Who knew the Cincinnati Bengals had been the silver bullet for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023?
The final time the Steelers and Bengals performed one another was in Week 12, a recreation the Steelers received 16-10 and had 421 yards of whole offense, snapping a 58-game streak of not gaining greater than 400 yards , breakthroughs.
Then, on Saturday in Week 16, the Steelers snapped a three-game dropping streak in spectacular trend. Veteran backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, in his first begin because the 2021 season, lit up the Bengals because the Steelers’ protection put an finish to the Jake Browning hype prepare in spectacular trend, resulting in essentially the most full recreation the Steelers have seen in a while have performed. beneath head coach Mike Tomlin.
Rudolph threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns, much-maligned extensive receiver George Pickens had a monster recreation, and a brief protection allowed Eric Rowe on the follow squad to choose off a go as a part of an evening that featured three Browning turnovers.
Sorry for the exaggerated pun, however there is not any denying it: Rudolph saved Christmas for the Steelers.
Let’s go to some numbers.
What a efficiency from Rudolph simply two days earlier than Christmas. As issues picked up pace for the Steelers, Mike Tomlin turned to Rudolph, and just like the well-known reindeer, Rudolph put in a giant efficiency earlier than Christmas, main the Steelers’ sleigh to a powerful victory.
Rudolph got here out firing – actually. His first go was an 86-yard landing to Pickens on a slant route. Later, he dropped a dime to Pickens for a 66-yard landing and simply seemed good all recreation.
He accomplished 17 of 27 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He stood within the pocket, shot everywhere in the discipline, threw with good accuracy and seemed actually poised. His solely actual miss was a deep shot to Diontae Johnson within the second half that he threw simply too far out.
When he wasn’t throwing the ball and slinging the tablet in actually spectacular trend, Rudolph confirmed some severe fireplace. On a 7-yard carry that moved the chains within the pink zone, he took on defenders and did a form of John Elway transfer, diving over a defender and piloting a semi-helicopter, leaving every little thing on the road to maneuver the chains.
The boys actually appeared to rally round him, and his efficiency helped rather a lot.
The numbers might not be that spectacular, however it was an important night time for Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
Harris rushed for 78 yards and a landing on 19 carries. His longest run of the night time was solely 13 yards, however he was a hammer for the Steelers. He ran arduous all night time, had good imaginative and prescient and steadiness and actually bounced again from a tough efficiency towards the Indianapolis Colts per week in the past.
Harris had a three-yard landing run to make it 21-0 within the second quarter, exhibiting nice problem in advancing the ball and breaking the airplane. General it was very stable.
Warren additionally had a pleasant night. He had simply 24 yards on eight carries, however added 30 receptions on 5 receptions. His whole of 54 yards on the night time helped him eclipse his season whole of 1,000 yards, changing into solely the second undrafted free agent ever to perform the feat for the Steelers, becoming a member of Willie Parker.
Warren made headlines Saturday night time together with his monstrous block on Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt throughout Calvin Austin III’s 7-yard landing run. He completely shut down the veteran linebacker. That is the way you throw a block for a teammate!
After coming beneath fireplace all week for his lack of effort towards the Colts on a block, after which making some questionable feedback that generated much more headlines and led to move coach Mike Tomlin having to handle the media once more, George Pickens had a profession night. towards the Bengalis.
The sophomore receiver hauled in 4 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on an 86-yard catch-and-run on the Steelers’ second play from scrimmage after which had a 66-yard landing within the third quarter. He additionally had a 44-yard catch within the second quarter, organising a Chris Boswell discipline objective to present the Steelers a 24–0 lead at halftime.
Along with Pickens, Allen Robinson II had a powerful night time. He caught all 4 targets for 36 yards, making some key performs early for the Steelers when the offense was in bother. He hasn’t been used a lot within the passing video games this season, however he was dependable on Saturday.
Diontae Johnson solely had two receptions for 15 yards, however he had a giant third-down catch alongside the sideline that was contested and moved the chains. His night time would have been even greater if Rudolph had hit him with a deep ball within the third quarter after burning Mike Hilton out of the slot.
Calvin Austin III did not have a reception that night time, however he ought to have been assessed a go interference penalty on a deep ball from Rudolph. Though the ball was undercut, Hilton clearly contacted Austin early, stopping him from making a play. Nevertheless, he had a 7-yard dashing landing on a jet sweep.
Little or no affect within the passing recreation for the tight ends, which was a bit disappointing contemplating the dominance Pat Freiermuth had within the final recreation. But it surely did not matter to the Steelers’ offense.
Darnell Washington had the lone reception for Steelers tight ends, hauling in an 8-yard go from Rudolph. Washington additionally had a pleasant block on Austin’s dashing landing, as did Freiermuth, who had a pleasant kickout block.
