Steelers vs Bengals I First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations from the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • The Steelers opened the game with running personnel, with three tight ends including Will Johnson, but then split out four wide, taking advantage of an easy matchup for Antonio Brown for a six-yard gain.
  • They kept the same personnel on the field, running the counter left with David DeCastro pulling, along with Johnson. Even Brown got enough of the cornerback to free Le’Veon Bell for a first down.
  • On third and five, a screen to Martavis Bryant was blown up from the start, with three defenders against two perimeter blockers. Neither of the initial defenders were blocked effectively, resulting in no gain.
  • The Steelers got Steve McLendon back in this game, and Stephon Tuitt made his first career start.
  • The initial idea of putting Ike Taylor on A.J. Green was to stop the underneath throws, which is what we saw on the first drive. Two short passes to Green led to a third down, and pressure from Cameron Heyward got the defense off the field.
  • The punt return unit showed good recognition on the fake, particularly Terence Garvin and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
  • Bell dropped his first target of the game. After a one-yard gain on second down, Ben Roethlisberger was just out of range on his first deep throw of the game.
  • On the second play of the Bengals’ drive, Sean Spence showed well in coverage on running back Jeremy Hill, keeping him behind the chains.
  • Setting up with three linemen around the ball, the defense came up to stop Hill on third and short, with Jarvis Jones among them making the play.
  • Contrary to much of the season, the Steelers used Matt Spaeth as a pulling blocker on the counter run, and he helped seal off the linebackers for an 18-yard run.
  • The drive, however, ended once again on an incomplete pass to Bell on third and nine. This time, the pass was led a bit in front of the target.
  • The Steelers blitzed Spence off the edge on second down, pushing Hill back and flushing Andy Dalton out of the pocket, which allowed Arthur Moats to peel off and record a sack.
  • After forcing a short throw on third down, the Steelers sent 10 rushers on the punt block. The Bengals had a golden opportunity to run a fake punt pass here, but they chose not to take it on fourth and five from the 31.
  • The Steelers finally had success on third down on the first play of the second quarter. Markus Wheaton motioned from far left to slot left pre-snap, then pulled around to the right after the snap as Roethlisberger rolled out with him as the two hooked up on an easy completion.
  • After getting down to the 15, Bell carried twice and then received the pass on third down, taking the ball just shy of the goal line. Heath Miller shaded off the block on first and goal for the easy touchdown.
  • The Bengals got back into the game when Green split the safeties on a deep completion for 56 yards.
  • On their first play from inside the 20, Dalton bluffed the keeper with Hill as the runner. This set up the 20-yard rushing touchdown later in the game.
  • In the meantime, Dalton found his tight end over the top on second down to tie the game.
  • On third and four, Roethlisberger threw behind Miller, allowing the linebacker to recover and help force the incompletion.
  • On the Bengals’ first play of the ensuing drive, Tuitt was sucked inside while the linebackers were picked off at the second level, leading to a 15-yard run.
  • Later in the drive, William Gay wrestled the ball away from Green on a deep pass for an interception, but a penalty on Jason Worilds negated the turnover. Instead, the drive ended in that 20-yard touchdown run from Dalton.
  • On first down, Bell spun out of a tackle in the backfield for a nine-yard gain, which helped set the tone for the final drive of the half.
  • On third and six from the 19, Roethlisberger connected with Brown, how made a tackler miss and took the ball down to the four, but the Steelers failed to get into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal. Bryant and the Steelers argued that he was pushed out of bounds on third down.
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