Following each game in the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Week – Regular Season Week 12
Opponent – Cincinnati Bengals
1. Cain Was Able – After being signed earlier this week all it took was one target for Deon Cain to do what Johnny Holton could not. His first target as a Steeler was down the right sideline just like many we saw from Holton. He was able to adjust to an underthrown ball and make a nice contested catch for a 35 yard gain. With all the overturn with the running backs and wide receivers everyone needs to be on notice that if you don’t perform in your role you won’t have that role.
2. Boyd Not Prohibited – Late in the second quarter the Steelers DB’s inexplicably forgot how to cover. On a second a 3 play QB Ryan Finley threw a jump ball to Tyler Boyd. Terrell Edmunds was there and they were basically stationary. He just needed to find the ball and knock it down and failed. The next play Joe Haden got boxed out by Boyd for an easy touchdown catch. How this could happen on consecutive plays I don’t know with the defense dominating in the first half.
3. Barron Wasteland – The Steelers coaching staff isn’t seeing what the fans are seeing when it comes to Mark Barron. They continued to consider him their best cover linebacker and I don’t think they’re right. Devin Bush needs to take over this role immediately. Barron continues to get beat in coverages and make mistakes. He was called for pass interference and defensive holding on the same play. How often does that happen? Let Bush show what he can do. He’ll have some mistakes I’m sure but he is the future for the Steelers.
4. Runners High – Coming into this game the Bengals were not a good run defense and the Steelers were not a good running team. Something had to give. The Steelers shuffled in some new faces and got positive results. Benny Snell back after knee surgery led the way running for a career high 98 yards and Kerrith Whyte had 6 carries for 43. Both had a long of 21. It made a difference especially late in the game trying to run out the clock. Snell made a smart play late as well staying in bounds to keep the clock running.
5. Out to Rattle Rudolph – The Bengals seemed to have a game plan to try batter Mason Rudolph physically and probably mentally. They came after him early and often and took their shots at him. Darqueze Dennard gave him a two handed push away from the play (the uncalled facemask on Whyte), a linebacker gave him a forearm to the head on a scramble and Carl Lawson hit him low on a pass rush. It could have been a game plan after seeing him lose his cool at the end of last week and it may have worked as he didn’t play well.
6. Grave Danger – After the unfortunate injury to Stephon Tuitt it opened up the door for Javon Hargrave to not only get more playing time but also to show what he can do as an every down defensive lineman. To this point in the season he has not disappointed. Over the last three games he has 20 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and sack. He has tied his career high in TFL and gotten regular pressure rushing the passer. We’ve got to enjoy his play this year because he might be getting paid elsewhere in 2020. I sure hope he’s still a Steeler.
7. No More Ducking the Issue – It was time. Is it permanent? We shall see. Devlin Hodges got the call and did a solid job. He was able to connect on the first drive with James Washington for a long touchdown to give a much needed spark to the team. He led three scoring drives and was only 5 of 11 passing but I believe 4 of those were throwaway passes when no one was open. Rudolph had his chances and didn’t show improvement. I indicated in the Matchup to Watch that if he didn’t play well he should be looking over his shoulder. Rudolph may only have to look ahead of him now.
8. Is Everything Alright with Big Al? – The last two weeks have not been kind to Alejandro Villanueva. After having to deal with Mason Garrett who was having a good season he struggled this week mainly against Carlos Dunlap. Garret I can understand but Dunlap had just 1.5 sacks and 6 QB hits coming into this game and seemed to spend a lot of time in the backfield today. We’ve come to expect excellent play from Villanueva and it makes me wonder if he’s completely healthy or if defenders have noticed something they can exploit in his play.
9. Hilton Rewards – Like Hargrave, Mike Hilton is another player who might be elsewhere next year. He made himself known several times on the field versus the Bengals with 3 tackles and 3 passes defensed. He’s been very consistent in Pittsburgh with 54 and 57 tackles in his first two years and is on pace for 58 this year. He now has 8 pass breakups, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 sack. He can blitz, cover and support the run. He will be hard to replace if they choose to not re-sign him.
10. Why him? – I don’t understand a lot of decisions by this coaching staff and here is another. Mike Tomlin is a guy who doesn’t like to use defensive players as returners because offensive players are more comfortable having the ball in their hands. That makes sense. So then why in victory formation do you have a wide receiver as the deep man, the last line of defense, if something were to go wrong? I understand that Holton is fast but wouldn’t your rather have someone like Minkah Fitzpatrick back there who is more comfortable making tackles as the deep defender?