Laces Out NFL Blog

What we know after the Bengals’ win over the Steelers

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The fear of an 0-2 start was at stake — and inevitable — Monday night as both the Steelers and Bengals lost in Week 1. The host Bengals, a trendy Super Bowl pick heading into the season, do what the Steelers are supposed to do — ride a strong defense, a dependable QB and a powerful running game — to beat the Steelers 20-10 at Paul Brown Stadium and hand Pittsburgh its first 0-2 start since 2002. Let’s get into what we know after Monday. The hype on Gio Bernard is real This bad boy is the play of the night. Bengals QB Andy Dalton stepped back, hit running back Giovani Bernard over the middle and the rookie did the rest for a 27-yard touchdown. The Bengals took the lead 17-10 and never looked back. Bernard, the first running back taken in April’s draft, was rarely used in the running game (getting only five carries in the first half), but made his carries count with 38 yards and a TD on eight carries. He also had two big runs called back because of holding calls and his 7-yard first-quarter run was the game’s first TD and gave the Bengals the lead for good. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a workhorse (22 carries, 75 yards) and converted some critical third downs to extend drives. In all, the Bengals had 127 yards on 34 carries, compared to the Steelers’ 44 yards on 16 carries. Todd Haley was under plenty of scrutiny For years Bruce Arians was an offensive genius in Pittsburgh. He’s now the head coach in Arizona. In the eyes of those same Steelers fans, current Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Haley is downright offensive. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger playing behind an offensive line without Maurkice Pouncey, who was lost with a torn ACL in Week 1, Haley installed a game plan to get the ball out of his hand in a hurry. The Steelers relied primarily upon timing routes and screens called — and they connected only once when they did take a shot downfield. Haley was once a coach in Arizona, too. Perhaps he should give Arians a call — right now he’s a hanging piñata on Twitter:

Mike Zimmer knows how to coach a defense Let’s be honest: The Bengals defense was given a gift when a controversial tripping penalty wiped out a 33-yard gain on third down. The flag forced Roethlisberger third-and-long and was sacked on the play by Geno Atkins. But while we’re being honest . . . that was how most drives went for Big Ben. It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but Roethlisberger was punished all night. Pacman Jones forced a fumble on a 34-yard pass to David Paulson; the play was ruled a completion and the runner’s knee down before the ball came out, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis challenged the call and the call was overturned. Cincinnati capitalized on the takeaway with a five-play, 87-yard touchdown drive. Pittsburgh running back Isaac Redman left the game after the opening kickoff, was evaluated for a concussion and later returned, but the Bengals held the Steelers’ running game in check all night —something the Bengals’ social media producer noticed in a hurry:   Who got the best of the Ike Taylor-A.J. Green matchup? This one was relentless all night. Following Green’s nine-catch, 162-yard performance against the Bears in Week 1, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau tasked his 11-year veteran with trying to contain the receiver. Taylor was very active, and effective, all night as Green was targeted a game-high 14 times but caught only six balls for 41 yards and no scores. It didn’t help that Dalton was a bit inconsistent, missing long and high on several throws. While Green was tied up for a majority of the night, Dalton hooked up with his duo of tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert for a combined nine completions and 132 yards. The punters earned every dime of their paychecks What else would you expect from an AFC North battle? It was a defensive struggle all night. Steelers punter Zoltan Mesko and Bengals punter Kevin Huber battled it out all night, combining for 14 punts.