The week 15 match up at Cincinnati had a little bit of everything. There was drama, intrigue, violence and more. The Steelers pulled out a win on the strength of Chris Boswell’s leg, a solid second half from both the offense and defense, and seem to be poised to win the AFC North with a win over Baltimore on Christmas Day. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the Cincinnati game.
- This Steelers team showed tremendous resiliency. Many teams would’ve taken that two score deficit into the locker room and not fought for the win. The Steelers came back out for the second half and basically dominated the Bengals on offense and defense. A lot of this can placed at the feet of Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff, but it’s up to the players to go out there and perform. It’s almost like the Steelers fielded two separate teams for each half. Cincinnati did whatever they wanted through the first 30 minutes. After halftime, the Steelers came out focused and played great defense, the offense finally got a touchdown to go with all those field goals, and the offense was able to grind out a good chunk of the fourth quarter to keep the Bengals offense off the field and preserve the win.
- The next man up philosophy worked quite well. Cameron Heyward is already lost for the season, then Stephon Tuitt left with a knee injury early in the first quarter and Ricardo Matthews missed some time with an ankle injury, yet the pass rush and run defense in the second half were solid. The Steelers can never replace Heyward or Tuitt with the staff on the current roster, but don’t tell that to the men who finished this game on the defensive front. They played a great second half and kept the Bengals scoreless for the last 30 minutes.
- The Pittsburgh offense is running a #2 receiver-by-committee approach and players like Cobi Hamilton and Eli Rogers did enough to help Ben Roethlisberger keep drives alive. Rogers had two big grabs, especially the go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
- Chris Boswell was a straight stud with ice water in his veins on Sunday.
- Penalties, and lots of them in the first half and the ten points the Bengals were able to cash in due to them. The face-mask penalty against Tuitt is unfortunate. I didn’t see any clear attempt by Tuitt to grab or cause injury, but it was an obvious penalty as he did grab Andy Dalton’s face-mask as he was pushed past the quarterback. The pass interference on Artie Burns in the end zone was not good, and that led to a Bengals touchdown.
- David DeCastro was flagged multiple times throughout the game, but it’s not as ugly as it could be. He did get Burfict out of the game for a bit with a head to head collision.
- Injuries to Stephon Tuitt and Ladarius Green. I’m hoping neither is serious and both can be ready for Baltimore. Green will have to pass the battery of concussion protocol tests and we’ll have to wait for Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday press report to find out the severity of Tuitt’s knee injury.
- Two Cincinnati defenders were not flagged for obvious face-mask penalties on our receivers in the end zone. The first was so blatantly obvious I’m still wondering what the official, who was right there, was looking at.
- Jeremy Hill disrespected the Terrible Towel. We saw how that worked out. It’s still a classless move, and even if karma did come out and bite the Bengals, the act qualifies as ugly.
The Steelers get the win, and did it differently this week than last. The fact that this team can find ways to grind out wins in December, with the playoffs on the line and when the offense isn’t scoring thirty or more points, is a good sign. The coaches are putting the players in position to make a difference for their team and the players are performing. Now if all three facets of this team can put together sixty minutes of great football on Christmas Day, they will certainly have a chance to climb that stairway to seven.