Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers 37-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday evening.
Pat Freiermuth – Freiermuth keeps making grown man plays, highlighted by his 27-yard reception late in the half, running through multiple tackles and getting a ton of YAC. He’s smart and adjusts well against the blitz, finds the open lane, and blocked well today to help aid the run game. Both TEs, him and Zach Gentry, did, which was encouraging to see. Freiermuth finished the game with 79 yards, his second-most of the year.
George Pickens – Glad to see Pickens vary up his usage in this Steelers’ offense. Last week was run game and slants/curls. This week, it was corners and sluggos, although the fact he and Pickens couldn’t connect on that long ball in the first half – granted, a play that would’ve been negated by penalty – was unfortunate. But Pickens ran a great corner route on his score for the team’s longest passing touchdown of the season, 24 yards out. He’s definitely growing in this offense.
Pickens did have a terrible drop at the very end of the game. As does the ejection post onside kick. Which dings things, but that was a blip in the bigger picture of him being a more well-rounded player in this offense. This report got less cheery to write in the final two minutes of this one.
Marcus Allen – Tip of the cap to Allen, who has been solid on the coverage teams this year. Three total tackles, two solo, in today’s game, including one big hit on the punt coverage team. Helped keep things clean for Pressley Harvin, too. Credit to Harvin, who had a nice day as well. His directional kicking was clean and helped limit net.
Cam Heyward/TJ Watt – Pass rush was quiet in the first half but it perked up in the second half. Heyward played bully-ball with his power rushes against rookie LG Cordell Volson, just as he did in the opener. Watt stepped up in the second half and had a falling INT at the line of scrimmage, similar but better than what he did in Week 1. Stars playing as such and those plays and moments were needed today.
Front Seven Bats – The Steelers’ front seven impacted the game without always having to get to the QB. They had at least four tipped passes on Burrow, one from Robert Spillane that led to Levi Wallace’s INT while Watt engulfed another. Had some hard luck on those plays this season but it went their way today.
Defending RBs In Pass Game – Didn’t expect Samaje Perine to cook the Steelers in the pass game. A screen pass that he went untouched into the end zone for a 32-yard gain before breaking through a poor Robert Spillane tackle attempt for his second score of the day. Perine added his third as the dagger late in the fourth quarter. Below average pursuit and poor tackling hurting this defence.
WR Tee Higgins stuffed the stat sheet but Pittsburgh’s defense also got bodied by the likes of Perine and Trenton Irwin. Yikes.
2nd And Long Runs – Matt Canada had actually been pretty good about it this year but he loved the 2nd and long run today. Pittsburgh wanted to establish the ground game but they played behind the sticks too often. We’ll have to chart it up but their run rate in these situations was far too high. Canada called a decent first half but he and this offense, at all levels, wilted in the second half. And that’s being kind.
Kick Coverage – Kick coverage hasn’t been good enough the last two weeks. A new kickoff specialist in Matthew Wright isn’t helping nor is the loss of Miles Boykin, injured early in the game. The Bengals averaged a healthy 25 yards per return and had a 42-yard runback. That’s certainly below the line.
Arthur Maulet – It’s hard to be too upset at him. He’s made plays in coverage and is definitely scrappy and physical but the Bengals went after him with big-bodied Tee Higgins and Maulet allowed a touchdown to unknown Trenton Irwin on a sprintout to the right. The team will have to use more of Tre Norwood or bump Cam Sutton inside going forward, which was the team’s plan last season and to start this year.
2nd Half Offense – After a strong first half showing, from Kenny Pickett and this offense, their second half attack totally sucked. An ugly mess of miscommunication, poor throws, third-and-forevers, A great chance to win this game so severely hindered by an offense unable to sustain and capitalize. What a disaster.