The Pittsburgh Steelers bookended their biggest regular season victory in recent memory with a heart breaking last minute loss to their division rivals. How would the men in Black and Gold react?
The Steelers match up vs. the Cincinnati Bengals promised to reveal a lot about this team. And in beating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-17 at Paul Brown Stadium, Pittsburgh gave Steelers Nation a lot of lessons.
The Bengals won the toss but the Steelers defense forced a quick 3 and out and the offense seized the opportunity as Ben Roethlisberger directed Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, and Jericho Cotchery on a near picture perfect 8 play touchdown drive.
The Steelers secondary again shut out Andy Dalton’s for another second consecutive three and out.
It only took Ben Roethlisberger 8 plays to bring his team down to the two yard line, and one play later Rashard Mendenhall rammed it in to bring the score to 14-0.
The first quarter had not yet finished and the Steelers had a 14-0 lead….
Lesson Number 1:
- When this group of Pittsburgh Steelers focuses with singleness of purpose, very few football teams can stop them.
A Future Force to Be Reckoned With?
Down 14-0 in the fourth quarter during the Shula or Coslet era generally often meant that the Bengals would simply mail it in.
But Marv Lewis is not David Shula nor is he Bruce Coslet. And Andy Dalton is no Akili Smith or David Klingler.
Without batting an eye this rookie took his team to the Steelers 36. From there he stole a page from Ben Roethlisberger-Mike Wallace script, he threw the ball deep and dared the Steelers to stop him.
Both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark were on the coverage and in perfect position. And while you can quibble about the fact that neither man took a solid shot at the ball, the fact is that Dalton placed the ball perfectly, and Green’s catch was flawless.
Just like that Cincinnati was on the board with 7 and back in the game.
Mike Zimmer and the Bengals defense began the second half by giving the Steelers a taste of their own medicine, forcing a three and out of their own.
Andy Dalton took over at his 33 and with a poise of an experienced veteran, he methodically marched Cincinnati down to the Steelers 1, and tied up the score.
Not even 5 minutes in the first half had elapsed, and the Bengals had tied what was once a 14-0 game.
Lesson Number 2
- Its way to early to proclaim Andy Dalton’s “arrival,” but this kid’s poise and pocket presence today suggests that he will be a force the Steelers must reckon with in the future.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Against the New England Patriots, the Steelers defensive backs perhaps performed better than any Steelers secondary had in a generation.
The followed by laying a gigantic egg against Baltimore.
This week it was the offensive line’s turn on the Merry Go Round.
The offensive line was one of the Steelers unequivocal bright spots vs. the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of simply not being a weakness, it was a team strength.
Alas, against the Bengals the Steelers offensive line regressed. To be certain a couple of those sacks that Ben took were his fault, but this until got beaten up front too many times, and sacks derailed too many drives.
Lesson Number 3:
- The Pittsburgh Steelers have steadily improved after a shaky first four weeks, but they still have work to do.
Roethlisberger, Steelers Resilient
While the Bengals have had their success against the Steelers, as recently as 2009, Cincinnati has long served as the AFC North’s punching bag.
Sometimes the puncher freezes when the punchee begins hitting back. Mike Tomlin, however, made sure his men avoided that trap.
Immediately after Andy Dalton’s stunning touchdown, Health Miller, normally Mr. Reliable, bobbled a catch which give Cincinnati an interception. Just two years ago a similarly uncharacteristic error by Health Miller gave Kansas City a pick six signaling an upset in the making.
The Bengals had the ball at the Steelers 41, and Dalton was licking his chops. The Steelers defense stopped them cold at the 26, forcing Cincinnati to settle for 3.
Ben Roethlisberger and the offense showed their own resiliency by answering the Bengal’s game tying score.
The Steelers defense hung tough from there on out, intercepting Andy Dalton twice during the fourth quarter, including William Gay’s perfectly timed defense of a slant pattern.
The Steelers offense converted two first downs and then it was time for that oh so wonderful sight of Troy Polamalu standing 10 yards behind Ben.
Lesson Number 4
- This group of Steelers will take their knocks but will respond by coming out fighting.
“The Question Sometimes Isn’t How You Deal With Failure, Its How You Deal With Success.” – Mike Tomlin, on the day he became Steelers head coach
The Steelers have made it to their bye week with a 7-3 record that few would have predicted following the week one Debacle in Baltimore. They’ve gotten knocked down a few times, but each time they’ve bounced back.
That ability is important, but it is equally important that they keep their foot on the gas pedal. Although the Baltimore Ravens stumbled today vs. Seattle, they can reclaim the AFC North lead while the Steelers remain idle.
The victory over the Bengals' final lesson of the day is that while the bye week might give the Steelers some much needed rest, it is no time to let up.
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