The tight ends have been criticized from a blocking perspective in latest weeks, however they responded to that on Saturday.
Robust efficiency from the Steelers offensive line towards the Bengals. It was. Additionally a pleasant restoration for the group.
The Steelers allowed only one sack, which was extra about Rudolph sliding into the sack than the offensive line dropping to the rep. Pittsburgh additionally allowed simply three quarterback hits that night time.
Within the run recreation, the road did fairly nicely, serving to the Steelers rush for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Though they solely averaged 3.8 yards per carry, it was a constant dashing efficiency for the Steelers.
Dan Moore Jr. was awarded a foolish penalty for holding within the first half. It was very clear he landed on Trey Hendrickson, and no maintain in any respect. Robust night for the group usually. Very encouraging.
After struggling towards the run in latest weeks, the Steelers’ defensive position bounced again properly, holding the Bengals to only 59 yards on the bottom on 16 carries and limiting them to three.7 yards per carry. The Steelers made the Bengals one-dimensional early and actually obtained after the run.
Larry Ogunjobi had two tackles within the win, whereas Isaiahh Loudermilk had a quarterback hit. Cameron Heyward was stored off the stat sheet, however he managed the road of scrimmage all through the sport. Even Armon Watts flashed as a go rusher at instances and obtained good strain on the pocket.
It was a quiet however impactful night from the defensive position usually.
The Steelers took one other huge blow towards the Bengals on the inside linebacker place, dropping Elandon Roberts to a pectoral damage that seems to be fairly severe. Nevertheless, to the Steelers’ credit score, the depth has elevated considerably.
Mykal Walker led the Steelers with eight tackles and a deal with for loss within the win, whereas Myles Jack – who made his debut in 2023 after being undrafted from the follow squad – had seven tackles and a giant sack. He additionally nearly had an interception, however could not get down on the tipped go. He seemed good for the Steelers. He’s wholesome, in form and performed nicely.
Earlier than getting injured, Roberts had 5 tackles. We’ll see if the Steelers can soak up this blow as nicely.
Outdoors, TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith had been unbelievable.
Highsmith had a sack and a key interception. The interception ended any comeback try for the Bengals, as he made an enormous play, dropped into protection and made a diving catch to create the turnover. His pocket was a factor of magnificence that raced over the rim and Orlando Brown Jr. defeated with an important ghost transfer for the pocket.
Watt made the correct deal with. Jonah Williams passes your entire recreation. He had a sack whereas receiving a holding penalty, took quite a few different pressures and had a second holding name within the second half. He was his standard dominant self, particularly when the Steelers wanted it most.
Nick Herbig had three tackles in restricted enjoying time, whereas Markus Golden had two tackles. Herbig gave Tyler Boyd a reception within the man protection, though that is not a matchup the Steelers ought to be calling on.
It isn’t usually that the Steelers security tandem will get an interception throughout a recreation, however that is what Patrick Peterson and Eric Rowe did on Saturday. Peterson took a lame duck off a Jake Browning throw in the long run zone within the first quarter after which Rowe picked him off on a shaky throw within the second quarter.
Rowe performed very nicely in his first recreation motion with the Steelers. He had seven tackles and seemed fairly good all recreation. Very encouraging. Nevertheless, he took a nasty angle on Tee Higgins’ 81-yard landing, permitting the Bengals receiver to run straight by way of zone protection for the massive landing.
Peterson additionally stored the ball safely beneath management and added two tackles.
Joey Porter Jr. was once more shut down on the nook, though he acquired one other holding penalty, giving him 13 on the yr. He performed fairly nicely in man protection towards Higgins, limiting him all recreation. He was closely credited with a turnover on downs in a botched completion towards Higgins in the long run zone within the first half, retaining the Bengals off the board.
Levi Wallace nearly had an interception within the first half, leaping a route. He completed with 5 tackles. Chandon Sullivan performed nicely within the slot with 5 tackles and actually gave the Steelers helpful reps.
Particular groups — B-
Chris Boswell had one other robust night time for the Steelers, connecting on each discipline objectives within the win. He hit from 50 and 30 yards that night time and scored all 4 further factors after lacking one within the loss to the Colts final week. He has been nice all season and Saturday night time was no completely different.
Pressley Harvin III did a wonderful job of holding on to one in all Boswell’s discipline objectives and digging out a nasty snap from lengthy snapper Christian Kurtz to maintain the operation on observe. Within the punt recreation, nonetheless, Harvin struggled. He averaged simply 38.8 yards on 5 punts. He had kicks of 42, 35, 38, 39 and 40 yards. Simply not adequate from an NFL punter.
He’s so inconsistent and Saturday was one other present of that.