Postgame Takes

Steelers bop Bengals, get to 2-0


Steelers' record: 2-0
One year ago: 1-1
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 59-35


Getting off to a good start was something of an emphasis for the Steelers ever since their 2015 season ended with a loss in the AFC Divisional Round to the Broncos. That game was played in Denver, and the Steelers set out this season to try to put themselves in the position of being able to host playoff games instead of having to be the team on the road.

Hosting the defending AFC North champion Bengals during the second week of the season provided an early test for that plan, and the fact the Bengals had won five of the previous 12 games at Heinz Field added a little extra importance to this matchup.

This game also served as the first time these two teams met on the field – as opposed to sniping back and forth on social media – since the AFC Wild Card Round game last January in December that deteriorated into a brawl ruined by penalties and cheap shots. The NFL had alerted both teams that it planned to pay special attention to the goings-on here, and there was some opinion that things would be calmer as a result of Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict being suspended for the first three games of this regular season as a result of his on-field conduct in that game back in January.


Game action from Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers managed to do enough to pull out a 24-16 victory, which made them 2-0 at the start of a season for the first time since 2010, when they finished 12-4, won the division and advanced to Super Bowl XLV. And there was little of the pro wrestling type foolishness that characterized that Wild Card Round game, with the teams combining for only 10 penalties – five apiece – with the Bengals edging the Steelers in personal fouls, 1-0.

Control of the line of scrimmage often is indicative of the outcome of the game, and Coach Mike Tomlin said beforehand that the one statistic – besides the final score and the turnover ratio – that would be the best indication of the final score would be average yards per carry for both teams.

"Our ability to win the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense usually sets the pace in terms of which quarterback has a leg up when the ballgame ultimately comes down to how they operate," said Tomlin. "We've got Ben. They've got Andy. I'm sure they feel just as good about their signal-caller as we do about ours. The team that controls the line of scrimmage is going to put that signal-caller in the driver's seat as the game continues to unfold."

The Steelers finished with 124 yards rushing and a 3.4 average, while the Bengals finished with 46 yards rushing and a 2.6 average. Each quarterback was sacked once. The closeness of those numbers served as a reflection of the closeness of the final score.


In rushing for 94 yards on 32 carries, Le'Veon Bell was held to 1 yard or less on 16 of those attempts.

In victories over the Redskins and Bengals, the Steelers defense has allowed those offenses to convert 7-of-26 on third downs (26.9 percent), 1-for-3 on fourth downs (33.3 percent), 1-for-7 in the red zone (14.3 percent), and 1-for-3 in goal-to-go (33.3 percent).

Coming into this season, the Steelers looked to be in a situation where their offense could be lacking the kind of production they had been used to getting from the tight ends. Heath Miller had retired, and Ladarius Green, signed as an unrestricted free agent to pick up that slack, is on the physically unable to perform list.

But through two games, the tight ends have made their presence known, and mostly in a positive fashion. Of Ben Roethlisberger's six touchdown passes so far, two have gone to tight ends – one to Xavier Grimble and one to Jesse James, and the 10 catches those players have combined for so far are surpassed only by Antonio Brown's 12.

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