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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals Postgame Analysis

Ryan Shazier has a spinal contusion, but his short and long-term health are still in question.

Final Score:

Steelers 23 ? Bengals 20

Passing Stats:

Quarterback Completions Attempts Yards QBRating
Andy Dalton 21 36 234 96.3
Ben Roethlisberger 20 40 290 88.5

Receiving Stats:

Le ?Veon Bell: 2 receptions for 106 yards – 1 Touchdown

Antonio Brown: 8 receptions for 101 yards – 1 Touchdown

Martavis Bryant: 4 receptions for 40 yards

Juju Smith-Schuster: 4 receptions for 17 yards

Jesse James: 1 reception for 13 yards

Xavier Grimble: 1 reception for 9 yards

Eli Rogers: 1 reception for 4 yards

Rushing Stats:

Le ?Veon Bell: 18 rushes for 76 yards, Avg: 4.2 yards

James Conner: 3 rushes for 12 yards, Avg: 4.0 yards

Ben Roethlisberger: 1 rushes for 4 yards, Avg: 4.0 yards

Kicking Stats:

Chris Boswell ? FGM: 3 for 3, PCT: 100%, XPM ? 2 , PTS: 11 *Includes game winning field goal


Game Summary:

In front of capacity crowd Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame tragedy and a large deficit to put together one of the most awe-inspiring and inspirational comebacks in recent history, as they defeated their AFC North rivals Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. With this victory, the Steelers extended their winning streak to 7 games, while improving their record to 10-2 and establishing themselves as one of the premier teams in the NFL.

On the Steelers first offensive series, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Steelers receiver Eli Rogers. On the ensuing Bengals drive, the collective hearts of Steelers fans everywhere dropped as linebacker Ryan Shazier’s hit on Bengals running back Giovani Bernard caused him to grab his lower back and lay on the ground. The injury was disturbing in nature as Shazier carted off with no positive signs of any movement in his lower extremities.

With the absence of Shazier, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was efficient in the first half, as he completed several passes in the middle and deep to Bengals tight end Tyler Croft. Unable to convert, the Bengals settled for the field goal to take the early 3-0 lead in the contest. After failing to score on the next offensive sequence, Dalton’s offense took advantage and successfully completed a 12-play, 85 yard drive to extend the lead to 10. In the second quarter, the Bengals offense once again dominated time of possession and continued to exploit the middle of the field. A 15-yard touchdown to All-Pro receiver A.J. Green capped off a 6 minute drive, giving the Bengals a commanding 17- 0 lead. Before heading into halftime, the Steelers offense managed to put some points on the board, as a 33-yard completion to All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell helped set up a Boswell field goal, giving the Bengals a 17-3 lead heading into half time.

In the second half, the Steelers defense came up big and forced the early 3-and-out. On the ensuing offensive series, Bell’s tight rope 33-yard touchdown helped cap off a 9-play, 75 yard drive to cut the lead to 7.

On the following series, the Bengals offense drove downfield, but the Steelers defense was equal to the task as they held the offense to a field goal, giving the Bengals a 20-10 lead heading in the last quarter of the game.

After successfully forcing a 3-and-out on the Bengals offense, the Steelers offense put together a promising 11-play, 74 yard drive in which the Steelers settled for a field goal, cutting the Bengals lead to 7. The Steelers defense came big on the following Bengals series, as Steelers linebacker Vince Williams collected his 7th sack of the season, helping to force yet another unsuccessful offensive series. On this ensuing drive, the Steelers offense made no mistakes as several successful passes and miscues by the Bengals defense resulted in a 6-yard touchdown reception to All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, tying the game at 20 a piece. With only 3:51 left in the contest, the Steelers defense forced a crucial 3-and-out series, punctuated by outside linebacker Bud Dupree‘s 5th sack of the season.

On the final drive of the game, Roethlisberger completed back-to-back first down passes to receiver Martavis Bryant and Bell, eventually helping get the Steelers into field goal range, where Boswell completed the improbable comeback with a 39-yard field goal, stealing a 23-20 victory from the Bengals in front of their home crowd.

On offense, the story was running back Le’Veon Bell, who accounted for 182 all-purpose yards and made the crucial run to put Boswell in range to kick the winning field goal. Chris Boswell for the second straight week came through when it counted most, accounting for 11 of the Steelers 23 points and the game winning field goal. After a tough start, Ben Roethlisberger came through completing 50 percent of his passes, and reaching the 50,000 passing yards plateau in the process. With 101 receiving yards on the night, Antonio Brown surpassed Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison for the most all-time receptions and receiving yards in a 5-year span. Receiver Martavis Bryant once again came through in the clutch with a huge reception to start the drive leading to Boswell’s game-winning field goal.

