Sunday night wrap-up: Roethlisberger keeps it clean

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It’s only taken them 15 weeks or so, but the Steelers seem to have figured out what they want to be.

In beating the Bengals 30-20, they played the kind of efficient offensive football they’re capable of.

The questions about the vibe between offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger won’t go away until they can perform on a consistent basis.

But Haley put Roethlisberger in good positions, using a quicker pace early in the game when the Steelers were building a 21-0 lead.

Roethlisberger’s stat line wasn’t eye-popping (20-of-25 for 191 yards and a touchdown), but it was mostly clean, and that was the important thing on a night when special teams plays gave him a cushion.

Before an Adam Jones interception which seemed to get held up by the wind, Roethlisberger had gone 207 pass attempts without a pick, a span of more than four games.

That kind of efficiency has given the Steelers a chance, as frustrating as their 6-8 record might be to those who expected more.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. It hasn’t been said often this year, or in recent years really, but the Steelers offensive line played a solid game.

They’ve used six different combinations of starting blockers this year, and it’s been hard for them to find stability between the injuries and ineffectiveness.

But they seemed to have found their left tackle in former seventh-rounder Kelvin Beachum (after some higher picks failed to hold him off). Guard David DeCastro is playing to his draft status as well, as the former first-rounder has started to look like the kind of long-term anchor they were hoping for.

It’s still not an overly impressive bunch, but they were not a liability against the Bengals. And that’s progress.

2. The Bengals are clearly a talented team. But they clearly have a problem showing it when people are paying attention.

They could have clinched the playoffs with a win and some help, and the door was open for a bye week when the Patriots lost.

After losing first-round playoff games the last two seasons, and this flop in prime time, it’s reasonable to wonder why the offense tends to flat-line in big situations.

They have an impressive array of offensive talent, and Andy Dalton has been excellent at times this year. But he wasn’t Sunday night, when so much was on the line.

3. There’s a mythology about certain fan-bases that doesn’t always translate to reality.

It’s not that the Steelers have bad fans, but they get cold and tired and have to work on Monday like the rest of us.

The team announced a crowd of 45,873 or almost 20,000 short of capacity in Heinz Field.

With the team floundering at 5-8 entering the game and conditions less-than-balmy, it was reasonable for so many to stay home, even if it looked like a preseason crowd by halftime. But it was still a bit surprising to see.

4. Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has had an up-and-down rookie season.

But batting down a two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter was the kind of play he’s capable of making.

The Steelers need someone who isn’t drawing Social Security making plays on defense, and Jones developing into a consistent performer would be a significant step as they prepare to make a transition on that side of the ball.

5. Everyone has injuries, but the Bengals are a shell of themselves on defense.

Few teams could lose a player the caliber of defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall and not feel it, but it doesn’t take much to push the Bengals over the edge these days. Being without cornerback Terence Newman changed them, and when Dre Kirkpatrick left the game late, it left them with barely enough corners to play.

Coupled with James Harrison’s concussion taking him out of play, the Bengals were woefully short on playmakers.

62 responses to “Sunday night wrap-up: Roethlisberger keeps it clean

  1. Always happy to admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong about Roethlisberger. The Ben we’ve seen in the last few weeks could easily take this team back to a championship. Will be glad to keep him around for a while. I’m only sorry this Steelers team doesn’t really have any chance of getting into the playoffs. They’d make it interesting!

  2. The steelers benefitted from special teams mistakes early and Ben was able to capitalize. When things slowed down in the 2nd half Haley almost blew the game with his garbage play calling.

    Has to go.

  3. Nice win for the Steelers. It’s promising to see the kind of football they are capable of. If they are as bad as people say, then the Bengals are much worse. Hanging on by a thread, but they’re not out of it…

  4. Wow. In the last decade, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many players get injured.

    The current top seeds are almost completely decimated by injuries and don’t look as good as they used to.

    The NFL needs to stop making rules that only ensure they don’t get sued by players.

    They should really make an effort to make the game safer.

  5. Everyone has injuries, but the Bengals are a shell of themselves on defense.

    This comment is going to anger Patriots fans, since no team in the history of organized sports has ever been hit by injuries harder than they have.

