The 2008 Steelers completed the final leg of their three game home stand by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10.
Despite the lopsided score, the pundits in the press sought fit to pan the team’s performance.
The Post-Gazette’s Bob Smizk summed it up this way:
The Steelers came out of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals last night with their eighth win and still in undisputed possession of first place in the AFC North Division. But there were as many questions as there was jubilation surrounding this 27-10 victory. It was not a performance befitting a team with Super Bowl ambitions.
His colleague Gene Collier was more upbeat in his evaluation (choosing to focus on the role that Santoino Holmes had in getting the offense moving) but he did offer this caveat:
Crocker ended his night, but if Holmes doesn’t remember any of it, let’s at least do him the courtesy of remembering it for him. And let’s not understate it, because when this offense again showed up with no apparent purpose — it finally broke 123 minutes and five seconds of touchdown-free football when Roethlisberger found Miller with a 3-yard scoring toss early in last night’s second quarter — it was Holmes who cleaned its fuel injectors just enough to pull away from the worst team in the AFC.
Commentary at the Tribune-Review was more positive, but the national media got into the act as well, as James Walker of ESPN started his article off this way:
The Steelers brought their “B-minus” game to Heinz Field Thursday night. But that was more than enough to beat up on the lowly Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh continued its trend of surviving and advancing with a 27-10 victory over the Bengals to improve to 8-3. It was the second win in five days for the Steelers.
Perhaps style points are not important this time of year. But for three quarters the Steelers struggled in two phases of the game — offense and special teams — against an inferior team at home.
Paints a rather grim picture, doesn’t it? But is the portrait of “the struggling Steelers” accurate?
Black Out in Latin America
It is hard to know what to make of this for one who has not seen the game. As you might expect, Direct TV Latin America does not carry the NFL Network and they of course don’t make the Thursday night games part of the “pay full price and get half the games” Sunday Ticket offering that Direct TV offers customers in this part of the world.
- On paper there is no way that a team like the Steelers should let the Bengals hang around like they did. But there is a reason why you play games.
If it is disturbing that the Bengals succeeded in shutting down Willie Parker, it is encouraging that the Ben was able to beat them with his arm, and he did it be throwing downfield. Heath Miller was also back in the line up, making his precense known by scoring the team’s first offensive touchdown in several quarters.
Sure the defense gave up an opening drive touchdown. Sure LaMarr Woodley’s sack was the only one of the night. But they held Cedric Benson to 35 yards on 16 carries. They also hauled in another interception, something which have not been in abundant supply.
The defense also kept Cincinnati off of the board after Limas Sweed gift wrapped good field position by muffing a punt at Pittsburgh’s 39 yard line with one minute left to play in the half. (And you know the NFL Network was cuing up that stat about how the Steelers have been outscored at the ends of halves.)
Your Chance to Sound Off
Adding to the mystery of this game is some rather eerie symmetry between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Last year the Steelers played the Dolphins in a downpour, and escaped with a 3-0 win. They followed that a week later with a game against the Bengals, again in foul weather, where they won 24-10. That victory seemed to indicate progress, but the Steelers proceeded to lose the next three out of 4 (or 4 out of 5.)
Despite these similarities, my feeling is that the 2008 Steelers are different, if for no other reason than their defense is the real deal.
So, to my fellow members of Steeler’s Nation, ask not what Steel Curtain Rising can tell you, ask what you can tell Steel Curtain Rising…. (OK, that was cheesy.)
Seriously, if you watched the game please take a moment to leave a comment with your analysis. Did the Steelers simply escape with a win, or did they take a step forward?