Crushing the Queen City: A Week 13 Analysis

What a statement. The Steelers put the rest of the AFC on notice on Sunday, as they dominated rival Cincinnati 35-7.

Many analysts speculated that this game was a real upset opportunity for the frisky Bengals, especially considering how close the first match up between these two teams was.

However, considering Cincy’s recent string of bad injury luck, and the Steelers’ finally starting to get healthy with the addition of LaMarr Woodley back to the defense, I was never too concerned about this game, clearly with good reason.

Phil Simms said it a couple of times during the game, and it really seems to hold true; the team put on a clinic in every phase of the game. The offense was efficient, the defense was stingy, and the special teams were electric.

It was an awesome team effort, but a few players stood out to my eye:

  • Antonio Brown: What more can I say about this guy? He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Steelers, and he’s been a huge part of taking this offense to the next level. His big 45-yard reception really got things moving early on, and his punt return touchdown pretty much was the final nail in the coffin for the Bengals. He’s consistently been in the top five of the conference in punt return yard average, so he deserves to finally get a few breaks to get the score. More than any other player on this team, he’s the reason this offense can be successful in the post-Ben era, as unthinkable as that thought might be. He can stretch the field, get tough possession catches, and like we saw on Sunday, even return punts or run a trick play. Who knew that all of this would come from a seventh round pick out of Central Michigan? The story is circulating that Tomlin only found this guy while scouting Dan LeFevour, and it’s a real credit to Mike that he believed in this incredible athlete.

  • James Harrison: He’s back. Left tackles beware. Although he was working against a depleted offensive line, his three sacks are a testament to the fact that Harrison is finally healthy again. He’s showing the same burst that makes him so deadly, and he showed off some fancy evasive moves in this game that he hasn’t showcased recently. It’s been really underrated exactly how much his back injury bothered him, and it’s limited him severely in recent weeks, to the point where he can bull rush, but that’s about it. He showed off that flexibility we’ve come to expect on Sunday, and this is a huge development for the defense. With Woodley’s health once again questionable, he’ll be a big part of ensuring that the unit stays strong. They’re finally starting to regress to the mean in terms of forcing turnovers, and his renewed presence will surely be a big part of that change in coming weeks.

There were a few disturbing notes from an otherwise thoroughly encouraging win. There’s of course the aforementioned uncertainty regarding Woodley (although he says he’s playing Thursday) but also how Troy was seemingly protected during the game.

They put him far away from the line of scrimmage on most plays, leaving him as a deep safety, which is hardly his traditional position on the field. He seemed to still tackle effectively, but they’re clearly concerned about his health going forward. They seem to realize that he can’t keep flying around the field on every play with his injury history, no matter how electric he may be when he does so.

The offensive line was also a little shaky, with a few injury questions arising, but this shouldn’t prove to be an issue against the Browns.

The Thursday night game against Cleveland has become a mini-tradition recently, and it normally doesn’t go well for the Steelers. However, the team insists they aren’t looking past the Browns, and giving how anemic Colt McCoy and the rest of their offense has looked recently, it shouldn’t be too tough on the team.

This is the team at the peak of their powers right now- I can’t wait to see how they use this momentum down the stretch.

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