On what may have been the most difficult night from an emotional standpoint, the Steelers defense showed intestinal fortitude and the ability to overcome obstacles as great as the one they experienced tonight. Standouts on defense included linebacker Vince Williams who accounted for 9 total tackles and a sack. Cameron Sutton played a strong game in place of fellow cornerback Coty Sensabaugh. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree record 2 tackles and a crucial sack late in the game; and linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who perhaps had the toughest task in replacing Shazier, represented himself well with 7 tackles before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.

Postgame Commentary:

There comes a time when we have to take a moment, pause and put things into perspective. Football is a sport and really just a sport. As spectators, we invest time and money to support our team, conscious of the fact that anything can happen at any given time. When an injury of the nature suffered by Ryan Shazier happens, I believe as fans we have the responsibility on putting aside our fandom and remember what is more important in life. Shazier is married with a child and when his career is over, he has an entire life to live as a father. The only thing we can hope for, despite the brutal nature of this sport, is each person can walk away from the game able to fulfill their duties as fathers.

When that injury occurred, I right away reflected on the reasons why quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was reluctant to come back. The unpredictability of this sport is one that can give seemingly the strongest man anxiety. As much as I want this Steelers team to win, my desire to see them come away each game unscathed supercedes it. Others may not see it the same way which is understandable as the level of passion of the game differs in all people. At the end of it all, these kids we see every Monday, Thursday or Sunday put their bodies on the line to represent an entire fanbase. When I think about that, I have nothing but the utmost respect for each any everyone of them.

Steelers Play of the Game:

Rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster’s vicious block on Vontaze Burfict was heard throughout Paul Brown Stadium.


Born and raised Ottawa, Ontario Canada, Kelly is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Formerly a contributor for SBNation's 'Behind the Steel Curtain'. Kelly can be reached via the Twitter handle @kanozie80

33 Comments on Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals Postgame Analysis

  1. Another brutal game between the Steelers & Bengals. Scary moment involving Shazier. The reports I’m reading this morning sound encouraging saying he won’t need surgery and is improving. Haven’t read anything specific as to whether he has movement in his legs.

    Players have to stop leading with their heads when blocking/tackling.

  2. The Steelers are playing like the worst 10-2 team in NFL history. Im glad they are winning, and the talent is certainly there on offense, but it seems more like their opponents are finding ways to lose games instead of the Steelers playing well and taking the games.

    Look at how many easy passes the Bengals dropped in the 4th qtr, especially on 3rd down. They catch even a couple of them, they put the game away and dont give the Steelers a chance to come back. A good opponent doesnt make those unforced errors and the Steelers lose.

    i give the Steelers credit for taking advantage of their opponents bumbling plays. However, in the playoffs, if the Steelers continue to sleepwalk thru the 1st half, the better teams will have them buried at half-time and wont allow the Steelers to get back in the game.

    • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 11:19 AM //

      Tom I don’t think you’re appreciating the circumstances in which this team is played under last night so let me give you this review:

      Firstly, you say their playing like the worst December team in history, when I last checked, their defense is ranked # 4 overall ( 2nd in pass defense, 8th in rushing); they’ve pretty much been consistent in that ranking all year. On offense despite the mistakes which is common in most teams this time of the year, they are ranked 7th overall in total offense. Pretty good if you ask me for a team that you’ve noted playing like the worst team in NFL history.

      Secondly, you’re not giving credit to the fact that despite the blunders they make at the beginning, they are one of the best teams in the NFL in the second half and put teams away when it counts. Think of it, if teams aren’t able to beat the Steelers considering the mistakes you’ve noted; a) that’s an indictment on the teams they’re facing, b) that’s an indication that this team is able to win at all costs. In referring to my last point, that’s generally what good teams are able to do.

      Thirdly, last night they overcame a traumatic experience watching one of their teammates go down;lesser teams would have given up but this team didn’t and still found a reason to win.

      In summary really, generally during this time of the year it’s more about winning than style points in relation to winning. As much as you want to say that they’re winning because other teams are making errors, you also need to acknowledge that the Steelers’ ability to make plays even if it comes later in the game, superseeds the blunders made by other teams. They are much better than you give them credit for. That’s all.