  6. Dalton threw for 235, 2 TDs and no picks, and rushed for 20 more on 4 carries. His rushing average was better than our RBs, his stats were better than Bens. Our kicker got his jaw broke in a play that was a definite helmet to the head (guess he wasn’t precious enough for the call, or not defenseless) so Dalton took on the holder duties, but it was his fault we lost? We have lost a dozen great defensive players and are playing guys that we may brought up of the practice squad. In our first meeting with Pitt, we scored 20 points and won. Tonight, IMO, or D had problems tackling and stopping Ben. Wasn’t or best game, but can’t blame it on Dalton.

  7. Penalty flags were heavily one sided against the bengals in this game. I like both these teams, this just smells like another gift for the Pats

  8. I think in the past six or seven games Ben has only been sacked five times. Which is very impressive considering the beating he has taken over the years.

    And did anyone notice Al Woods out there looking like a young Casey Hampton?

  9. Yeah I agree “Steeler Nation” was weak on Sunday Night. That was the worst crowd at a regular season NFL game I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of attending games. Absolutely pathetic for a team that is fighting for a playoff spot and their fans claim to be the best in the NFL. No way! Steeler Nation is a Fraud and it was exposed tonight on national television on Prime Time against a Division Rival who is in 1st place in the division!
    This whole franchise has major issues from the top to the bottom. 2 non-winning seasons in a row. A HC embroiled in a sideline cheating scandal. It’s time to come out of denial Steeler Nation. Your team sucks!

  10. Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis are losers and need to be canned.

    Denial is a killer, because it delays what needs to be done.

  11. You gotta love the steelers offense. We’ll pick up a few younger defensive players in the off season than we’ll be picking up our 7th Super Bowl trophy as the rest of the nfl watches in awe. It plays out like a book…it always does.

  12. The offensive line has played better the last few games than they have all year.

    It was good to atleast not get swept by anyone in our division.

    Leveon Bell looked good last night. He looks like a smaller back on tv until he starts throwing some stiff arms and running through some people.

    It was a good game but the only thing the game gives us is hope that next year should be better than this year. We lost several games this season that we should have won which would have gotten us into the playoffs.

    The Bengals will be one and done in the playoffs if they do not dramatically improve.

  13. The Steelers only need a couple of new playmakers on defense and a large receiver/pass catching tight end and they will be back next season. Woodley has to go in order to make room for Worilds. Polamalu OBVIOUSLY plays better when he is not being asked to pay middle linebacker and should be kept another season.

  14. Good to watch. The Steelers aren’t going anywhere after December 29 but they still have their pride and the Bengals have ugly uniforms and are still upstarts.

    The Bengals have almost broken through, but not quite.

  15. I can’t remember a Ravens home game with 20k empty seats. I thought that the Steelers were “God’s Team”? I guess the chorus was just too comfortable at home shining their “6 Rings”. As for Ben hitting his groove, without 2 special teams TDs, one wrapped in a bow by the Bengals, the Steelers lose. Pittsburgh fans are the best fans in the world, when they are winning. When things aren’t going their way, they turn into Jaguar fans.

  16. Thank you for finally mentioning the crowd – or lack thereof! They can make whatever excuse they like, but prime time, national game, and a third stay home…and another third leave at halftime??? I have NEVER seen that before in prime time. For a fan base that is not shy about proclaiming themselves the league’s best. – downright embarrassing! Shows what bandwagon front runners many of them are…

  17. I was at the 1:00 Giants game and there were a ton of empty seats there too (and a lot of Seahawks fans).

    If I wasn’t getting my tickets for free from a friend, there just isn’t any way I’m spending $120 a ticket (face value – no taxes), $30 for parking and $10 for a BUD LIGHT (ugh). That doesn’t even count tolls and gas to get there.

    I had a great time, but it’s more because tailgating with $1 beers and my grill and brats is just enjoyable with good company.

    The in-stadium experience for that kind of money? No way it’s worth it. The NFL has just priced themselves completely out of the everyday fan’s desire to go.

  18. Of course I’m happy about the win, but sad that this is the team that will be trotted out to represent the afcn in the playoffs. Embarrassing.

