Last time the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals met, Cincy put one of ours in the hospital. Yesterday, we may have put their Super Bowl chances in the morgue. Le’Veon Bell ended up on season-ending IR after our first meeting. Now there’s a chance Andy Dalton is about to join him.
Oh and by the way, the Steelers won the game 33-20 to keep their shot at a Wild Card alive.
Lets start at the beginning. The game began a lot like the first one with the Steelers going right down the field behind some good running from DeAngelo Williams. The Bengals marched right back and it looked like we were setting up for a shoot-out. Then Andy Dalton did Dalton things and was picked off by defensive end Stephon Tuitt (??!?!).
To be fair, I’m not sure what happened on the play. It looked like a designed shovel pass to the running back who either wasn’t ready or the Red Rifle panicked and fired too early. Regardless, Tuitt plucked it off his shoe tops but before we could get one of the best plays in football – FAT MAN RUNNING WITH THE BALL – Dalton tackled him. Soon as he got up he looked worried which bore itself out when he immediately left for the locker room. Next time we saw him, his hand was in a full cast.
Early reports are he fractured the thumb on his throwing hand. If it was his non-throwing hand, he probably could’ve come back soon as the pain became manageable. If it was most fingers, he could’ve played around it to an extent. An opposable thumb is not only what separates us from monkeys, it also explains why nobody ever tried teaching Bubbles the Chimp to throw a slant. Can’t play without a thumb so if it’s indeed fractured, Dalton is out for the rest of season with only a slight hope he could return if they make a run to the Super Bowl.
In his place is the luckiest sumbitch in the world, Mr. Katherine Webb himself, AJ McCarron. McCarron played like you’d expect a back-up to play. He made some nice throws but also made a lot of mistakes and was often not on the same page as his receivers. His second drive ended in a 66 yard TD bomb to that other AJ (AJ Green) when he blew by the awful Antwon Blake on a simple go pattern. Even though Brandon Boykin gives up some generous cushions himself, why Tomlin continues to play Blake is one of those great mysteries in life.
The Steelers D dialed in a bit better in the second half. Wily veteran William Gay jumped a route on the Bengals opening drive of the third quarter for a sweet Pick Six. The teams traded field goals before Ben Roethlisberger, who had a rough day against a strong defense (282 yards, 0 TDs), tried to force a pass into Martavis Bryant and was picked. McCarron re-gifted the ball right back on a miscommunication play where he basically threw the ball right to safety Robert Golden. DeAngelo scored his 2nd TD of the game to put the game out of reach with a garbage time TD by Cincy accounting for the final margin.
Golden, by the way, was playing after Will Allen was sent off under concussion protocols. Emerging superstar TE Tyler Eifert also left with a concussion. Several other players were evaluated at one point or another as the “blue hat” – the Independent Concussion Evaluator – got more work yesterday than I can ever remember. It’s almost as if a movie – perhaps starring that cool guy who played the Fresh Prince – about the subject was coming out in a week or two.
Screw it, I’m going to see Star Wars.
Besides concussions, the chippiness was off the charts. It was more like a Ravens game with a brawl in the pregame warm-ups and constant pushing, shoving, and trash-talking between the two teams. I had no idea the two sides had such intense dislike for each other. Whiny Cincy players later blamed it on the Steelers tweeting mean things about them (!?!) so while stick and stones may break bones, 140 characters will make big strong Bungles cry.
The Steelers high-powered offense passed 30 points and 350 total yards of offense for the fifth straight game, both franchise records. Strangely, it seemed like a less than impressive effort, though, with Ben throwing for less than 300 yards and no 100 yard receiver or rusher. The pass distribution was impressive as AB and Bryant each had 7 catches while Heath Miller hauled in 10. DeAngelo scored both offensive touchdowns while adding 75 tough yards on the ground. For whatever reason they never really hit a groove, though, and too many drives stalled out, ending in four field goals by the Boz (Chris Boswell).
Winning is always good although the Steelers remain on the outside looking in on the playoff race since both the Jets and Chiefs also won. Dalton’s injury leaves the door open a crack for them to steal the AFC North out from under Cincy although they’d need the Bengals to go 0-3 while they win out – and next week Cincy plays a 49ers team fresh off getting their asses handed to them by Johnny Manziel’s Browns yesterday. The Steelers may not win the division but they’re staying alive which in this year’s NFL is all you can ask for.