During pregame week before last Sunday’s AFC divisional matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals both squads were almost as quiet as a kid in the corner serving a “timeout.” There was not much “grrrr” talk originating from either camp. Both teams seemed to be keeping their focus on football and not “foolsball.”
There were many that were wondering aloud how the Steelers would respond to one of their fellow “blood thirsty” AFC North Divisional opponents after slapping the Washington Redskins around in their 2016 season opener as if they were “Indians” with the majority of their scenes cut from a bad episode of the retro television series “The Lone Ranger.”
Though the playing conditions were less than ideal with an almost steady rain and a sloppy field being the norm for the day, the Steelers appeared as if they are beginning to jell as a team. No this was not a stellar or complete effort by the “men of steel,” but they made offensive and defensive plays when the possible outcome of the game was a bit iffy.
After all that Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams has done for Pittsburgh in the absence of the Steelers talented, often injured and beleaguered running back LeVeon Bell, Williams still felt good about his effort in Bells absence, even though he rushed for less than 3 yards per carry. “Look at the field conditions,” he explained. “Look at what we were able to do during the course of the game. We knew it was going to be a two chinstrap game and we knew also that it was going to be a high running game as well because of the field conditions and just the weather conditions, period. So, I’ll takea 3.0 [rushing average] in a win any day as opposed to a 7.0 [rushing average in a loss.]
As far as the weather goes, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin did not fear the rain or the mud but something a bit more powerful than a few rain drops. Tomlin indicated that it was the play of the opposition that he was focused on. “I don’t want to blame things on the weather. We’re an all-weather group. We’re just allergic to lightning. They did some things to make our output look the way that it looked, but I would be less [than] genuine if I didn’t give them credit.”
After missing two wide open receivers and looking at his hand Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted that his performance could have been a bit more on the positive side. “I wish I would have played better. I think that this was-the weather was a defensive heaven. They love the elements like that. It was very tough sledding on offense for us especially going against such a tough defense, it wasn’t easy to make plays.”
If Big Ben considers the Bengals defense to be tough, well check this out. The Steelers defense has given up just two touchdowns in eight quarters. How tough was the Steelers bend but don’t break defense? Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton says that: “that’s just how their defense plays. They let a guy catch it and tackle. They are really sound on the way they play defense. They have done a good job with that. We just weren’t able to do enough today.”
The Steelers are in first place in the AFC North, the bloodiest and most blood thirsty division in the NFL and although the Steelers are in first place in their division, they must remain vigilant because as we all know in the AFC North; the vampires come out at night.
Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741
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