless, the Steelers have some guts and a Bell run for a first down was absolutely huge, to say the least. If you can, go back and watch JuJu Smith-Schuster’s block on that play. Tremendous stuff.
- Field Goal drive to end the half
27-seconds. Three timeouts. Kneel on the football and play to live another down in the third quarter. Right? Not for the Steelers. The team attacked the Bengals with a deep ball on first down, which fell incomplete, and a huge screen play and defensive pass interference call moved the team well into Chris Boswell’s field goal range. Those three points changed the complexity of the game.
- Boswell is money
Not enough is said about how great Chris Boswell is, and how he tried out for the team two years ago. Such a tremendous find for the Steelers. Makes me wonder who was better...Jeff Reed or Boswell? I’ll take the latter.
- Martavis Bryant a legitimate kick return threat
Heading into the season many wondered who would be the return man for the Steelers. After JuJu Smith-Schuster tried his hand at it, his hamstring injury opened a door which Martavis Bryant is going to close. Bryant’s straight line speed gives the Steelers an explosive player who can truly make the opposition respect him bringing the ball out of the endzone. If only J.J. Wilcox wasn’t called for holding...
- Cameron Sutton
How about making your NFL debut and lining up against A.J. Green. Sounds fun, right? Wrong. However, Sutton played well. He did get beat a couple times, but Green can do that to the most seasoned veterans...just ask Coty Sensabaugh. Sutton could be the glue to hold the Steelers’ secondary together until Joe Haden returns, and how great would that be? There is a reason players and coaches marveled at Sutton’s ability to grasp the defense when he was on injured reserve.
- Chris Boswell’s kickoff after Antonio Brown’s game-tying TD
After Antonio Brown scored the team’s game-tying touchdown, the penalty against George Iloka was enforced on the kickoff. Most assumed you kick it into the 10th row out of the endzone, but Boswell hit a deep fly ball to center field, and it equated in the Bengals starting their final drive inside their 20-yard line, rather than the 25-yard line. Might seem like nothing to some, but a huge play by Boswell and the Steelers’ special teams.
- Cameron Heyward and William Gay trusting their keys
On the Bengals’ last offensive play, it was 3rd-and-2 with Giovani Bernard in the backfield. Watch the play again and you will see Heyward shed his block, and stick with Bernard out of the backfield. On top of that, Gay was spying Bernard on the same play. Such a huge situation, and when Andy Dalton dropped back and didn’t see Bernard open, he didn’t know what to do. It resulted in a sack, and was a play most overlooked, but likely resulted in the win for the black-and-gold.
- David DeCastro trying to get JuJu Smith-Schuster away from Burfict after his hit
After Smith-Schuster de-cleated Burfict, he stood over No. 55 long enough to draw a penalty. If there was one player on the Steelers’ offense who wouldn’t be rushing over to get Smith-Schuster off of Burfict, you would think it would be David DeCastro. DeCastro has been open about his disdain for Burfict, and the two have had their share of run-ins throughout their time meeting up on the gridiron. However, it was DeCastro who was trying to get Smith-Schuster away from Burfict, likely to avoid a penalty for the Steelers trying to win a game. DeCastro is one of those leaders who might not say much, but leads by example.