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Tom’s Ten Takes: Steelers Vs Bengals

Following each game in the 2020 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 15

Opponent – Cincinnati Bengals

1. Terrible – That’s what Ben Roethlisberger was in the first half. His first pass was under center and a roll out as if to say, “See, I can do it.” and the pass was woefully short on a route James Washington had won. He threw a pass behind Diontae Johnson and then another way too far in front of him.  He was nearly intercepted twice before throwing and easy interception.  He missed Chase Claypool multiple times because he’s either not seeing the field or not reading the coverages correctly. He got JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron blown up.  You can’t blame the play calling this week. You can’t blame the offensive line. Roethlisberger was terrible.

2. Be Like the Jets – I was shocked to hear the stat this weekend but the New York Jets, the team who got their first win of the season this week, has scored on their first drive in eight consecutive games. The Steelers started with four three and outs and a fumbled snap by Roethlisberger (which I forgot to put in take number 1). The first quarter had zero first downs, zero third down conversions and 2 turnovers in four and half minutes of offensive possession. The ineptitude is beyond understanding. They only productive player in the first quarter the last few weeks has been Jordan Berry.

3. What Are You Watching? – Early in the second quarter there was a pass to Tee Higgins that ended up being a first down. Minkah Fitzpatrick had him held up and three Steelers defenders stood there and watched. Get in there!  Try to strip the ball. Even just getting a good hit on him can make him think about coming into that area again.  The swarming that was happening early in the season is gone.  You can try to give them an excuse with the schedule and being tired but effort is all about desire and they are showing limited effort way to often.

4. Don’t Come This Way –  T.J. Watt is having another fantastic season and he gets a lot of attention for his pass rushing ability but boy is he good against the run. There were at least three plays early in the game that I think were tackles for a loss where the Bengals tried to run his way and he used leverage and play strength  to shed the blocker and make the tackle. You can’t block him with a tight end and compared to tackles he is at a disadvantage but he is so technically good.

5. Running Angry – The ailing running game showed some signs of life. Not good by any means especially when you look at how they performed on 3rd and 1 but better. So the offensive line was basically the same with some Derwin Gray mixed in so was he the difference? Was it the attitude from Benny Snell (finally from someone) who found gaps and ran behind his pads finishing runs with authority? I can’t exactly say but it was a small positive from this game that the team desperately needs.

6. Record Breaking? – I’m not sure what the record is for percentage of passes broken up in one game but it might be close. Ryan Finley only threw 13 passes and the Steelers defensive backs broke up four of them. They held Finley to 89 yards and had breakups from Steven Nelson with 2 and Joe Haden and Cam Sutton with one.  They have been a strong point for the Steelers for most of the season and they’re going to need them to continue their play in the next two games to have any chance if the offense doesn’t improve.

7. Rookies Gonna Rookie – The Bengals used the read option early and it worked and they went back to it when they needed it. I believe they got Alex Highsmith to crash inside three times on these plays with the biggest being the Finley twenty-three yard touchdown run. Over all it was a solid game for Highsmith with five tackles and a hit on the quarterback but these plays were costly. He’ll learn from this going forward.

8. What Else Can They Do? – I think the defense showed a lot of heart in this game. With the offense turning over the ball three times they were put in a tough position in the first half that led to them running out of steam against the run in the second half. Cam Heyward was chasing running backs downfield. Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen played hard despite both having to leave the game temporarily for injuries. I’m not sure if any subs played on the defensive line; if they did it wasn’t much.  They can only do so much when the offense is that bad for half the game.

9. Hey, Remember Three Weeks Ago? – I was the guy complaining about another ugly win and many of you were saying things like, “Why complain? We’re 11-0”. Or “You’re acting like we’re (insert bad record here).” They have now lost three in a row. Two against teams with losing records. This one against a team with two wins coming into the game. The lead in the division is down to one game. I tried to point out areas where the team needed to improve and you wanted those of us that could see there were issues to just “be happy”. Well, I’ll ask you. Are you happy now? There is always, always, always room to get better.

10. The Passing of Kevin Greene – This was shock seeing this on Monday. He only played 3 years for the Steelers but he felt like an all-timer. He was part of a fantastic quartet of linebackers that included Chad Brown and Levon Kirkland and he was part of the “Quiver and Quake” tandem along with Greg Lloyd. Blitzburgh was formed with these guys on the edge. He was one of the few big name free agents over thirty years old the Steelers have signed and he produced with 35.5 sacks in those three years leading the league twice. A fantastic player and from what I have read a fantastic person. My condolences to his family.

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