Here's what we learned in Cincinnati.
Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-13 victory over the Bengals wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close to it considering the circumstances.
Here’s the good:
© The Steelers rolled up 390 yards on offense and held the Bengals under 300, limiting Cincinnati’s high-powered offense to just one touchdown.
© Ben Roethlisberger was sharp, completing 19 of 26 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
© Willie Parker gained 126 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.
© The big three pass catchers – Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller – combined for 16 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
© The secondary – led by Anthony Smith – was flying around nailing the Bengals receivers at every opportunity.
© That was a heck of a play by James Harrison to take the ball away from Kenny Watson in the fourth quarter.
© Three penalties for 20 yards in a loud venue like Paul Brown Stadium is outstanding.
Now for the bad:
© This defense apparently really needs Aaron Smith. The Bengals spent a lot of time running right, where Nick Eason was starting in place of Smith.
Giving up 88 yards to Watson is unacceptable. Then again, the Steelers were very concerned about the pass and playing a lot of cover-2, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.
© The kick coverage was spotty. William Gay lost outside contain in the second quarter that allowed the Bengals to return the ball to midfield after the Steelers had gone ahead 14-3.
© The interception Roethlisberger threw in the third quarter is one that he can’t make against a good team. The Steelers have to get at least three points out of that trip. If they go up 24-6 there, the game’s over.
I know with Roethlisberger you have to live with the bad because there’s an awful lot of good when he starts moving around in the pocket, but at least he’s learning.
Sunday he admitted that maybe he’s becoming too reliant on running around and is doing so a little early and more often than he actually has to.
Now for the bad news, good news:
© The defense got very little pressure on Carson Palmer, but really didn’t blitz all that much. Palmer was also getting rid of the ball very quickly.
Those quick throws aren’t a bad thing for a defense. Cincinnati’s long gain was 28 yards as the Bengals averaged 8.9 yards per catch.
© Dan Kreider didn’t last a quarter as the starting fullback. But Carey Davis had some big blocks in this one.
© The Steelers’ four leading tacklers in this game were defensive backs. That’s usually the sign of a bad game by a defense.
But in this case it was because the secondary was doing a pretty good job of tackling. They missed a couple of times, but that’s going to happen when you get so many opportunities.
And many of the missed tackles came against Watson, who had a full head of steam after running through the holes where Eason was supposed to be.
As a side note, I got a good chuckle out of the idiot Bengals fan who was running alongside our buses on the way out giving us the finger. He was so intent on flipping the buses off that he never saw that tree he ran face-first into. It typified Cincinnati's day and season.