It wasn’t long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were perhaps the NFL’s most exciting team. Heck, just last season they threw for more than 5,000 yards.
There was nothing exciting about Monday night’s game. Le’Veon Bell hasn’t played here since the 2017 season. Antonio Brown was traded after last season. Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season with an elbow injury. The Steelers can’t be the same fast-break offense. The talent isn’t there for it.
What the Steelers were on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals is what they’ll have to be the rest of the season. They had a lot of short passes with Mason Rudolph. They got creative with some wildcat formations, snapping directly to the running back. They ran safe plays and relied on defense. The casual fan probably turned the game off at halftime, if not before.
The Steelers will make no apologies. A win is a win, and Pittsburgh needed one badly. The 27-3 win over the Bengals doesn’t fix everything, but it’s better than being 0-4. It was boring, but it worked.
Steelers were conservative but effective
Pittsburgh almost won last week with a hyper-conservative game plan, though the five turnovers coughed up by the San Francisco 49ers was the biggest reason that game was close. The Steelers talked about opening up the offense this week, but that really didn’t happen.
Rudolph was happy throwing it short, mostly to running backs. Running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels had 16 of Rudolph’s 27 completions. Finally in the third quarter Rudolph threw one deep and rookie Diontae Johnson was wide open for a 43-yard score and a 24-3 lead. Perhaps the Bengals didn’t cover Johnson because they didn’t expect Rudolph to throw one more than 5 yards downfield.
The defense took care of the rest. New Bengals coach Zac Taylor was supposed to bring some Sean McVay magic with him to Cincinnati, but that hasn’t happened. The Bengals got very little going. The offensive line couldn’t protect Andy Dalton, who Pittsburgh sacked eight times. They fell to 0-4. The Steelers defense deserves a lot of credit. They were aggressive, unlike the offense, and produced a lot of big plays ... unlike the offense.
This is what we’re going to get out of the 2019 Steelers. If it leads to more wins, Pittsburgh won’t complain.
Pittsburgh happy to get first win
Pittsburgh isn’t in good shape, even after a win helped them improve to 1-3. Very few 0-3 teams rebound to make the playoffs. Losing Roethlisberger in Week 2 made the road even harder than it usually is for an 0-3 team.
But things can change fast in the NFL. The Steelers are just a game back of the 2-2 Browns and 2-2 Ravens, who are tied for first place in the AFC North. The Steelers’ pulse might be faint but it’s still there.
And the Steelers showed their new formula for winning games. Conner and Samuels will be heavily involved. Rudolph will be asked to make one or two big plays a game, and the rest of the time he’ll play it safe. The defense is going to have to carry more than its share of the load.
The Steelers have played grind-it-out football before and won games. They don’t have much choice this season.
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