Tim Benz: Feats of strength from Steelers’ win over Bengals (finally)
I almost forgot this was possible.
We’ve had three straight “Airing of Grievances” entries to start the 2019 season. I was getting worried we’d never get to post a “Feats of Strength” Steelers postgame column.
Hey, that’s why it’s always nice to see the Cincinnati Bengals pop up on the schedule, right? Even at 0-3, you had to feel decent about the Steelers’ chances of finally getting a win against their wretched rivals from Ohio.
The Steelers won 27-3 Monday night at Heinz Field, sinking the Bengals to 0-4 and improving their own record to a still unsightly 1-3.
However, it is a divisional win. And another chance to win a divisional game comes next week against Baltimore. So let’s bask in the renewed optimism for at least one week and celebrate some “Feats of Strength” from the Steelers’ first victory of 2019.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada
Sorry. I meant Randy Fichtner.
It sure looked like a Matt Canada offense, didn’t it?
With all of those men in motion, shovel passes, direct snaps to non-quarterbacks and jet sweeps, I was having flashbacks.
Jaylen Samuels was, too. He was coached by Canada at NC State in 2014 and 2015.
“It was literally all the same,” Samuels said. “We had the tight end pulling with the jet sweep. It felt like freshman year all over again.”
Then, Canada came to the University of Pittsburgh and coached James Conner in 2016.
“Yeah, Coach Canada ran a little jet sweep and stuff,” Conner said. “Jaylen is a talented back, too. We had a little pony package when we were both on the field together.”
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 1, 2019
Until quarterback Mason Rudolph gets comfortable running a more conventional NFL offense, some of that college “trickeration” is going to be necessary.
Imagine if the Steelers wheel out that offense again next week against Baltimore. With some of the things the Ravens do with Lamar Jackson, it may look like an old ACC game from 2016.
Heck, last night I was waiting for Quadree Henderson to replace Ryan Switzer as the return specialist.
Actually, come to think of it….
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth? Pfft!
Move over boys. Clearly Conner and Samuels are the best receiving duo in Steelers history.
They combined for 16 receptions, 140 yards, and one touchdown through the air.
No stopping him on this one‼️ pic.twitter.com/Ekpai95VUr
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 1, 2019
Hey, fans and media have been calling for more of those two out of the backfield. Well, we got it and then some.
The two even combined on a shovel pass from Samuels to Conner for 21 yards.
Catching the ball helped but running the ball conventionally was still a struggle. Conner and Samuels combined for 68 yards on 20 attempts. Half of those yards were obtained on two carries. Conner had a 21-yard effort, and Samuels had 13-yarder.
It’s about time the Steelers dominated a weak offensive line for four quarters.
New England’s quick passing game didn’t allow the defensive front to exploit a backup center and a first-time starter at left tackle.
Keith Butler’s defense did a good job harassing Russell Wilson in the first half of Week 2 and Jimmy Garoppolo in the first half of Week 3. But the pressure faded as the games went along.
That wasn’t the case Monday night. The Steelers defense sacked Andy Dalton eight times. Five of those sacks came in the second half.
“It got to a pass-rush heavy game,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “I think that’s a credit to our offense who had a lot of time-of-possession early in the game. That gave us time to rest.”
Watt had 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Cam Heyward had 2.5 sacks to lead the parade for the Steelers defense.
Last week, the Steelers defense created a lot of turnovers, but it broke at crucial times allowing some key touchdown drives by the 49ers in the second half.
In Monday’s game, the defense came up with a pair of crucial stops.
The first one was after Diontae Johnson’s first quarter fumble. The Bengals recovered on the Pittsburgh 15-yard line on their first defensive series of the game.
But the Steelers forced a three-and-out, so the Bengals had to rely on a short field goal.
Then, in the second quarter, the Steelers took the lead on a touchdown pass to Conner to make it 7-3.
Cincinnati was driving down the field in response on its next possession, largely against backup players as the Steelers were trying to catch some rest for their starters. The likes of Heyward, Watt and Bud Dupree all hit the bench at various times in that sequence.
But at the 5:54 mark, Cincy called a timeout before a first-down snap. That allowed those three players to get their wind and get back on the field. They all converged near Dalton, and Dupree forced a turnover with a strip sack that Watt recovered.
“This is the most we’ve rushed all year,” Dupree said. “We were kind of winded. So we rotated some.
“It was a good opportunity for us to go out and come back in.”
The Steelers then converted that turnover into three points courtesy of a Chris Boswell field goal. That gave the home team a 10-3 lead before half time.
Oh, speaking of Boz
This is where I get stuck between jinxing a guy and giving credit where it’s due.
So I’ll just state this fact: Boswell has made all nine of his place kicks this year.
That’s it. That’s all. I’ll just leave that there for another week.
That’s not a jinx. It’s just a fact. Not a commentary. There’s a difference.