1:00 p.m. ET
50 degrees, rain
Key Decision #1: (PIT ball, leading 17-14 / /fourth-and-5, CIN 40 / 1:25 Q#)
• The Steelers lined up as if they were going for it, but Mike Tomlin never intended to do that. They took a delay of game penalty and then punted. This was a good decision by Tomlin, who can be unpredictable at times. On the ensuing Bengals possession, CIN was forced to punt and the Steelers then drove for a FG to go up 20-14.
Key Decision #2: (PIT ball, trailing, 21-20 / first-and-10, CIN 31 / 0:15 Q4)
• CIN chooses to blitz, leaving the entire middle of the field open. Ben Roethlisberger finds Antonio Brown on a screen for the game-winning TD.
· CIN was not getting any pressure at all the entire game, so the frustration was understandable – but that blitz call seemed to concede that PIT would successfully kick a 48-yard FG on a rainy day. With only 15 seconds left, PIT was not going to be able run many more plays. We thought CIN would just play base defense.
· The game was played on a rainy, foggy day; ball and field were slick.
· Both coaches did reasonably well, considering the personnel they had available. The AFC North will be a fight to the very end this year. CIN has a team that will contend for a playoff spot, but they will need RB Giovanni Bernard back to spell Joe Mixon (we also would like to see CIN play with a true FB, but they have chosen to play without one). PIT has a complete team personnel-wise, and a team capable of reaching the Super Bowl. PIT simply has to manage games better, and today they did that.
· PIT looks to be rounding into form offensively; they were well-balanced on the ground and in the air. There was more power running, more I-formation, and QB Roethlisberger took what the defense gave him early in the game by going underneath successfully to his TEs Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble and Jesse James.
· This game was decided by the performance of both PIT lines; both units outplayed the CIN units. Roethlisberger was not touched much at all, while QB Andy Dalton was pressured well all day, even when PIT only rushed four.
· PIT linebackers Vince Williams and T.J. Watt played at a high level. Cornerback Joe Haden also played very well.
· PIT’s DC sometimes gets a bit too blitz-happy, but their base defense was playing well enough without having to blitz. In this game, CIN trailed 20-14, but on their go-ahead drive, CIN only made plays when PIT happened to get caught in a blitz (most notably on a 16-yard pass to Tyler Boyd from the 50).
· One trend we’ve noticed with CIN: offensively, they typically start fast but, as games wear on, their offensive creativity lessens. In this game, early on they were rolling Dalton out left and right – these appeared off their scripted plays. But as their script ran out, they seemed to tighten up. They did make a good in-game adjustment by sliding A.J. Green into the slot, and the middle of the field opened up for him in the second half.