Labriola on win over Bengals

Yes, it's true. Stacking wins is what's necessary at this stage of the NFL calendar. And yes, a win is a win is a win. And no, there is no bonus for style points.

But it doesn't change the impression left by what the Steelers showed in defeating the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday at Heinz Field, the leftover feeling – or is it just a hope – that this one meant a little bit more.

The final was 35-7, which is an attention-grabbing margin on its own, and these Bengals are not the slapstick crew this franchise has been known to present in many other football Decembers. The first end of this home-and-home series had been highly competitive, and it had been played recently enough to allow for meaningful comparison of the two teams. Defeating a playoff contending team by a decisive score not that long after being in a tight contest is praise-worthy.

Praise-worthy, but not as potentially significant as what the Steelers offense showed during the course of that win, because what that unit did against the Bengals is precisely what's to be required to stack some wins in the postseason.

Statistics can be a vehicle to tell any number of stories about a particular football team, but there is general agreement that two particular statistics tell the absolute truth more often than not. Those statistics would be red-zone efficiency and turnover ratio, and it was in those very areas in which the Steelers played like champions last Sunday.

When a team has a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, and it doesn't need him to have to generate every yard on every trip into the red zone, that's when an offense becomes dominant.

And the Steelers have the capability to dominate games with their offense. It starts with their quarterback, and do not undervalue Ben Roethlisberger in these red zone situations because he has everything you want physically, mentally and in terms of being a competitor to excel. The receiving options include a sure-handed tight end, a savvy veteran with a feel for the end zone, and an assortment of athletes that rivals any group in the league. Add to that a running attack commanding respect … and no turnovers …

A glorious afternoon it was last Sunday at Heinz Field, and besides the unseasonably pleasant weather, what made it so was the promise displayed by the Steelers offense.

It showed it can dominate.

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