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Analyzing the game-changing plays which turned the tide for the Steelers vs. the Bengals

Take a step into the BTSC Film Room as we analyze the plays which turned the tide for the Steelers over the Bengals in Week 15.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The driving force behind this Film Room article after every Pittsburgh Steelers win was the basis that the difference between winning and losing in the NFL can be just a handful of plays.

Hence, game-changing plays.

In Week 15 when the Steelers were able to come back from a 14-point deficit, finding these types of plays certainly wasn’t tough to find. No, you won’t find all 6 of Chris Boswell’s field goals, but you will see plays which turned the tide in momentum, as well as help the Steelers win their 5th straight game and move their record to 9-5.

Chris Boswell Touchdown Saving Tackle

Chris Boswell didn’t just provide 18 points for the Steelers, he turned out to be one of their best defenders on special teams. In the first half, Boswell kicks off to Alex Erickson. Notice Erickson receives the kick around the 3-yard line. Some teams intentionally kick the ball short to allow their coverage units to pin the opponent deep in their own end of the field.

The Steelers are usually not one of those teams. This may have something to do with the conditions at game time, and Boswell still nursing that abdominal injury from a few weeks ago.

Either way, Erickson takes the kick and the Bengals immediately set up a “return left” formation. Notice Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Dangerfield. Dangerfield sets the edge, but Toussaint gets sucked inside and it is a race between Erickson, Artie Burns and Boswell. Burns forces Erickson to take the inside route, and a last ditch effort by Boswell clips Erickson’s leg enough to make contact with his other leg, tripping him up. The Bengals were forced to settle for a field goal, rather than a back-breaking kickoff return touchdown.

Lawrence Timmons INT of Andy Dalton

There were so many things wrong with this play, from an offensive perspective, it might be best to just bullet them below.

  • No. 61, center Russell Bodine clearly thinks this is a running play. He moves his way down field, which is an illegal man downfield (don’t worry, it wasn’t called).
  • Timmons drops into his zone coverage, and Dalton throws a horrendous pass which is so underthrown it looks like he was actually throwing it to Timmons.
  • Whitworth’s tackle, although legal, looked horrific. Thankfully Timmons wasn’t injured on the play.

This interception was a huge shift in momentum, even though the Steelers were only able to add a field goal off the turnover.

Eli Rogers go-ahead TD

Want to see what good route running can do for a wide receiver? Especially one which is considered under-sized in today’s NFL? Just watch the above play and how precise Rogers’ route running is, which results in a touchdown.

The Steelers come out in a 3-wide look out of the shotgun formation. With the play starting at the 24-yard line, all three receivers are pushing their routes down the field, and Ben Roethlisberger actually has a couple options on this play.

Tight end Ladarius Green releases from the line of scrimmage and has a step down the seam, but the Bengals’ two-high safety look would make it an extremely difficult throw. Antonio Brown at the top of the screen is mugged coming out of his break, but Rogers is the one who is wide open.

Look at the head fake before Rogers completes his post pattern. The cornerback knows he can be in a trailing position because he has safety help over the top; however, the head and shoulders fake cause him to lose positioning and Roethlisberger throws a strike to Rogers for the touchdown.

Route is important.

Ladarius Green 3rd and 8 Reception

At a time in the game when fans were screaming for the team to run out the clock, the Steelers went for the kill shot. On 3rd and 8, the last thing the Steelers wanted to do was give the ball back to Cincinnati with a 4-point lead.

On this play the Steelers have a 4-wide deployment out of the shotgun, with trips right. This play is all about Ben Roethlisberger, his accuracy throwing down the field and standing in the face of the pass rush to deliver for your team.

Green, lined up in the slot, is given a clean release and runs the same seam route he has since coming to Pittsburgh, and it works again. The only problem with this route is you are running straight into the Bermuda Triangle of defenders. Unfortunately, it was this play which led to Green’s concussion and he left the game after this play.

A tremendous throw from Roethlisberger and a great catch by Green knowing he was going to take a shot. Looking at the play again, Roethlisberger had Eli Rogers open sitting down at the first down sticks, but the play to Green was an absolute killer for the Bengals defense.


The Steelers came out with a sense of purpose in the second half, but it was a combination of these four plays which resulted in the team winning it’s 5th game in a row, setting up a huge showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day.