Welcome to a new format for our Good, Bad, and Ugly series. Our newly revamped weekly feature will highlight three instances that were “good”, “bad”, and “ugly” in the Steelers most recent game.
An injury-riddled Cincinnati Bengals team gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a lot more than they had bargained for in Sunday afternoon’s final week of the NFL regular season. The Steelers would survive, barely, by a three-point victory over the Bengals following a stagnant performance by the offense through much of three quarters.
Here is my full rundown of what was good, what was bad, and what was ugly in that game.
Good: Steelers Defense
The cries to fire Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler should fall on deaf ears this week as Pittsburgh’s defense more than came to play. Even without defensive starters Vince Williams and Sean Davis, the defense stifled the Bengals patchwork offense made up of a bunch of backup players.
The Steelers would only allow six total points, one a 49-yard Randy Bullock field goal conversion, on the day. The defense would sack Bengals QB Jeff Driskel four times and hit him several more. T.J. Watt would end the season with 13 sacks following a strip sack of the Bengals passer.
Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, L.J. Fort, and even Coty Sensabaugh had standout performances. The two defensive linemen were disruptive all evening, Fort nearly came away with a splash play himself and continues to surprise, and Sensabaugh, while targeted as a weak point by the opponent, came away with two big-time pass deflections.
In an ugly game, there was very little to find fault with on the defensive side of the ball.
Bad: Chris Boswell’s replacement
Okay, I get it: Matt McCrane made all three of his field goal attempts and a point-after try as well. It’s difficult to say if Chris Boswell would’ve done the same, given his recent track record, injury and/or frame of mind.
However, Boswell’s stand-in, McCrane, didn’t make it any easier for Steelers Nation. Fingernails were bitten off and breath was held as McCrane’s kicks narrowly made it through the goal posts... with one clanging off and over the upright!
I suppose the consolation prize, in a way, is not having to worry about any further games coming down to kicks this season. (Meh.)
Ugly: Ben Roethlisberger’s Pick Six
The Steelers offense was absolutely nonexistent in the first half of the game: something which worried me, because you don’t want to keep any opponent in the game.
That’s precisely what happened and then some, when Big Ben thought Cincinnati Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins was caught in the neutral zone. Thinking he had a free play, Roethlisberger threw an ill-advised pass into coverage and was picked off by Bengals S Shawn Williams... who proceeded to take the ball 58 yards for the game’s first points.
The Steelers would find themselves down 7-0 and not long after, 10-0, to a team playing with a bunch of backups and fielding possibly the worst defense in the NFL.
I’ve talked about officiating in the past, but this one reeked for more than one reason. I’m going to again point out that the Steelers can’t rely on a whistle or a penalty flag being thrown, and must play the play to completion. As the interception happened, several Steelers stood around with their hands on their hips and didn’t make nary the attempt to tackle Williams...
In a must-win situation.
That’s unacceptable and why this entire sequence shows up as the ugliest among a very ugly display by the Steelers.