With Marshawn Lynch last week and Ben Roethlisberger this week, stomach bugs might become a fad before prime time games.
While the Steelers quarterback wasn’t his most prolific, he did enough to boost the Steelers to the AFC North title with a 27-17 win over the Bengals.
He overcame an upset stomach that limited him in pregame — and sent him to the locker room in the first quarter — to throw for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
The Steelers will now host Baltimore Saturday night, while the Bengals will go to Indianapolis Sunday afternoon.
And with running back Le’Veon Bell’s status up in the air with a knee injury, Roethlisberger’s going to have more of a burden on him than ever when he sees the Ravens. Bell left with a hyperextended right knee, and didn’t return.
The Steelers Offense has been clicking, thanks to the balance a multi-purpose threat like Bell provides. But Roethlisberger has been successful moving the ball around all season, and showed after Bell left he can still make plays.
He’s going to have to be prepared to carry more of the load next week, depending on Bell’s condition.
He’s proven he can do it before.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Remember back when the Steelers had the looming Mike Wallace contract situation, and Antonio Brown got a spite contract out of it?
Yeah, that’s worked out pretty well for the Steelers.
For that $60 million deal, Wallace has gone out to be good-not-great for the Dolphins, catching an average of 70 passes per year. He also was benched during Sunday’s finale under some shady circumstances.
Brown has turned into the league’s leading receiver, and delivered the dagger to win a division title.
The Steelers have been able to take hard lines on contract negotiations because they’ve been able to draft and develop young receiving talent like Brown and Martavis Bryant.
Brown should probably remember that, and his own windfall, when his contract numbers grow unwieldy in the future.
2. Speaking of the reasons the Steelers offense has clicked, the work of line coach Mike Munchak deserves some mention.
Roethlisberger had plenty of time to stand around and look for open targets because the Bengals weren’t getting any pressure.
Munchak has taken over a unit that has underperformed in recent years (at least in terms of the draft-round investment in blockers) and turned it into a solid group.
The Bengals aren’t exactly a great pass-rushing team (actually they’re really bad at it), but the Steelers line stopped them cold.
3. While the Steelers are playing well on offense this year, they clearly don’t have a trustworthy defense.
That’s the only rational explanation for the fake punt-interception in the fourth quarter.
Rather than play field position and trust their stop-side with a three-point lead late, they let punter Brad Wing throw a pass.
Dane Sanzenbacher was there to intercept the pass, one which never should have been designed, much less thrown.
4. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has been playing hurt.
But Sunday night, he wasn’t playing well.
Green at least shared the blame for Andy Dalton’s first-half interceptions, and his fourth-quarter fumble might have cost his team a home game in the playoffs.
After cutting a route off leading to the first pick, he and Dalton had a conversation on the sidelines about what should have happened. The second pick was high but off Green’s fingertips.
The fumble was followed by a hard shot from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, leaving Green dazed on the sidelines.
But cornerback Antwon Blake had raked the ball out previously, adding injury to insult.
5.The Bengals were willing to let Michael Johnson walk in free agency last year.
And while he might not have necessarily earned his payday with the Buccaneers, the Bengals haven’t replaced him.
Other than Carlos Dunlap, there’s not a consistent source of pressure up front, something they’ve been able to count on in the past.