Steelers Survive Bengals, Remain In Tie Atop AFC Standings

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, Pittsburgh was about one throw away from sustaining a loss that would have made last year’s Raiders, Browns and Bengals’ losses seem easy to take.

But when James Harrison’s hopefully unfineable hit separated Jordan Shipley from the ball on fourth and five, Pittsburgh finally got a chance to celebrate a 27-21 win that was once a 20-point Steeler lead.

It’s hard to keep saying that survival is enough, but this did feel like another game where getting the win is all that really mattered. Pittsburgh played the majority of the game without starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu (who played 16 snaps)  and left tackle Max Starks (27 snaps) and even missed center Maurkice Pouncey (who missed 11 snaps) for a while. They also were without starting defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel (who left early in the game with a hamstring injury).

Injuries aren’t an excuse for a defense that allowed too many big plays in the second half — mainly because they couldn’t cover Terrell Owens. And once again, we saw a team start to move the ball once they gave up on running the ball (Cincinnati had three runs in their final six possessions).

But Pittsburgh did figure out a way to survive. There were as many lowlights as highlights in some ways, but there were some things to be happy about.

The Good:

Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in what proved to be a much needed trick play. Speaking of Wallace, he continued to dominate the pairing of Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph — Wallace has three 100-yard receiving games in his career, two of them have come against Cinncinnati.

Rashard Mendenhall ran the ball seven consecutive plays to churn time off the clock in the fourth quarter and in the process pulled several Houdini acts to dodge defenders in the backfield.

The Bad:

Forced to shuffle backups to different positions (Jonathan Scott played guard at one point), the Steelers offensive line struggled to get any continuity.

Doug Legursky (in for the injured Kemoeatu) missed a block on safety Reggie Nelson on a third and six run that turned what would have been a first down into a one-yard gain. (Less important unless you have him on your fantasy team: Legursky’s missed block ensured Mendenhall finished with 99 yards rushing).

Jeff Reed made a 53-yard field goal, but once again he missed a key field goal late — this one a 46-yarder that would have iced the game. As ESPN noted, Reed has the worst field goal percentage of any kicker in the NFL with five or more attempts this year.

And William Gay was beaten multiple times by Terrell Owens and Jordan Shipley. Getting beaten by one of the NFL’s all-time great receivers isn’t that surprising when he gets matched up against a nickel back, but it was a concern.

But most importantly, the Steelers won. It wasn’t their best game of the season, but Pittsburgh’s losses have been to the defending Super Bowl champs and a fellow 6-2 team. As we saw with the Patriots this weekend, it’s not always easy to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.

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  • http://www.google.com/profiles/100857546184516732260 Dr Obvious

    Did it seem like the D didn’t go into that vanilla 2 deep soft zone at the end of the game? I was only listening on the radio, and Boomer is and idiot and the play by play man couldn’t identify players, yard-lines, or even touchdowns at one point, but it sounded like they were bringing pressure late.

    Also, were the calls on Ike and Hampton at the end as ticky-tacky as the announcers made them sound?

    • David

      Yes, they were, IMO. The PI on Ike was called by the back judge, not the side judge who was 5 yds away from TO and Ike.

      • Randy Steele

        I agree, David. That PI on Ike near the goal line looked totally bogus, although ESPN didn’t re-run it up close and personal like they usually do.

        I don’t like to complain about officiating–you take the good with the bad as part of the game–but I thought that particular touchdown, which was also aided by the call on Hampton for roughing Carson “The Hothouse Flower” Palmer, was the result of two extremely questionable calls.

        The Bengals o-line was routinely holding our rushers high and around the neck during pass plays, too, only one of which drew a penalty. That was especially infuriating.

        • http://www.google.com/profiles/100857546184516732260 Dr Obvious

          “I don’t like to complain about officiating”
          I agree. Good teams win games when the officiating doesn’t go their way, and I’ll always point to the Steelers/Colts game in ’05, However, when trying to assess how a team did, it’s an important reference point. That’s the only reason I ask.

    • Anonymous

      Something like 36 of 37 yards gained on that drive were on three penalties, two of which shouldn’t have been called. The worst was the Hampton call when he hit Palmer below the waist while falling down. Even Steve Young was aghast at that one.

