It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry.
Keith Butler: There is a lot of praise to be heaped on to the defense but we’ll start with the man who runs them all. It is always tough to gauge the performance of a coach but when you hold a Cincinnati Bengals’ team to 13 points – their fewest since Week Ten of last season – despite the Bengals repeatedly having good field position, you get a gold star. Also thought he did a good job of preparing his unit for their specialty plays. The Bengals flexed out Jake Fisher and ran an Emory & Henry hybrid look. Neither were positive plays for Cincy.
Antwon Blake: I like to think I’ve been very objective about his performance. I’ve been on his case when he fails to make plays, including putting him on the loser’s list the last two weeks, but based on other’s comments, I’ve basically been his biggest defender. Blake needs a lot of work technically but the guy has great speed, the quickest feet on this team, and a smooth turn. Plus, the guy just makes splash plays. An interception in the end zone to stall a Bengals’ drive – who were down by four at the time – was huge and one negative catch allowed to A.J. Green aside, he didn’t allow any glaringly terrible plays.
Steve McLendon: The Steelers’ adjusted their defensive line, starting McLendon at defensive end in base sets. He responded positively by being a force in the backfield and showing some serious closing speed. he ended the day with two tackles, a sack, a TFL, and a QB hit. Helped ease the loss from Stephon Tuitt.
Mike Mitchell: He had a classic dumb penalty but you can’t forget the rest of the plays he’s making in the secondary. Quietly, he’s lowered his aiming point, avoiding penalty-riddled headshots, and laying out Marvin Jones in what could be one of the biggest hits this defense will make all season. He came up with another INT and made several open field tackles, including one that probably saved a Gio Bernard TD.
Heath Miller: Heeeeeeeeath. After being an afterthought with Ben Roethlisberger out, he stormed back today and frankly, was the team’s best weapon today. Ten catches for 105 yards and some hard-earned receptions, highlighted by extending out to take a shot from George Iloka (Iloka was penalized). Today may turn out to be Miller’s best game of the season. Maybe the rest of his career.
Cam Heyward: Cam continues to be Cam. Doesn’t come off the field, collapses the pocket, runs like Rick from The Walking Dead. Dude does it all. If he doesn’t make an All-Pro team this year, it’ll be a travesty.
Lawrence Timmons: He wasn’t credited with a sack but his pressure helped created one or two. A nice bounce-back effort after a sub-par performance last week. Timmons also did a nice job against Tyler Eifert in coverage. Finished the day with four total tackles.
Offensive Line’s Stunt Pickup: It might not be the first thing that comes to mind but it’s burning me up. Part of the reason the Steelers’ passing offense struggled like it did was the Bengals’ ability to rush four, drop seven, and get pressure. At least two of Roethlisberger’s three sacks came on stunts and the second interception by Reggie Nelson. The fault was all-around. I think at least twice Alejandro Villanueva screwed up while another – the INT – came from some issue along the interior OL. The tape will help tell the story better than me trying to watch it live. But poor effort all around and I have to heap a little blame on Mike Munchak for not having his guys ready. This was at home, not on the road.
Ben Roethlisberger: As frustrating as the line was, Roethlisberger didn’t help matters. After a scorching first drive, Roethlisberger – and the Steelers’ offense – went into a shell after they got off script. His INT to Shawn Williams should have just been a throwaway, though Will Johnson needed to work back to the ball, too. His decison to throw that quick spike at the end was bewildering. If you’re going to do it, at least throw it vertically and try to score. 28 of 45 and three picks is not going to do the soul good. Probably not the knee, either.
Kick Return Blocking: A lot of people will blame Dri Archer. But the Steelers’ inability to let him get to the 10 or 15 yard line clean before meeting a defender is unacceptable. Especially when that man was Cedric Peerman, one of the top special teamer’s and a guy Danny Smith knows to get a hat on. The mistakes were individual, and it’s hard to say who is at fault until the Coaches’ Film comes out, but they were clear mistakes. The Steelers had long drives today and poor blocking played a role.
Martavis Bryant: Four catches on nine targets isn’t efficient and he couldn’t haul in a touchdown that obviously would’ve changed the complexion of the game. It’s another reminder that for all the talent he has, and at times, that was on display today, he’s still a second-year guy growing. Must do a better job at contested catch points.
Penalties: Just a catch all but when you get called 10 times, it’s going to show up here. Especially coming off a game when the Steelers were flagged just once for five yards, like they were last week.