Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 13
When you come to think of it, it’s really not all that surprising that a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger could have the kind of day he had against the Bengals this past week. Sometimes we forget that NFL quarterbacks are arguably the most talented athletes on the planet, combining pure physical ability with the mental awareness to juggle offenses and defenses in their heads and make just the right decision at precisely the right time in order to keep their team moving towards the goal line. So it’s not all that surprising; but it’s certainly somewhat surprising. Because the way I see it there are two classes of quarterbacks in the National Football League. There are those whom you watch while perched on the edge of your seat waiting for them to lead their team to victory with some brilliant field generalship or an acrobatic passing maneuver, and then there are QB’s like Roethlisberger who falls into the category of NFL quarterbacks who usually don’t have the ability to be at the top of their game in a consistent enough manner to inspire your confidence. In other words, quarterbacks whom you watch while perched on the edge of your seat waiting for them to screw up.
But this day in Ohio was one of Pittsburgh’s slightly better performances. Of course, when talking about the Steelers under Roethlisberger, their best performances actually occur when Ben gets out of the way. Pittsburgh is 32-3 in games where Roethlisberger throws fewer than 30 passes; if that’s not a revealing stat I don’t know what is. On one play however, Roethlisberger did revert back to his amateurish habit of throwing the ball into absolutely unwinnable coverage situations when he gets flustered in the pocket. That error resulted in an interception that wiped out Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half, a drive which began at the Steelers 22 yard line and covered 64 yards, most of them earned by Steelers running back Willie Parker. Fast Willie on the day carried 22 times for 126 yards and caught a couple of passes as well. He is now the 2nd leading rusher in the league with 726 yards and he has carried the football more times than any other NFL running back this year.
Carson Palmer is an example of a quarterback whom you believe can rise to the challenge in any given game but he is one who has not lived up to that belief this year. Against Pittsburgh this week Palmer had a season’s best 74% completion percentage and his 2nd best passer rating (102.2) of the year. The problem is that Palmer threw for fewer yards against the Steelers than he has in any other game this year except for the home opener against Baltimore, a game in which the Bengals defense ruled the jungle by giving Cincinnati 21 of their 27 points from turnovers deep in Ravens territory.
The average yards per catch this week by the Bengals receiving corps was 8.9, the lowest yet this year. The shorter yardage game for Cincinnati resulted in more time consuming and thus fewer drives; Palmer had only 6 drives with which to work this week compared to 16 drives in the first game against the Ravens. Bengals wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh continued to rack up impressive numbers catching 7 passes for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns. He now has more receptions than any other receiver in the league (39) and has 9 touchdowns this season, trailing only Patriots receiver Randy Moss who has 11 TD’s.
Unfortunately TJ’s efforts did not secure a win for the Bengals who suffered from an inability to score touchdowns once they had reached the red zone, and at one fairly critical instant on their last drive of the game a fumble and turnover that I felt was an awful call by the officials. Bengals RB Kenny Watson pretty clearly had a knee down while still holding on to the football but when the ball was stripped from his hands it was ruled a fumble. Still, even if the Bengals retained possession at that point they would have had to score a touchdown, make the 2 point conversion, recover an onsides kick, get in field goal range and boot the field goal – and even that would only have tied the game. All in all you would have to say that Pittsburgh played better today and that the Steelers deserved the win.