Originally written on Steelers Depot  |  Last updated 12/19/13
By Matthew Marczi The Steelers came out using two tight end sets early and often, a theme that was maintained throughout the night. Clearly the return of Matt Spaeth gives Todd Haley the opportunity to present more varied looks, as the offense was originally drawn up before injuries sidetracked everything. Great job by Antonio Brown on his first reception to make the defender miss to gain the first down. The opening drive looked promising until the run-blocking stalled just at the cusp of field goal range. With Curtis Brown out of the picture, Markus Wheaton is showing some good things as a gunner on special teams. Antwon Blake is also showing more confidence and ability as a jammer as the season has progressed. I honestly haven’t been noticing Shamarko Thomas as much. I’m not sure if LaMarr Woodley injured his calf before leaping up to try to bat down a ball or after, but it happened on the second play of the game. Unfortunate injury not only for him but for the team. And what a great job by Troy Polamalu on that play, reacting to the receiver and getting his body in the way of the ball. I’m not necessarily convinced that the Bengals didn’t actually get the first down on the next play, but Vince Williams did a great job of stalemating BenJarvus Green-Ellis right near the first-down line. He finally saw a decent number of snaps for the first time in a while and really put together a solid game. And then poor Kevin Huber. Seriously, how many punters have had a worse day than he did last Sunday? First the wind and an off snap help conspire to force him to mishandle the ball, only to eventually be tackled on the one-yard line, then—well, we all saw what happened later. Spaeth and Marcus Gilbert did a good job of winning the point of attack, which helped give Le’Veon Bell the room necessary to get into the end zone. Were it not for Cedric Peerman’s phantom fair catch call, the Bengals would have had an average starting field position after kickoffs at the 35-yard line. In other words, the kickoff coverage unit wasn’t very good this week. Quarterback runs on read-options are going to be the new ‘thing’ against this defense until they prove they’re prepared to stop it. The defensive ends ran a good pick play that the Bengals center didn’t pick up, leading to a fairly easy sack for Ziggy Hood. It’s somewhat amazing that Bell broke about half a dozen tackles during the game, yet didn’t have more yards. The blocking, particularly on the left side of the line, could have been better. I like the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has always trusted his guys, regardless of their experience. I readily recall the key third-down pass to Mike Wallace on opening day in his rookie season that helped the Steelers beat the Titans in overtime. Here he threw a pass on a tough angle to Bell on the move on fourth and four when they were too far to kick a field goal but not far enough to justify a punt. And much to the Bengals’ surprised, eight seconds is plenty of time to find a receiver open in the end zone. Right now, Jason Worilds coming in unblocked is a scary sight for a quarterback, even on a designed quick release. He hammered Andy Dalton as Ike Taylor hammered the receiver and forced an incompletion. Which set up Brown’s punt return touchdown, and the last play of the season for poor Huber. And really, the blocking on that return really wasn’t all that great. The Bengals just didn’t do a very good job for the most part. Taylor has really settled down over the course of the past few weeks after being abused for a bit of a stretch and looking awfully poor at times in coverage. He had two passes defensed against the Bengals. All credit to William Gay for his play this entire season—well, sans the New England game. What a savvy move as he ripped the ball loose from A.J. Green as he was tackling him. That’s not the first time he’s ripped a ball loose while making a tackle this season. Emmanuel Sanders made several nice moves after the catch for extra yardage in this game. He’s really shown some explosiveness with the ball in his hands and room to operate. They just can’t get him in those situations often enough. How disappointing to have a drive stall just on the cusp of the end zone, even with a 21-point lead. And that was followed up by a long return past midfield to set up a touchdown drive. The Steelers got some good work out of their backup running backs in this game, Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer. After being held to field goals on their last two scoring opportunities, it seemed that the Bengals may have had a chance to get back into the game at the end of the first half, but they were ultimately content to play it safe for some reason, even with timeouts in hand. Steelers Versus Bengals – First Half Notes And Observations – Week 15 is a post from: Steelers Depot
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