The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday 23-20. The win puts Pittsburgh at 1-0 on the season.
This game was highlighted in the first half by Pittsburgh’s defensive proficiency. But it will forever be remembered as a game where Cincinnati long snapper Clark Harris went out of the game in the fourth quarter with an injury, leading to extra opportunities for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers offense was – to no one’s surprise – a struggle in this one. 14 drives yielded three made field goals, just one offensive touchdown and eight punts.
The bright side was it was a clean game for the offense with no turnovers. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky went 21/38 for 194 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Trubisky was also only sacked once. The QB was able to escape and make plays with his legs, utilizing his athleticism to avoid sacks and a safety.
The ground game was unable to get going in this one. Pittsburgh in total had 22 rushes for just 75 yards. Wide Receiver Chase Claypool led the team in rushing with six carries for 36 yards. Running Back Najee Harris had 10 carries for 23 yards. Harris added two receptions for three yards and one touchdown. Harris also left the game in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. The former first round pick is coming off a foot injury from training camp.
The wide receivers were quiet in this one. Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and Pat Freiermuth combined for 16 receptions for 148 yards and no scores. They did however come up with key catches throughout the game. Rookie Wide Receiver George Pickens was quiet in this one with just one catch for three yards.
This was best-case scenario for Pittsburgh offensively today. No turnovers, just one sack, and some good plays from the skill players. However, Pittsburgh will need to be able to put up more points moving forward.
What a game for the defense. Pittsburgh’s first two defensive plays were a sack by Cameron Heyward, and an interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Two drives later Alex Highsmith records a sack-fumble on Joe Burrow that was recovered by Heyward. And another two possessions later, T.J. Watt records a big tackle for loss before making an interception.
Overall the defense dominated. They had four interceptions on the day by Fitzpatrick, Watt, Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also recorded seven sacks from Highsmith (3), Watt (1), Heyward (1), Robert Spillane (1) and Arthur Maulet (1). Maulet’s might have been the biggest of the day. On 3rd & 4 from Pittsburgh’s 38 with 1:34 in overtime, Maulet strip-sacked Burrow for a loss of seven yards. Forcing Cincinnati to punt, instead of attempt a game-tying field goal.
Pittsburgh also showed improvement from their last-ranked run defense last year. The Bengals ran the ball 34 times for just 133 yards for an average of less than four yards-per-carry (YPC). Burrow was a big part of saving that number (six rushes for 47 yards) late in the game when the Steelers were focused on not giving up big plays.
Pittsburgh’s defense kept them in this one. And that will be the name of the game for them this season. They probably won’t create five turnovers and seven sacks every week, but if the offense can do enough to capitalize on games like today, we could see the Steelers squeak out a few unexpected wins.
Here’s where things got juicy. As mentioned Cincinnati Long Snapper Clark Harris left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. This became key when the Bengals tied the game at 20 with five seconds left in the game. The backup snapper Mitchell Wilcox struggled in his last-minute assignment.
Wilcox delivered a slow snap on the game-winning extra point attempt, leading to a block by Fitzpatrick. Then in overtime a high snap led to a poor hold and missed field goal from the 29-yard line that would have again won the game. Giving the Steelers the chances they needed to pull out the victory.
Kicker Chris Boswell went three-for-four on the day with a long of 53 yards for the victory.
Punter Pressley Harvin III had a nice day with eight punts for an average of 48.5 yards per attempt. He also had one punt go out of bounds at the 10 yard line.
Pittsburgh gets an all important win in the record books and in the division. Stealing a game as a road, divisional underdog is a great way to start the season.
However the team has a few looming injuries hanging over them. Watt left the game with a reported pec injury which could be torn. Harris also seemed to suffer a lower leg injury – potentially re-aggravating his foot. Harris was able to return to the sideline, but Watt went straight for the locker room and did not return.
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