  19. Kirkpatrick came back to the game. He didn’t miss many plays. Not that it’s a big deal.

    Roethlisberger threw a pick. That’s not indicative of being “clean”. Dalton actually had a nice game himself after a slow start. How many drops did the Bengal receivers have the first 4 drives? The Steelers knew the Bengals had to throw and still Dalton found success.

    Bengals special teams are what lost them the game. They were putrid. I don’t care if the Brown punt return should have been called back, they stunk it up and put the Bengals in a huge hole. Also credit the Steelers offensive line for giving Roethlisberger time. I really thought the Bengals could get to him often. They didn’t.

  20. I’ve travelled to the ‘Burgh for four Jags-Steelers games and as excited as I was to see a game in 25 degree cold with wind and snow, the locals? Just whining about the cold. Their fans think they’re tough but they’re just living off the mystique of the fans from the 70’s. I’ve walked out of that place three of four celebrating Jag wins. It’s not surprising they hold onto their tickets like it’s a status symbol rather than a ticket someone could actually use. The ‘Burgh ain’t what it used to be. Fans are fickle and can’t take the cold.

  21. No mention of the disgusting cheap shot that broke our punter’s jaw? Big surprise. Huber is an excellent punter, and field position played a huge role in the Steelers getting out to that early lead. The steeler player should have been ejected. Targeting, helmet to helmet blind side hit. If you can’t hit a receiver high who can see you coming, why can you blindside a punter helmet to helmet? Should have been a penalty, negating the TD return, one possession game down the stretch. Oh well, it is what it is. Congrats to the Steelers – once again Cincy doesn’t show up when it’s their time to step in to the limelight.

  22. It was plain as day to everyone that watched, the Steelers were much tougher than the Benglas and in football, that’s what gets it done.

  23. There’s your gift, Pittsburgh, the refs handed you a worse draft. Enjoy watching the playoffs from home.

    Seriously, these cheap shots need more than fines. And missing these obvious penalties (when you’re standing there watching it and don’t throw the flag, it’s obvious you’re helping the Steelers) need to result in more than missing the playoffs as a ref.

    Last night’s game ended close with the refs involved in 14 points in the first half, and a possible 7 at the end of the game.

  24. “No mention of the disgusting cheap shot that broke our punter’s jaw? Big surprise. Huber is an excellent punter, and field position played a huge role in the Steelers getting out to that early lead.”

    Did you even watch the game genoatkins? The first TD came after your excellent punter fumbled the snap. Second TD drive started after Cin offense had a 4th & 19 from the 10. The third score was the punt return, which was punted from the 35 and traveled a whopping 38 yards.

    Your excellent punter should take most of the blame for that big deficit. Heck, if he played the entire game, you might have lost by 50.

  25. Did you even watch the game genoatkins? The first TD came after your excellent punter fumbled the snap. Second TD drive started after Cin offense had a 4th & 19 from the 10. The third score was the punt return, which was punted from the 35 and traveled a whopping 38 yards.


    Yep, I did. Did you read my whole post? I didn’t blame the loss on that play. Just saying it should have been a penalty, which will be what the league says today. Garvin will be fined. You make valid points, but the cheap shot should have been a penalty, negating the third score. And Huber, while he did botch the first snap, is a much better punter than Nugent.

  26. OMG people didn’t want to sit in the cold and watch a non playoff team! I thought that could only happen in Buffalo! The sky is falling! Move the Steelers to LA! Panic!

    Sheesh, so can we stop the “move the team” crap every time attendance dips? Cuz it has happened to both the Steelers and the Packers now

  27. Yep, I did. Did you read my whole post?
    I did, but I only pointed out your incorrect statement that field position played a huge part on the early lead. It had no part in the lead. All you’re trying to do with that statement is to minimize what really happened last night, early and late. To say this would have been a one-score game down the stretch is ridiculous. The game was not competitive, and the steelers sat on the last few possesions to kill the clock.

  28. Yes, there were empty seats. However, the game was sold out, just like every other Steeler home game since 1970. Only the Packers can make a similar claim.

    We’re only talking about it because one team didn’t show up last night. Then they got their feelings hurt when their punter was injured while he was trying to make a tackle.