  • David

    OK, we barely won, but if I’m a Cincy fan, which of course I thank the good Lord I’m not, the whole team should be shot.
    -they start the game with 4 runs, gain 20 yds. On 3rd & 1, they pass and fail. The OC’s a moron.
    -in the first half, as Gimli says on LOTR, you see more cheer in a graveyard. They were only down 10-0 and needed Prozac.

    For us, can we ever learn? I saw at least 3 times where they max blitzed, and all our WRs were still running up the field, their backs facing Ben, when he got hit.

    We dodged a bullet. Dropped passes, injured O-lineman, missed FG that would have iced it, missed completion to Heath, and phantom penalty on Big Snack.

    And we had to listen to Tirico and Jaws. Without Gruden, they would be totally worthless. Does Tirico understand that he reports the action, not predict it?

  • David

    RE: Tirico

    I mean, did anyone notice that Keisel couldn’t make it past the 1st series? Starks came back for a few series? Legursky was the lead fullback on Mendy’s TD? Ochocinco was pulled, not for his whining, but b/c it was 3rd & 1 and he was supposed to come out anyway? TO justifiably lit into Palmer for throwing that pick with Juan right in front of him?

  • Dave

    Obviously, the O-Line is the biggest concern here. They have regressed a little lately (IMO) and part of that is the lack of a healthy unit playing together.

    Thought the Steelers helped Gay a few times by dropping Harrison and Timmons in deep middle. They played quite a bit of 2 deep tonight and I’m not sure how much they’ve been doing that this year. That exposed Gay quite a bit and let Shipley and Owens some big plays. I don’t really blame Gay too much tonight. It what was given to Carson Palmer and he took advantage, when given protection.

    Reed’s timing just seems off. I don’t know if it is his footwork or what, and it seems his hang times on kickoffs have regressed. We all knew about his lack of leg on kickoffs, but was hoping to see the better hang times. It’s a concern, but ranks behind some depth issues at OL/DL.

  • steeler junky

    I am glad the Steelers won, but the production of the Steeler’s offense leaves me concerned. They don’t look any better now than they did Ben’s first game back. They should have scored 35 to 40 points against the Bengals.
    Is it the play calling, Ben’s audibles, is it because there are to many new players at different positions or all of those things combined?
    Kesiel’s hamstring seems like it is going to be a serious problem in the DL decisions going forward?
    I don’t know about you all. But when I seen the Steelers only had seven O linemen active for the game instead of 8. I had bad thoughts about that before the game. Glad every thing worked out.

  • Cols714

    6-2 feels pretty damn good. They left some plays out there though. Wallace dropped a big 3rd down, ward dropped a TD, and if Legursky just gets in the way of Nelson, Mendenhall had all sorts of room to run.

    But hey, 6-2 is the top record in the AFC. Go us.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonArmes Jason Armes

    It seems Gay is doing much better this year, except when he is matched up one on one. Which being the 2nd corner last year was his downfall as well. But in some run support,and blitzes, he has looked awesome.

    It was weird to be overjoyed with a play by him and the next snap sceaming at him. Oh well, the life of a steelers fan.

    Jason

  • Randy Steele

    I know all the Skippy Reed haters will be screaming for his head today, but you know what? He deserves it. If I see one more kick-off that only reaches the 10-yard line I’m going to kick in the TV set.

    And, yes, it’s great that he nailed the 53-yard field goal, but then he misses a 46-yarder that would have been the clincher? Asking Thunder Thighs to make a field goal longer than 40 yards this season is like drawing to an inside straight.

  • Cols714

    Reed is as good as gone after the season. But we better hope he gets it together soon for this season.

    The guy I’m really getting worried about is Ward. It doesn’t seem like he’s been able to get open these last two games. I really miss Santonio.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Randy, Cols,

    We just finished ranting about Skippy on the podcast. I really do think he’s quit taking steroids and that’s part of his downfold.

    /JOKE

  • David

    Gay was left 1-on-1 with TO most of the game. He’s not Revis. Gay will be OK–he’s overachieved this year.

    The guy who everyone’s worried about is Ochocinco. Just kidding. It’s Skippy. I’m getting to the point of wanting Kris Brown back.