Steelers optimistic but realistic after romp
For three frigid hours on Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers
looked like the team cornerback Ike Taylor thought it would be all
Explosive plays on special teams. An effective if at times
unspectacular offense. A defense that kept the dynamic Cincinnati
Bengals under wraps until the game had all but been decided.
Watching how easily the Steelers whipped the Bengals 30-20,
Taylor understands the inclination to look around and wonder why
this didn’t happen oh, say, three months ago. Pittsburgh labored
through a winless September that doomed its postseason chances
before the leaves changed color.
Taylor just doesn’t buy into wondering ”what if.” He’s been
around too long. The Steelers earned all eight of their losses just
like they earned all six of their wins.
”Ain’t no woulda, couldas,” Taylor said. ”The NFL is reality.
It’s a humbling sport. Yeah, you have your ups and downs. This
year, for the most part in a few words we’ve been consistently
inconsistent. When you play in the NFL you’ve got to be
A concept Pittsburgh has been unable to grasp. The Steelers
looked very much primed for a January run when they humbled the
surging Bengals (9-5) in front of a national audience. Yet it came
just a week after the Steelers let the Miami Dolphins frolic in the
snow in a 34-28 victory that all mathematically eliminated
Pittsburgh from the playoffs with three games left.
”The one thing you know is they don’t let you play it over
again,” safety Ryan Clark said. ”You don’t get the Tennessee
Titans game back, you don’t get the Oakland Raiders game back …
For us, it’s about taking it week by week. We won this week, it’s a
The kind of feeling the Steelers expected to have more often
Instead, they bottled most of that emotion and saved it for the
Bengals. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shaved the beard he’d worn
for the last two months and sprinted to midfield during player
introductions like something more than simply avoiding the
franchise’s first losing season in a decade was on the line.
Slow starts have been an issue all fall for Pittsburgh, which
entered Sunday being outscored 77-43 in the first quarter. The
Steelers narrowed the deficit considerably with an overwhelming 15
minutes. That hardly made it seem like they were counting the days
until the offseason begins.
Safety Will Allen tackled Bengals punter Kevin Huber after a
mishandled snap to set up the Steelers at the Cincinnati 1. Two
plays later, Le’Veon Bell was in the end zone with his sixth
touchdown rushing of the season.
A few minutes later, Roethlisberger loitered in the pocket for
nearly 10 seconds before finding Antonio Brown for a 12-yard
touchdown reception. Barely a minute later, Brown took advantage of
a crushing – and perhaps illegal – block on Huber by teammate
Terence Garvin to spring him for a 67-yard punt return for a
It was 21-0 before the opening quarter ended, freeing the
defense to get after Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and disrupt
the rhythm and the timing of an offense that came in having won
three straight and topped 40 points in two of the previous three
No team has given up more big plays than Pittsburgh, which came
in having allowed 11 plays of 50 yards or more. Cincinnati’s
longest gain was a pair of 19-yard completions. Not really the way
to kick-start a legitimate rally.
”Getting ahead 21-0, we were kind of able to take them out of
their game plan,” Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds said. ”Every
time we come out, we want to set the pace.”
That’s something the Steelers have started to do with regularity
over the last two months. Pittsburgh is 6-4 in its last 10 games
and appears to be improving as the weeks pass. Considering where
the team started from 15 weeks ago, that’s not exactly a
Yet it is a testament to a group that has refused to wave the
white flag in what could be the final stand for familiar faces like
Clark, whose contract is up at the end of the season. A career in
television likely awaits the ever-quotable safety, but like his
teammates he’s focused more on next week’s game in Green Bay than
whatever happens when the calendar flips to January.
”We’re just trying to win games and show people that the guys
on this team and the coaches, they want to play,” Clark said.
”They have a lot of fight left in them.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org