  29. seriously lets stop saying the steelers have a shot at the playoffs, a 8-8 record which is the best they can do is not getting you into the playoffs this year. So the steelers can sit home again for the playoffs just like last year

  30. Nice to see the win last night. Where was that offense all season? They should have used the no huddle much more all year. Ben was superb in very windy conditions, and the OL played well again, all things considered. Yet, some above are continuing to complain when Ben does not go 40-40 with 600 yards and 8 TDs. Amazing.
    The only reason the Bengals made it that close at the end was the Steelers using that soft coverage where the DBs play at least 10 yards off the WR’s, which let Dalton throw the 8 yard wide open passes. I hate that coverage! It makes no sense, and especially when the opponents are inside the Steeler 3o yard line. And Taylor and Clark looked really bad on that TD passes. Really bad.

    Yes, some are complaining about the empty seats, but not sure what you can expect. It was cold, the playoff chances are very slight, and they had a big lead at halftime of a Monday night game when people had to go to work in the morning.

    However, unless I am wrong, wasn’t there a PFT story about a chance that a Bengals game might be blacked out a few weeks ago or so, when they were leading the division? Or am I wrong? Or was it in fact blacked out?

    In any event, WE DEY baby! Steelers won, Bengals lost. Get over it.

  31. It’s hilarious reading comments from Bengals fans and Jags fans chastising Steelers fans for not weathering freezing temps to stay in the stadium for the entire game on a work night.

    Bengals fans and Jags fans? While the Steelers have the second-longest active sellout streak in history, the Bengals have been blacked out more than a roomful of drunks on New Year’s Eve and the Jags never know from one minute to the next if they’ll attract enough people to keep the team in Jacksonville.

  32. Dalton put up 7 points before garbage time. Most of his 235 yards was against the prevent defense. 13 points came against the prevent defense . That is why this game is Dalton’s fault. Not saying the banged up defense didn’t help make matters worse but it’s mostly on dalton.

  33. That should end any Superbowl chatter in Ohio. I love the commentators last night ” the Steelers are beating up the Bengals” Ur still the redheaded stepchild BUNGLES!!!

  34. vincentbojackson says:Dec 16, 2013 9:54 AM

    Yes, there were empty seats. However, the game was sold out, just like every other Steeler home game since 1970. Only the Packers can make a similar claim.

    Although most real football fans know this, I feel I need to let you in on something. Being a good football fan isn’t just buying the tickets to a game, but actually ATTENDING the game. This last step, Attending the game, is the MOST important part of creating home field advantage.

    Maybe the Steeler organization should send out a memo like the 49ers did, explaining how to be good fans………………..

    Best Regards,

    Real football fans of the NFL

  35. Deb says:Dec 16, 2013 11:38 AM

    It’s hilarious reading comments from Bengals fans and Jags fans chastising Steelers fans for not weathering freezing temps to stay in the stadium for the entire game on a work night.

    So, just so I have this straight, the reason for the empty seats at a nationally televised game with playoff implications against a hated division rival is because of freezing temps on a work night….

    Now that is HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. @ydousuk …

    Actually, being a real football fan is about loving your team regardless–and putting your money where your mouth is. I don’t live anywhere near the Steelers, but I support the team every year, win or lose. And I pony up for as much merchandise as I can afford every year, win or lose.

    Since I’m in Florida–where it’s about 70 right now–I’m not about to criticize people in Pittsburgh for not staying until the final whistle. I have sat in stadiums in below-freezing temps thinking “Lord, get me out of here.” And that was still better than sitting there in 100-degree temps.

    I have no idea why some seats were empty last night. All I know is the Steelers haven’t had to worry about a game being blacked out in decades. That’s certainly more than anyone can say for the Bengals–who can’t even be sure of selling out when they’re leading the division. Your sour grapes are really showing today, usuk. 😯 For heaven’s sake, cover up!!

  37. I’m not a fan of either the Steelers or Bengals, but I have to ask. If the official attendence for the game was around 45,000, why would someone use an excuse like, people left early because of the weather to explain away all of the empy seats?

    Steelers = Bandwagon fans………

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