Steel City Underground presents our 2017 Recall: a brief look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games from last season.
Bad losses to the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars weren’t all yet in the Steelers rearview mirror as they returned home to face their division nemesis Cincinnati in Week 7 of the 2017 season.
The reason fans were still on edge, even following a huge road win a week earlier against an unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs team, is how that game lingered on and left KC in it, even with a dominant first-half performance by the Steelers.
That and there’s still a bad taste in everyone’s mouth from previous encounters with the Bengals, mainly their loud-mouthed penalty magnet Vontaze Burfict. We’ve seen games where Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger both left in carts against the guys in orange stripes.
Plus, Steelers Nation wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the 2017 iteration of their team, at least not by October 22nd. Would this team be a Super Bowl contender? Or would the Bengals play spoiler in what could be a tight division?
After all, it’s not as if the Steelers were dominating opponents to this point yet. They eked out a 21-18 Week 1 win over the Cleveland Browns, played a Vikings team who started their backup quarterback and lost in “spectacular” fashion to both Mike Glennon and Blake Bortles.
Even the most faithful fans were pumping the brakes on the team ending the Chiefs unbeaten mark. The consensus was, let’s see what else they can do first.
That was sound advice, as this game stayed tighter than it should’ve been. However, the Bengals found their way back to being a woeful team in due time. The Steelers struck first with a 75-yard touchdown drive, but the score was knotted 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter continued with each team answering one another, as Juju Smith-Schuster caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Big Ben but Cincy answered with their own drive to tie the game at 14-all.
Pittsburgh would take over possession and retain it on a more than five-minute drive which ended in a Chris Boswell field goal.
Though he often gets cited for poor clock management, Mike Tomlin used two timeouts as the Steelers forced a three-and-out on the Bengals, setting up their own two-minute drill by receiving the ball on their own 23-yard line with 1:28 left before halftime.
The Steelers would use the last of those three timeouts on 3rd and 6 with three seconds left, as Boswell hit another field goal to put his team up 20-14 heading into the second half… which is when the Steelers really turned things on.
Despite not scoring any offensive touchdowns after halftime, Boswell would boot three more field goals as the Steelers played smashmouth football to a “T”. Le’Veon Bell put on a clinic, rushing for 134 yards as the Black and Gold kept the ball away from Cincinnati.
In the final two quarters, the Bengals would punt three times, and lose two Andy Dalton interceptions (one to Joe Haden, his first as a Steeler) while also giving the ball up on downs in what was one of the most embarrassing plays I’ve ever witnessed in pro football. On 4th-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, Dalton is pressured by a pack of Steelers, wiggles out of the pocket, and proceeds to throw the ball away to the sidelines… turning the ball over on downs and giving his team zero opportunity to make a play.
— Denny & the Bet$ (@CincyDen) October 22, 2017
The Steelers would take the ball over and proceed to jam James Conner into the Bengals defense. Conner would rush for ten yards on his first carry, then smash over the middle for four, as the two-minute warning approached and the Steelers simply took three knees.
The ball went back to Cincinnati, who would opt to have Dalton kneel with 38 seconds left rather than go for garbage time stats. The Steelers would hold on to win 29-14, in a game that was much closer on the scoreboard than it was in reality.
What Stood Out
Vontaze Burfict's dirty plays
Burfict, if you recall, put both of his cleats in FB Roosevelt Nix’ facemask in this one… without getting caught.
He would also jam his fist in Rosy's face too, attempting to draw a flag from the offense in retaliation.
That's a bold move Cotton
However, Burfict should've concentrated more on the game than his shenanigans, as the more disciplined Steelers offense wasn’t penalized once in this game.
192 scrimmage yards
Le’Veon Bell totally dominated this game, which will also be remembered for Bell once again posterizing Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick:
Dre Kirkpatrick is going to remember this stiff arm from Le'Veon Bell for a long, LONG time. pic.twitter.com/srL5YycuNa
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 22, 2017
Maybe the ol' cowboy does still have it?
Ben Roethlisberger's remarks two weeks earlier were once again snarkly remembered, as the Steelers quarterback finished this game with a then season-high 117.4 QB rating.
Boswell's perfect streak
The kicker went 5-for-5 on field goal attempts and converted both point-after attempts.
"The Wizard of Boz" added to his totals against the Bengals, a perfect 21-for-21 in his career against Cincinnati through Week 7.
Not-so-elite Andy Dalton
William Gay and Joe Haden each added an interception as well.
The Bengals would also tally a total of 19 yards of total offense in the second half.
Play of the Game
For most of the second half, Steelers Nation was asking: how do we put the Bengals away?
Who know that the answer to that question lied in a fake punt on 4th-and-7 with 6:53 to go in the game!
Lined up on their own 40-yard line, Steelers special teams captain Robert Golden called for a direct snap, lobbing a throw which looked more like a basketball pass (or alley-oop) than a football one, to a wide-open Darrius Heyward-Bey down the sidelines.
The play gained 44 yards as the Steelers ran the ball three consecutive times to chew some clock, before Chris Boswell kicked his fifth field goal of the afternoon to give the Steelers what would be a final, 29-14 victory over Cincinnati.