Week Eight Steelers Vs Bengals Second Half Notes And Observations

The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a pivotal game to the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, falling 16-10 in a loss that makes it virtually impossible for them to crawl back into the division race. Below are my notes and observations from the first half of the game.

  • The Bengals began the second half with the ball at the 31-yard line after Roosevelt Nix was unable to make the tackle on the returner at the 20.
  • After allowing a first down, however, the defense tightened up, forcing incompletions on two plays with pressure and getting the ball back to the offense.
  • The Steelers continued their previous game plan by going vertical on third downs, but the strategy continued to be a bust. This time on third and five, Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted on an underthrown ball to Antonio Brown at the Bengals’ 30. Brown’s less than inspiring effort to make a play on the returner helped allow him to return the ball 37 yards to the Steelers’ 33-yard line.
  • Yet the defense stepped up again, not allowing them to score, starting with a sack from Steve McLendon on first down for a loss of nine. The defense drew an illegal peelback block for a 15-yard penalty. On third and 34, Andy Dalton just checked down for a seven-yard gain.
  • The Steelers were once again pinned deep, however, at the eight, and started the drive with an incompletion. But a 14-yard completion to Heath Miller and a subsequent unnecessary roughness penalty quickly got them to the 37.
  • From there, the Steelers brought in Chris Hubbard as an extra lineman, along with Nix at fullback, to present a run look, using play action to find Brown open for 17 yards.
  • Miller came back with a wonderful snag of a 25-yard pass behind the linebacker down to the 22.
  • On third and five, Roethlisberger scrambled for 10 yards, but the play was negated by a hold on Ramon Foster. Instead of first and goal from the eight, it became third and 15 from the 28. They settled for a field goal to extend a 10-6 lead.
  • The Bengals borrowed from Roethlisberger’s playbook, going long on third and short. Despite pressure from Cameron Heyward, Dalton was able to connect with J. Green over Antwon Blake for 38 yards. Playing deep center field, Mike Mitchell had no chance to get over in time.
  • The Bengals were able to get down to the 18 before losing one yard on third down. A false start negated a made 37-yard field goal, and Heyward blocked the 42-yard attempt a play later.
  • Because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on James Harrison, however, the Steelers took over at the 12-yard line. But DeAngelo Williams broke off a 55-yard run on second and 13 to the Bengals’ 36. He cut back and used the blocking of his receiver to hit the lane and turn on the jets to outrun the linebackers, chased out of bounds by the safety.
  • After Miller picked up a first down to the 25-yard line, he was called for a hold on the next play. Roethlisberger was sacked for a two-yard loss to the 35, and the Steelers passed up the opportunity for a 52-yard field goal attempt.
  • Instead, Jordan Berry punted just 18 yards to the Bengals’ 17. Dalton found his tight end for 22 yards over the middle on the first play.
  • The Bengals ended up driving all the way down to the five-yard line in mostly small chunks, but a 23-yard catch from Tyler Eifert brought the Bengals into the red zone.
  • Dalton looked Green’s way on first and second down, with Ross Cockrell in coverage. Cockrell did an excellent job to jam the 6’4” receiver on first down to prevent him from running underneath the fade pass. But he was fortunate that the officials picked up a flag against him on second down.
  • On third down, Dalton hung up a pass into the end zone that Blake leapt in front of, returning it out to the 40-yard line. It was a pivotal momentum-swinging play that the offense spoiled by going three-and-out.
  • Another poor punt from Berry was downed at the 24-yard line after just 32 yards. But a mishandled snap from Dalton saw the ball spurt out until he fell on it for a nine-yard loss.
  • On third and 19, Dalton threw into double coverage for green. Cockrell was able to tip the ball, with Mitchell intercepting it and returning it 17 yards to the 44, but because of an illegal block penalty on Robert Golden, the Steelers got the ball back at the 24.
  • Roethlisberger gave the ball back almost immediately, throwing his second interception of the game on second down. On the play, he threw the ball to the sideline nine seconds after the snap looking for his tight end, but the defender cut in front of the receiver to pick the ball off. It was a nice play, but that was a ball that should never have been thrown.
  • The Bengals scored six plays later, the bulk of the work coming on a 23-yard pass to Giovani Bernard on third and five. Dalton was able to dump it off to him under pressure and there was nobody in front of him. Mitchell suffered a concussion on the play.
  • Three plays later, on third and two, Dalton connected with Green for a nine-yard touchdown to take the lead for the first time of the game with Cockrell in coverage.
  • Roethlisberger’s very next pass was another interception, this time badly overthrowing Brown as he threw under duress.
  • Taking over at the 26 with 2:44 to play, Mike Tomlin chose not to take any timeouts before the two-minute warning. As a result, the Bengals were running a second-down play at 2:00 rather than kicking a field goal. With all else being equal, the choice not to use two timeouts before the two-minute warning cost nine seconds.
  • Roethlisberger got the ball back with 1:47 to play, rather than 1:56, and was sacked on first down for a loss of eight, 24 seconds coming off the clock.
  • After connecting for 16 yards with Bryant, a pass interference bought the Steelers a first down.
  • Miller came up with two receptions for 13 and 11 yards. A 12-yard reception from Williams mixed in between brought the Steelers to the 39 when Roethlisberger found Bryant for 21 yards to the 16, but by then, there were four seconds left—rather than 13—and his one shot to Brown in the back of the end zone took him out of bounds, effectively dragging the Steelers’ chances of winning the division with him.
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