Steelers vs Bengals II First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations of the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale on Sunday.

  • The Steelers had been coming out lately in run-heavy looks, but in this game, they split three wide receivers wide to start the game. And of course they ran the ball, with Le’Veon Bell spinning out of a tackle for six yards.
  • On the second play of the game, both Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey provided the downfield blocks to open up an alley for Bell to take a screen pass about 18 yards near midfield.
  • The drive stalled after Heath Miller couldn’t hold on to a second and eight pass. Ben Roethlisberger lofted a ball that was tipped to Antonio Brown on third down, and he couldn’t adjust to the redirection in time.
  • Punter Brad Wing’s first attempt went smoothly enough, as he pinned the Bengals down inside the 10 thanks to Antwon Blake and Ross Ventrone at the gunner positions.
  • The Steelers opened in their base defense, and Andy Dalton decided to go deep to A.J. Green right away, but Brice McCain was in good position to cut him off.
  • After a short gain on second down, Will Allen came up to make the ankle tackle on Jeremy Hill on a screen pass to force an opening drive three and out for the road team.
  • On Brown’s punt return touchdown, Terence Garvin blocked two separate Bengals after the returner reversed field. Shamarko Thomas felt the wrath of Brown’s urgency to score as he got pushed down by his assist in setting up a block for himself. Darrius Heyward-Bey had the last key block to assure that Brown would go in untouched.
  • The Bengals got off to a better start on their second drive, sealing in the left side of the defense for an 11-yard gain off the right side on first down. Sean Spence got caught again two plays later for another Hill first down run. Steve McLendon missed a tackle on the next play that provided the outlet for a 22-yard run, the Bengals’ longest play of the day.
  • Facing interior pressure from Lawrence Timmons, Dalton thought he could loft the ball up to Green, but the receiver stopped running, and McCain was able to float underneath it for the interception to prevent any points.
  • Backed up deep in their own end, the Steelers stacked up on run blockers on first and second down to set up a third and two. Roethlisberger threw a bit behind him, but Brown dropped the pass, having not gotten his head around quickly enough, forcing Pittsburgh to punt from deep in its own end.
  • Despite starting with excellent field position, the defense was able to hold again when Vince Williams cut through traffic to tackle Hill at the line of scrimmage on third and three. But then the Bengals went for it on fourth down, and it was Williams who gave up the conversion.
  • On third and six, Dalton escaped pressure and flipped the ball to Giovani Bernard, who beat a pair of linebackers, hurdled over William Gay, and scored from 17 yards out to tie the game.
  • The Steelers’ ensuing drive was cut short when Pouncey snapped the ball early. It bounced off Roethlisberger’s shin and fell forward, with the Bengals recovering at the 34.
  • Thanks in part to a sack by Cameron Heyward at the 25 on second and nine, however, the Steelers minimized the damage as the Bengals only netted a field goal, following a solid tackle in the open field by Gay on the back.
  • On third and four, Roethlisberger stepped up through interior pressure and found Miller behind the linebackers in the open field for about 19 yards across midfield.
  • On the following play, with three tight ends on the field, he dropped back to pass, but was forced to check down to Bell with nothing open vertically. Bell had to pivot around the linebacker in coverage, but once he did, he was able to turn upfield for a big gain inside the red zone.
  • On second down, Roethlisberger threw high to Miller in the end zone. They settled for a delayed draw and a field goal to even the score at 10.
  • It looked like it might be another big gain for Hill on first down when Heyward and Timmons both vacated the same hole, but Gay once again did a nice job of bringing the runner down in open space.
  • On the following play, however, Dalton threw high to Green down the field. The ball bounced off the receiver’s hands as he tried to high point it, landing in McCain’s chest for his second interception of the game, returning it inside the 30.
  • It only took two plays for the Steelers to capitalize. On second and three from 21 yards out, they bunched up Miller with Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant on the short side of the field. Wheaton sealed one defender outside, Miller inside, and Bryant came back to collect the screen pass before racing into the end zone for his eighth touchdown of the season.
  • On second and 10 on the Bengals’ next drive, Spence came in on a blitz behind Timmons, buried Hill in protection, and sacked Dalton for a loss of seven, stalling the drive.
  • The Steelers’ two minute offense was aided by a defensive holding call. By that point they seemed poised to get back into the end zone, with first and goal at the 10 with a minute and two timeouts remaining. Their best chance came on second down when Roethlisberger threw across his body to Brown in the far corner of the end zone, but the throw dragged the receiver out of bounds. Instead, the Steelers took a 20-10 lead into the locker room.
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