      • Im taking into consideration the entire season, not just last night. Last night was just another example of a team not putting the Steelers away when they had the chance. and again, its not like the Steelers stopped the Bengals in the 4th qtr. the Bengals imploded all by themselves: dropping wide open 3rd down passes, stupid penalties, etc.

        bottom line: if the Steelers play in the playoffs like they have this yr ( except for the Minn and KC games ), they will be out in the 1st rd. you cant take the 1st half off, then expect to come back against good teams.

        • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 2:10 PM //

          To reiterate, I was also taking into account the entire season, which none of it was a fluke. Look, the Eagles who lost one game all season gotten beaten thoroughly Sunday. The Patriots started the season horribly but managed to put it together. Through it all, the Steelers have been consistent, their last defeat was back in early October.

          In regards to the 4th quarter, you’re discounting the sacks in that quarter and the 3-and-outs; those don’t happen by fluke Tom, a good defense is able to cause a team to self-implode, especially one that was up by 17 at one point. In actuality this should be seen as an advantage point for Steelers and not something to knit-pick at.

          Bottom line: this team is much better than you’re making them to be and they play their best late in the season. Like every team, the Steelers have tons to improve but to make the assertion that they’re one of the worst 10-2 teams in history is quite ridiculous, considering they have been among the best ALL SEASON.

          • 2 of the 3-and-outs in the 4th qtr were because Bengal receivers dropped wide-open easy catches. the Steelers didnt stop the Bengals in the 4th qtr, the Bengals stopped the Bengals. It wasnt good defense. It was Bengal bungling.

            the Steelers record has been among the best all season, their play has not been.

          • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 9:35 AM //

            Of course you must be speculating that the hits that the Steelers were delivering all night had nothing to with the Bengals sudden case of the dropsies in the 4th quarter. As much as the talking heads like to decry the “brutality” of football, intimidation of opposing players is very much a part of the strategy of winning. So know Tom, the Bengals did not beat themselves, the Steelers intimidated them into hearing footsteps and afraid to make catches going across the middle. When you get receivers hearing footsteps, drops happen.

        • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 6:13 PM //

          Oh I see, so the Bengals dropping those passes was simply indicative of the Bengals making mistakes. Let’s take a look at one of the 4th quarter sequences before they tied the game at 20.

          – 1st and 10 -> Steelers run a 3-4 over front, Williams gets an 8-yard sack

          – 2nd and 18 -> Tj Watt and Mike Hilton fake the blitz and forces a false start penalty

          – 2nd and 23 -> Pass by Lafell is dropped courtesy of a hit by Robert Golden. In that sequence he had the catch, but Golden’s hit made the difference

          – 3rd and 23 – screen pass to Bernard got about 12 yards but was short – turn over on downs.

          If you look at this sequence as a small example, this wasn’t a result of dropped passes by the Bengals, this is the Steelers getting pressure and creating opportunities.

          The Bengals are a team that makes a lot of mistakes, but if you review that game, you’ll see the Steelers are much more involved than you give them credit for.

        • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 9:40 AM //

          I would add your comments the psychological aspect of this particular rivalry. The Steelers have found ways to win so many games against Cincy when they didn’t play particularly well, that that gets inside of the Bengals heads.

          The Bengals have found so many ways to lose critical games to the Steelers that I don’t believe that they think they can beat us. If you don’t believe you can win, you usually don’t.

  3. Smith-Schuster’s hit on Burfict was understandable, but still illegal. Him standing over him to taunt him was unacceptable. Even with a guy like Burfict (and I was getting nauseous with all of the praise he was getting from the announcers), you have to have more respect for the game and ultimately your team than to do that. It makes the Steelers look bad. It makes Smith-Schuster, who I like a lot, look bad. I think it also looked bad that, while lying on the ground, Burfict tried to grab JuJu’s leg and break it…but I can only have so much outrage for one play…

    • why was it illegal? he didnt launch himself and he hit Burfict in the chest with his shoulder.
      I agree he didnt need to stand over him.

      • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 9:43 AM //

        The hit was illegal, but well deserved. The taunting was also understandable. Smith-Schuster, as a rookie, has now made himself indelibly beloved by his teammates and coaches. Time to start calling them the Killer Ju-Ju B’s.

    • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 11:49 AM //

      Standing over him is a bad look but the block was perfectly legal; in the numbers and hit him with his shoulder. This type of block happens more frequently than people think, notably on kickoff/punt returns.

      • The NFL sees it differently. They say it was the crown of the helmet hitting Burfict’s jaw. I see that as well (simultaneous to the numbers with the shoulder). Since the NFL is never wrong in these instances, I feel completely vindicated.

        • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 2:14 PM //

          LOL Pat the NFL is never wrong in these instances.. where do I begin.

          Look at what Gronkowski did to that Bills cornerback when he was lying defenseless on the ground. Do you think the NFL was right giving him just a one game suspension.

          Think of it, the penalty he received was for taunting not for the hit, it’s a big difference. From what I’ve seen thus far, he hasn’t received any type of reprimand from the NFL; so I’m unsure where you’re getting this assertion that his hit was illegal.

          Do me a favor, watch the video and watch carefully where Juju hits him in the clip, the exact point of contact. Moreso, watch the angle which he dips his shoulder, the crown of his helmet didn’t come anywhere near his jaw.

          • The suspension letter from the NFL reads:

            “Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then ‘celebrated’ the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”

            So it appears he was suspended for both.

            I agree wholeheartedly that what Gronkowski did was far worse and deserved more. I actually think Iloka’s hit on AB was worse as a hit. But that doesn’t make JuJu right. That’s like saying that since a KFC double down can kill you in an instant, then a Big Mac is healthy (or that the FBI shouldn’t investigate someone because what someone else did was WAAAAY worse…but I digress).

            When I look at the video above, I see contact shoulder-to-chest. This same impact causes JuJu’s helmet to strike Burfict’s head.

            But I’m not arguing. Just disagreeing. I only brought it up in the first place because your Play of the Game” video was posted without commentary of Smith-Schuster screwing up.

        • Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 3:38 PM //

          From reading the suspension, I wholeheartedly disagree with suspension but the NFL is going to do what the NFL does.

          Back to you though, why would assume that I put that he ‘screwed up’? What he didn’t affect the outcome negatively at all, if anything, it was one of major turning points of that game. I’m even taking in consideration the person that was affected whom is a known repeat offender, the play was no different than what Ryan Clark did in 2008 to Wes Welker; or what Hines Ward did to Ed Reed.

          In terms of the hit itself, from every angle I’ve viewed it, there is no point where he hits him with the crown of his helmet. Even in the slow-mo it shows Juju dipping and angling his body and hitting him with his right shoulder. More revealing is the angle in which Burfict went down, if it was neck area, his head would has slightly snapped back and he would have fallen on straight line; if you look at the replay, he falls on an angle downwards. Pause it at 6 seconds and you’ll see that he’s leading with his shoulder in and not the crown of his helmet. But like I said, Goddell and the NFL is gonna do what they do.

          At best this was worthy of a huge fine; I believe the main reason for the suspension was the taunting afterwards. Yet as I said, the NFL is gonna do what they do.

          • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 9:50 AM //

            I agree. The NFL has more at stake than this hit. They owners have a target painted on them due to the head trauma litigation. The NFL is going to do what it has to do to avoid more of these class action lawsuits, but it won’t change the way players play all that much. The reality is that football is a violent game played by men who are exceptionally fast, strong and determined to win. In my opinion, the real road forward with head injuries is to get better helmets and to expand the size of the field in recognition of the increased speed at which the game is played. More space would allow receivers to avoid some of these vicious hits, and greater field width and length would help to compensate for the increased speed at which the game is played. It does not seem to me that the Canadian Football League with its both wider and longer fields has the head trauma problems on the same order of magnitude as the NFL does. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m betting it’s not all coincidence.

  4. Kelechi Anozie // December 5, 2017 at 12:36 PM //

    Just to correct a mistake that I made in the summary, it was rookie Cameron Sutton that came in to replace Coty Sensabaugh in the 2nd half, not Brian Allen. Note that once he came in, Aj Green was ineffective, so I would expect Sutton to get more playing time going forward.

  5. The Steelers displayed outstanding perseverance last night after the traumatic incident with Shazier. People can continue to complain about the way this team wins but the fact is they win and under extremely difficult circumstances.

    Again, when they are under prime time exposure the stars continue to shine. Brown, Bell and the below average QB (according to some) continue to make this team very difficult to knock out.

    It is such a pleasure to watch this team play and battle. It’s going to be tough to defeat NE without Shazier and maybe even Haden but I just wouldn’t bet against this team, Keep the game close into the 4th quarter and I’ll take Ben to pull it out in the end. Needless to say that game is still 2 weeks away and the Baltimore game will be another tough test without those guys against a team trying to stay in playoff contention, just like the Bengals last night.

    Great job Steelers

    • I would tell you to stick to baseball, but you don’t know much about that either. For the record Ben is still the 18th rated QB in the NFL.

