Likes and Dislikes: Steelers vs. Bengals

AFC North Champions!

What’s not to like about that?

Really, there’s not much to dislike on the Steelers end of the ball:

  • There was a questionable fake punt on 4th and 9 with a chance to pin Cincinnati deep in their territory.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had a miscue with Antonio Brown, apparently a bad route or bad throw, resulting in an interception.
  • And Le’Veon Bell got destroyed on a hit by Reggie Nelson, which will limit his participation not only in practice this week, but potentially in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card game.

And that was about it… Well if you don’t count the officiating:

  • What looked like a missed horse collar tackle on AB early in the game.
  • A no-call on a head-first launch at Heath Miller in the endzone (clearly a play Ryan Clark was wrongly called for multiple times in years passed.)
  • Andy Dalton‘s nice 2-yard toss into the dirt, directed toward #77 Andrew Whitworth: HIS RIGHT TACKLE!!! (Ahem, intentional grounding anyone?)
  • And finally, the incredibly late, as in RB Josh Harris 30+ yards into his 55-yard run, which was then called back for “holding.” (Yeah, we didn’t see it either.)

Despite what could have been game-altering calls, the Steelers persevered, as the defense rose to the occasion.

The secondary, in particular, played out of their minds. A group of misfits, the unit is coming together and making plays. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake deserves some recognition for taking this band of castoffs and former starters, and turning them into a playoff worthy group: the Bengals were held without a pass play of 20 yards or more in the entire game.

The defensive backs also forced all three of the game’s turnovers, including two interceptions by Brice McCain, and Antwon Blake stripping Bengals WR AJ Green at midfield with 4 minutes remaining and the Steelers only leading by 3 points.

Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds and Sean Spence all added sacks.

Antonio Brown added to his crazy season, in which he duplicated his 2013 record of having at least one catch in every game (and continues a streak of games with at least 5 grabs and 50 yards.) Also long overdue, Brown took a punt back to the house, just as he did against the Bengals in their December 2013 encounter.

Martavis Bryant caught another touchdown pass, solidifying his second-best year as a Steelers rookie WR (Louis Lipps had 9 touchdowns in his first year.)

Then there was the guying throwing the passes, Big Ben, playing with the stomach flu and falling shy of 5,000 yards passing on the season with 4,952: good enough for a tie with Drew Brees as the league’s best.

The effort was more than enough to catapult the Steelers into the division lead for the first and only time of the year, but when it counted most. The AFC North Champions will now play host at Heinz Field, but for the victors, the spoils are short-lived as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday.

But for now, we can safely say: The Steelers Run The North!

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