Following each game in the 2022 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.
Game 10 – Cincinnati Bengals
1. Night and Day – Woof! I don’t even know where to begin. The difference between the first half and the second half were complete contrasts. They first half gave us hope. It started to look like the game finally slowed down for the rookie quarterback. He looked good. The play calling was decent. The defense was okay. They put up twenty points. Cincinnati made defensive adjustments and in the second half the Steelers looked clueless. Three straight three and outs. The last ending in a field goal from great field position. Kenny Pickett was slow getting the ball out. They gave up some sacks. Just a stinker across the board.
2. What They Did – Second and long was an Achilles heel for the Steelers defense. The Bengals came out throwing and repeatedly had big gains. The defense made a couple stops but overall got torched. Needing seven yards or more on second down the Cincinnati had gains of 3, 11, 24, 29, 17, 17, 12 and 15. They used a variety of receivers but no one had any luck against Tee Higgins. He put up his second highest yardage total of his career. Whatever defense they ran on those downs didn’t work.
3. What Our Team Did – Second and long was not a stranger to the Steelers offense either. Don’t worry though. Matt Canada had a plan. Run it. On second and nine or ten they ran the ball SEVEN times! Those plays resulted in runs of 2, 3, 19, 4, 0, 6 and minus 2. The nineteen yard run was the touchdown by Najee Harris and might be the worst thing to happen. Now Canada will still believe running on second and long is a good idea. There are many ways to skin a cat. With the Steelers way, the cat is safe.
4. Flea Circus – Down four to start the fourth quarter the Steelers hit a big play to George Pickens for a thirty-three yard gain. Nice! The crowd is excited. You can feel the momentum starting to pick up. The next play? A flea flicker. Why!? You made a good play. Why must you try to trick them now? Execute the offense. The play failed. The following plays were minus two yards on one of those second and ten runs and a loss of ten on a sack. Momentum just exited Gate C.
5. INTcredible – I try not to comment on the same players repeatedly. I could write something positive about T.J. Watt every week. But I can’t go without mentioning that interception. His second against Joe Burrow this season and both in similar fashion jumping at the line of scrimmage. This one however seemed even better. Timing the jump and making the catch on a hard throw ball whilst being pushed from the side was really impressive. There are some receivers out there who could take some notes on body control and jumping vertically.
6. Even Receivers Think So – Have the defensive backs surpassed the wide receivers when it comes to acting like a diva? Wide receivers are well versed at drawing attention to themselves. Defensive backs have taken it to a new level. They have to signal incomplete even if they had nothing to do with the play. They swipe at the ball after the play is over. Then they flex after a tackle. They run 70 yards to get their picture taken after an interception. This game is hard. Ridiculously hard at the NFL level. Celebrate the good things that happen. That’s not every play. Now get off my lawn!
7. Role Reversal – We’ve seen it happen with Pickens several times. They wait until the middle of the second quarter to get him a target. Today it was Diontae Johnson. I believe there was about four and half minutes left in the second quarter when he got his first target. Pickett had him wide open early in the game but threw into coverage on the other side. Whether you like him or not and a lot of you don’t, he’s needs to bet a part of this offense throughout the whole game. There should be designed plays for Johnson, Pickens and Freiermuth to get them involved early every week.
8. Inopportune Self Destruct – A common occurrence this season has been at least one drive a game where the offense shoots itself in the foot. Multiple shots. They get the ball over midfield down four. Great field position. After a nice run by Harris the following plays were a hold, illegal man down field on a screw up in the backfield, an overthrow, a late throw and a draw play on third and twenty-five. Throw it up to the end zone. If it’s intercepted, it’s the same as a punt. Maybe you get a penalty. Maybe somebody makes a great catch. Do something different. Change is good.
9. Speaking of Change – I will preface this by saying I love he energy and effort he brings to the team. Arthur Maulet is killing the pass defense. Week after week quarterbacks go after him. He will make a good play now and again. The negatives far outweigh the positives in coverage. There has to be someone else they can use in the slot. Opposing offenses see a major advantage there and are using that to their advantage repeatedly. It puts the rest of the defense in a bad position. Adding to the number of plays they are on the field. Someone else they try may not be better. But they have to try.
10. Shovel This to a Dump – Oh the shovel pass. We see Kansas City run it and it works like a charm. Pittsburgh runs it and Ohio can hear the collective groan that comes from the crowd. The play could work with a tweak. The motion and the fake to the runner get the defense moving in one direction. Instead of the shovel to the backside tight end behind the line of scrimmage, have him act like he is trying to block. Let the defender slip inside and then head up field. Instead of a pass in the backfield where the linebackers are headed, throw it behind the LB’s to the vacated spot. That could work. The shovel needs to be buried.