It got interesting. Too interesting. But what is a Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory without giving their fans 48 heart attacks, right? Your winners and losers.
Jordan Berry: Oh yeah, we’re starting with some special teams love. Legitimately, Berry was the best player on the field today.
Here is where all of his punts, excluding the final one, landed and/or caught, not factoring in returns and penalties. 20, 10, 18, 5, 8, 13.
That’s all six at the 20 or closer and four inside the 15. Factor in penalties and five Bengals possessions started at their own ten or closer. Berry was a field flipper on a day where the Steelers’ offense took time to get going and were never totally in gear.
His best punt was his next-to-last one, the 58 yarder he had to crouch down for after a low snap and then boot away in the hardest downpour of the game. It had hangtime, distance, and pinned Adam Jones to the left sideline, limiting his return.
Berry has been terrific since camp opened. If there was any question over his ability to carry that over into games, today was your answer.
DeAngelo Williams: The stats weren’t overly gaudy. Heck, he didn’t even break three yards per carry. But Williams, who set a career high with 32 carries, ran tough against an unrelenting front seven the Bengals have. He was able to find room in the second half, similar to last week, and showed the ability to get the edge when its seemingly unavailable.
His ball security was excellent, his decision-making was mostly good, and he scored the eventual game-winning touchdown, even if it was an easy pickup.
All The Tight Ends: Seriously, go buy Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and David Johnson an Iron City. James did his damage as a receiver, highlighted by his high-pointing touchdown in the end zone, while Grimble scored a touchdown on a skinny post. Johnson was an excellent blocker and an asset on split zones and power runs.
Pass Protection: The Bengals front four is as scary as it gets and though Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure at points, the Steelers gave up just one sack. Alejandro Villanueva, at first glance, may have struggled the most and David DeCastro was run into the pocket at least once, partially responsible for the only sack.
But Geno Atkins was largely held in check and Marcus Gilbert shut down Carlos Dunlap. Overall, you have to be happy with that performance and the fact Roethlisberger has been sacked just twice in the first two weeks. The line has been pretty clean, too. Rarely penalized.
William Gay: I love the energy and intensity he plays with and it was on full display today. He was an asset in run support, finishing the day with four solo tackles. According to ESPN, he also had two breakups. Steady as they came. You need guys like that.
Ross Cockrell: I did dog Cockrell a bit throughout the week so I gotta tip my cap to him. He spent much of the day on A.J. Green, held to only two catches for 38 yards. I think that’s one of his worst outputs against the Steelers ever. Cockrell showed the ability to play the pocket and a lack of physicality didn’t kill this defense.
Sure, he was called for pass interference again, a call I was fine with, but when you limit Green the way he did, when the Bengals throw the ball 54 times, you had a good day.
Ryan Shazier/Lawrence Timmons: Both were excellent. That’s to be expected from Shazier, who led the team with 11 total tackles, none bigger than his first and goal backfield stop on a drive that would halt the Bengals to just a field goal. Timmons was excellent against the run, getting off blocks, and he wound up with seven tackles. Six, per ESPN, were solo.
Pass Rush: Same story as last week. Keith Butler again was pretty passive but the Steelers had just one sack on Andy Dalton’s 57 dropbacks. That sack went for no gain. Through two weeks, the Steelers have just that lone sack, despite both Washington and Cincinnati having to play from behind throughout most of the game.
Anthony Chickillo: This is partially for the lack of pass rush though I’m pretty much lumping everyone together up at the top. Chickillo is specifically singled out for what appeared to be a lack of playing time. The Steelers oped to use more of a three man rotation, shifting Jarvis Jones to LOLB, and really limiting Chicks’ time on defense.
He was already the lowest in the pecking order last week and his snap count may have been even lower this time around. 7-10 snaps. That isn’t a complete shock but not an encouraging sign for his impact defensively this season.