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Haden: 'We can be special'

Posted Oct 23, 2017

Defense thinking big after dominating Bengals.

After dismantling Cincinnati, the talk wasn’t about what the Steelers’ defense had just done as much as it was how dominating a unit the Steelers’ defense can become.

“We’re growing into a great defense,” inside linebacker Ryan Shazier insisted after the Bengals had been tamed, 29-14, on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field. “We want to be the best in the world. We want to be one of the best defenses that plays every Sunday.

“I think we’re growing every week. Everybody’s getting a better understanding of the defense and it’s allowing us to play at a really high level.”

A week after limiting the Chiefs to 13 points and 251 total net yards, the Steelers suffocated the Bengals to the tune of 14 points allowed and 179 total net yards surrendered.

Cincinnati managed one first down, gained 19 yards, turned the ball over twice and allowed four sacks in the second half.

The Bengals’ offensive struggled actually began on their last possession of the second quarter.

Cincinnati took over at its 25-yard line with 1:50 remaining before the break after the Steelers had taken a 17-14 lead, but was unable to generate a first down.

The Bengals wound up punting the ball back to the Steelers with 1:35 left in the quarter and the Steelers wound up kicking another field goal on the last play of the half for a 20-16 advantage.

“We can be really, really good,” cornerback Joe Haden maintained. “I think we can be special. We have the players at every position. As long as we just keep wanting it, keep wanting to be hungry for it and never getting satisfied, and I don’t feel like we have that in this room.

“The Steelers, not never, but in the last couple years haven’t really been know for the defense. It’s been the offense, and we have players in here that don’t really like that. Shazier, myself, (defensive end Cam) Heyward, (safety) Mike ‘Mitch’ (Mitchell), we want to be known as back to the way it used to be on the defensive side. We’re working towards that.”

Added Heyward: “The second half we challenged ourselves, and I thought we delivered. We can play better in the first half. Our mistakes in the first half, that was just mental errors on our part, and that’s stuff we can clean up. We can take this and grow from this.”

CAMPAIGNING FOR ROOSEVELT: The Steelers relied heavily upon and got a lot of mileage from two-tight ends sets.

They turned to Xavier Grimble to work with Jessie James after Vance McDonald (knee) got hurt, such was the commitment to what turned out to be an important component of the offense.

“Very, whether throwing the ball or running it,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger confirmed. “A lot of times, two tight ends brings ‘Rosey’ (fullback Roosevelt Nix) in the game, as well. And I don’t think he gets nearly the credit he deserves.

“It’s a thankless job that he’s doing and he’s doing it very, very well.”

Running back Le’Veon Bell carried 35 times for 134 yards on the ground, with significant chunks of that amassed, in part, thanks to Nix’s handiwork.

“Roosevelt Nix, out fullback, is the best fullback in the world,” Bell proclaimed. “I was just watching him hit guys all day. Near the end of the third quarter, they weren’t filling the holes as aggressively as they were in the first quarter and the second quarter.

“That’s just the offensive line and ‘Rosey’ wearing those guys out over the course of the game.”

THE BELL TOLLS: Bell carried 35 times after running the ball 32 times in Kansas City. The 35 rushes matched Bell’s season-high total (35 on Oct. 1 at Baltimore) but he was adamant afterward that he can handle such a workload as many times as it takes the rest of the way.

“How many more games do we have?’ Bell said. “No, for real, how many more games do we have, nine? At least nine.”

STICK WITH WHAT WORKS: Up-back Robert Golden’s pass to uncovered gunner Darrius Heyward-Bey from punt formation on fourth-and-7 from the Steelers’ 40 was more effective than it was artistic.

But no one was complaining after a 44-yard gain to the Cincinnati 16.

“Horrible form,” Roethlisberger joked. “It told him it looked like he was casting, like in deep-sea fishing. But hey, it might have been the best pass of the night, so I told him ‘good job.’”

Golden, a safety by trade, last completed a pass on a fake punt in September of 2014 at Cleveland (25 yards).

“I told him, ‘If it’s not broke, we’re not going to try to fix it,’” Golden said of his replay to Roethlisberger.

HE SAID IT: “It’s hard to win AFC North games, so when you do you appreciate them. You just gotta appreciate it but understand the job’s not done yet. We still play every team (in the division) again. Right now we’re only 3-0 (in division games). Let’s go 3-0 again.” _ Heyward.