      Ben is playing better, but he still makes too many mistakes. His early INT was awful.

      You are embarrassing yourself with this childish post. You had said he was still an elite QB. Now you are moving goalposts. Grow up and learn something about the game.

    • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 9:54 AM //

      There is at least an outside chance that Haden will be back for New England. Shazier’s status is unknown, but most players with a spinal contusion appear to miss only a game or two. The optics of the hit make it seem impossible that Shazier will be back for New England, but the fact is that a contusion is a contusion is a contusion. They do go away fairly quickly. Most people with contusions usually feel 100% better long before the actual ugly bruise turns to yellow and then fades away.

    • mark delsignore // December 7, 2017 at 8:26 AM //

      “Great job Steelers”

      Agree Jim…100%

      One game at a time but the Showdown at O.K. Corral is going to determine the AFC rep for the Super Bowl for sure.

      If Steelers win their remaining home games, they will have home field throughout the playoffs.

  6. Jim Barbe // December 6, 2017 at 8:58 AM //

    You continue to display your minor league intelligence….one day you’ll get promoted but you probably won’t contribute much when that happens, kind of like now. Now you can come back with your nonsense.

    Why is it you always think I’m referring to you anyhow… must have some type of inferiority complex with me. Just ignore my posts.

    • Perhaps because you have referenced the word Loopy in the past.

    • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 10:08 AM //

      Bingo Jim. Inferiority complex. Perhaps a chip on his shoulder. Who knows. Lup is like anchovies. Good some of the time, but you’d get agita for sure with a steady diet of them.

  7. Look I’ll bury the hatchet with you. I don’t really have a problem with you. It’s not like you’re Smizik. You don’t flat out lie like he does.

  8. Jim Barbe // December 6, 2017 at 9:16 AM //

    I don’t have a hatchet with you other than you are full of yourself and you have no idea how good of a QB that Ben is….besides that you aren’t a bad guy.

    • I’m not full of myself. I do enjoy pointing out the mistakes of others who think they are know it alls, ala Smizik. He thinks he’s an expert and quite frankly he’s wrong often. He then resorts to insulting me. The perception of me being full of myself is simply me defending myself against Smizik. As you can see with the large number of instances, Smizik knows far less than he thinks.

      For the record, I love Ben. I have since his rookie year against Dallas. In the 4th quarter he is awesome. He has far more lapses early in games than he used to.

      • Bob Stover // December 6, 2017 at 10:04 AM //

        You have Smizik on the braid Lup. Even assuming, arguendo, that Smizik has lied and insulted you, how is he different than anyone else on here. What some people call lies, other people call exaggeration or hyperbole. What some people call insulting, other call “burn.” Everybody on this and every other sports blog, including you and I, think we are some kind of expert. We’re not.

        It’s not my place to defend or defame Smizik. He can be pretty ascerbic and he has said things to or about me, that if I took them personally, might actually cause me to lose sleep. I would suggest that to you that I get my solid eight hours every single night.

        Now, you didn’t really bother to define the phrase, “some kind of expert”, but Smizik is, without a doubt, some kind of expert. Thirty-plus years of work as a professional sports writer with access to professional athletes and management types that come with that experience make you some kind of expert. It doesn’t mean that his opinions are any more valuable than anybody else’s, but when he points out some factoid or factor that most of us haven’t considered, he speaks from a place of knowledge and not speculation.

        I work in the legal field and have for 35 years. Do lawyers know everything that there is to know about the law. Don’t think so. What sets lawyers apart from layman is the ability to find out what they need to know but research, consulting colleagues and experts in any number of fields that intersect with law. That’s what Smizik has; the ability to do that we mere mortals can’t because he knows where to look and who he can call when he needs to know something.

        I’ll get off my soapbox now, but you really need to purge your brain of Smizik and get more sleep. It will make you less obsessed.

        • Smizik is not an expert about sports. He is an expert on writing about sports. He thinks he knows more about players abilities than he actually knows. He and I have gone round and round about players. The fact of the matter is I’m right way more than he is. That isn’t an opinion that is fact.

          Smizik thinks he’s something special because he was a sportswriter. In reality he knows less about sports than most people here.

  9. Yep, totally agree Bob…..Loop and Bob just don’t mesh. I’ll give Loop this…apparently he does have quite a bit of knowledge about minor league baseball…that’s great if you’re into that sort of thing but I couldn’t care less about it….let me know when these guys get called up and then I’ll pay attention to them.

    Too bad there isn’t minor league football….then Lup would be in heaven.

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