For all of the talk about how great this Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense was supposed to be in 2017, this team is 5-2 because of the defense and don’t even try to think otherwise. The Steelers rode two early touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger and five Chris Boswell field goals to a 29-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
As I said above though, this game was about the defense.
After giving up two early Andy Dalton TD passes, Keith Butler’s defense made the appropriate adjustments and wrecked havoc on Dalton and the Bengals. They would sack him four times and limit him to fewer yards passing in the second half than the 44 yards of the Steelers’ Rob Golden who had that many on a fake punt in the second half.
The Bengals had no answer for the Steelers constant pressure and solid coverage downfield. But while the offense may have put up 29 points, they constantly put the defense in tough situations by failing to convert on several third and very short spots and one fourth and short. Todd Haley’s unit should have put this game away on several different occasions but every time they failed the defense picked them up.
Sacks by T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Bud Dupree all came at huge moments in the game and clearly they were part of what ruffled the feathers of Dalton. After connecting with A.J. Green three times in the first half, he was held without a catch for the rest of the game. Perhaps no play summed up the second half better than a 4th and 3 play where Dalton scrambled to his right and actually threw the ball away rather than try to desperately get a first down by throwing it anywhere. If that wasn’t the white flag I don’t know what was.
The Steelers’ D also saw interceptions by Joe Haden and William Gay who continued his streak of the most consecutive games played by a defensive back in the NFL.
Over the last two weeks, the defense has tackled better and it was evident again today. Several times the Bengals appeared to be headed towards first downs only to be stopped short by solid tackles. Sean Davis played another excellent game as did Ryan Shazier whose speed was again on display several times in big moments.
Not only did the Steelers’ defense limit the Bengals to just 179 yards of total offense but they also shut down Cincinnati on 8 of 11 third down conversions.
I don’t know about you but I really didn’t think we’d be talking about the defense at this point in the season. I think we should be glad we are however because the offense, despite its’ struggles, started to gain some momentum today. If that unit can match what the defense is currently doing then perhaps we’ve yet to see just how good this team can really be.
Photo courtesy: post-gazette