View Full Version : View from Cincinnati: Steelers win but Bengals are learning

11-14-2011, 06:14 AM
View from Cincinnati: Steelers win but Bengals are learning
Monday, November 14, 2011
By Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati Enquirer

CINCINNATI --- On a day the Bengals hoped to take off the training wheels and ride bikes with the big boys, they swerved ever so slightly. Pittsburgh scored two first-quarter touchdowns and made two fourth-quarter interceptions, mainly by memory. It's what the Steelers do and who they are. But the Bengals are learning.

What's next for them is to get back up on the bike and try again Sunday in Baltimore. The baptismal fire is a little late arriving this fall, but the game's on now. And soon enough, the Bengals will figure it out.

Tough game.

Tough loss? Not really.

The Steelers won, 24-17, but it was hardly decisive. If football were a five-quarter game, Cincinnati would have lapped the visitors. The Bengals won the fight on both lines in the second half. What they couldn't do, against the first championship-caliber team they've played this year, is finish.

The Steelers know how to finish. Their winning memory is institutional. That doesn't change the notion that after four quarters Sunday it was hard to tell who had the better team.

Marvin Lewis talked at length about "making plays." All coaches talk this way, but it was profound Sunday. The Bengals dropped an interception on a drive that ended in a Steelers touchdown. The usually steady Andrew Whitworth committed two killer penalties in the fourth quarter.

Red Dalton had his poise-ful moments. He also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, killing drives that began at the Steelers 47- and 49. These were plays that weren't made, or were made poorly.

Too bad for the Bengals, because the Steelers weren't great. Actually, the Bengals defensive line mauled them. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and held Rashard Mendenhall to 44 yards on 16 carries.

"We showed them our D-line ain't fooling around" was how defensive tackle Domata Peko put it. Take away one masterful 81-yard, third-quarter touchdown drive, and Pittsburgh's offense generated 25 yards in the second half.

Meanwhile the Bengals offensive line kept Dalton clean. But Dalton is not yet Roethlisberger, and that was the difference. Roethlisberger's ability to keep alive plays cannot be exaggerated. He might not run 40 yards in four and a half seconds, but he still has some Fred Astaire in him when he's negotiating the pocket.

As Peko's said, "Ben is real good at scrambling around and just throwing the thing up in the air. And it's his guy sitting there waiting for it."

The Steelers scored the first two times they had the ball. The first touchdown came after Roethlisberger soft-shoed a blitz, stepped up, bought a half-second, then rifled a 16-yard strike to Jerricho Cotchery. The next was enabled when Roethlisberger dodged a web of Bengals pass rushers and threw 26 yards to Mendenhall, to the Cincinnati 49.

Roethlisberger has a field awareness Dalton has to learn, and a winner's penchant for being Big Ben when he must be.

Still, the Bengals had a chance. They rallied to a 17-17 tie when Dalton lofted a perfect spiral in the far left corner of the end zone to Jermaine Gresham. The kid threw that one off his back foot with blitzers in his facemask.

Pittsburgh answered with that 81-yard drive, setting up a fourth quarter that could have been triumphant for the Bengals, had they been further along in the know-how-to-win department.

The game worked as a measuring stick for the Bengals. It worked so obviously well, you could have almost called it before kickoff. The Steelers beat them, but it was hardly decisive.
Paul Daugherty writes for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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