Steelers Throttle Bengals in Critical AFC North Matchup

When the schedule first came out last spring and you saw the Steelers were playing the Bengals on December 4th, you, like us, probably looked at it and said to yourself; “that’s an easy December win”.  However, as this season has unfolded it became more and more apparent that this game would not be against the usual Bungles.   This team from Cincinnati is for real; they gave the Steelers fits the first time around and coming into the weekend they were in the 6th spot in the AFC playoff picture while the Steelers were in the 5th.  This game was critical, for both teams.  If the Steelers lost this game they’d have fallen to the 6th spot behind Cincy and would be fighting for their playoff lives. Win, which they did, and they’d have a secure handle on the 5th spot being two games ahead of the next set of teams in the AFC and would actually be tied for the best record in the AFC; giving them a chance to capture the division and a bye, pending the way Baltimore plays down the stretch.

Big games in December require teams to run on all cylinders and that’s exactly what happened today. The offense moved the ball effectively, led by Big Ben who completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 3 quarters before Tomlin pulled him out for rest. In our Game Day section we pointed out that the Steelers need to really start running the ball effectively down the stretch as the weather starts to get cold and the ball becomes harder to throw in bad weather and with Big Ben having a fractured thumb. Today the black and gold answered that call as they rushed for a collective 136 and Rashard Mendenhall was the lead do with 60 of those yards and more importantly, he added two powerfully ran touchdowns.  If he can run the ball like he did today, the offense will be even more dynamic and bigger threats than they have been. Couple that with Isaac Redman who added 8 carries and 51 yards and you have a strong duo.  The receivers were exciting again as Hines Ward led the team with 5 catches and Mike Wallace had two touchdown receptions, one of which was a highlight of the year type of play.  This offense clearly heard the doubters from last week after they only put up 13 points in their win at Kansas City and they had a chip on their shoulder.

The Defense was stellar as usual as they held the Bengals to 7 total points, 232 total yards, caused 2 turnovers and sacked Andy Dalton 3 times.  They got after the ball and didn’t allow any big plays, something they have been prone to this year.  We mentioned in our Game Day section that they needed to jump on these young talented Bengals and they did. We wanted them to keep Dalton on his toes and limit the touches AJ Green had.  Dalton was only 11 of 24 for 135 yards. AJ Green did put up a pretty good day getting 6 catches for 87 yards and a TD but the Steelers did a good job of scattering those catches throughout the blowout.

One more of our items to watch was special teams, we thought they would be a factor today and they certainly were. After the Bengals had a TD erased due to a penalty, they were forced to kick a field goal in the first quarter, which would have put them on the board first. Their attempt however was blocked by rookie Cam Heyward and the Steelers never looked back. Couple that with a 2nd Quarter punt return for a TD by Antonio Brown and you might say the special teams had one heck of a day. 

Overall the team had it working in all facets of the game and this is exactly what they need to do as they proceed through the final quarter of the regular season and try to get as a high a seed as possible in the playoffs. Today’s only gaffe that we can think of was made by Mike Tomlin. With the Steelers pummeling the Bengals 28-7 late in the first half the Bengals had the ball inside their own 20 with a shade over a minute to go. The Steelers had 2 timeouts and elected not to use them. Why not take the 2 timeouts and force a punt and see if you can’t gain another score?  You can’t save timeouts, use them. Other than that, the team was prepared, ramped up and came out ready to go.

The Steel Nation Association Weekly Notes, Observations and Superlatives:

Stars of the Game-Antonio Brown-He returned a punt for a TD, had 2 catches for 67 yards and added a run on a reverse for another 9 yards.

James Harrison-He had 6 tackles including 3 sacks, he was all over the field today.

Hines Ward caught 5 balls bringing him to within 10 catches of 1,000 for his career. On his 2nd reception today he surpassed 12,000 career yards becoming the first player in Steelers history to do so and the 19th in NFL history. Hello Canton.

Rashard Mendenhall took over 5th place all time on the Steelers career rushing TD list.

Ben Roethlisberger became number one all time for completions in team history passing Terry Bradshaw with 2,026 career completions. 

Great win and now the Steelers need to prep for a short week as they play on Thursday night against another team covered in orange from Ohio.

9-3, up next: Vs. Cleveland


2 Comments on "Steelers Throttle Bengals in Critical AFC North Matchup"

  1. kiki on Mon, 5th Dec 2011 5:10 pm 

    Great win, and I have to add: “Go Hines!”:)

  2. longarm on Tue, 6th Dec 2011 1:05 pm 

    It was a good win and glad they didn’t keeep us biting our nails for a change. It was also good to see Ward involved as the sunset’s on his career.