The Pittsburgh Steelers were big winners in Week 4 when they throttled the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 on Monday Night Football. The extra day in preparation means a quick turnaround as the Steelers now have to prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens.
Before the Steelers host another AFC rival at Heinz Field, it is worth taking another look back at what went right, and what went wrong, vs. the Bengals Monday night. Luckily for us, the folks at PFF broke down the Week 4 game and have some interesting notes surrounding the game that was.
Take a look at what they had to say:
Mason Rudolph was handled with gloves tonight, as the Pittsburgh offense ran mostly jet sweeps and even brought in running backs to run wildcat plays on a large number of snaps. Rudolph was, however, hit a wide-open Diontae Johnson for a long touchdown on a crossing route where the defense miscommunicated on a switch.
James Conner bounced back from a down Week 3 with physical running all night long. He broke tackles and rumbled his way to first down after first down and scored a touchdown, as well. A number of his touches came on jet sweeps from wildcat quarterback Jaylen Samuels, which allowed him to get downhill quickly where the Bengals’ defense had a tough time limiting his yards.
Johnson took advantage of blown coverage and hauled in the long touchdown, but it was rookie Devin Bush that really starred for the Steelers. He made a positive impact rushing the passer, defending the run and staying back in coverage in what was an overall solid performance.
For those out there who might be concerned about Mason Rudolph not pushing the ball down field enough, PFF also took a look at that. See what they had to say:
After the original injury to Ben and being thrown in suddenly during Week 2, Rudolph had free reign and pushed the ball downfield with an 8.4 average depth of target. That week, Rudolph had the lowest negatively graded play rate among quarterbacks. In Week 3, the Steelers pulled back and hardly allowed Rudolph to throw the ball downfield and get into a rhythm with a 6.8 average depth of target. Wait, it gets even better – Rudolph’s average depth of target in Week 4 against Cincinnati dropped all the way to 3.0 and had just three attempts traveling 10 or more yards downfield. Again, this is #notgood.
As professed countless times by PFF, relying on the run is not a viable way to survive as a team in the NFL and leads to low productivity against average teams. Clearly, Cincinnati is not an average team – they are one of the worst in the league. What makes this an even more questionable strategy is the fact Rudolph has an excellent track record as a deep passer.
To recap, the Steelers were inefficient in their scripted run plays to start the game and opted to throw minimal passes downfield with a guy who’s deep passing is his greatest attribute. The Steelers were handed some lemons and they made gross, restaurant lemon water.
After looking at the above information, how do you feel about the Week 4 win? Is it a case where the Steelers seem to be on the road of improvement? Or was Week 4 just a win against a very bad team? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!