By Ray Porter Jr.
CINCINNATI, OH–In their first game since the dismissal of Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, the Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious as they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-10 at Paycor Stadium.
“We’re excited about the victory. It wasn’t an easy day,” said Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin. “We hung together and fought. Field position was a component of the first half. We gave up a kickoff return to midfield; we had two touchbacks on punt circumstances when we had the chance to put them on a long field. We had some penalties in the punt return game. The field positioning component made it more uncomfortable than it should have been.”
The Steelers & Canada parted ways November 21st following their 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns with the goal of better production on offense, and it manifested vs. the Bengals as they produced over 400 yards (421) for the first time in 58 regular-season games.
“I thought we spread the ball around, we changed things up schematically with different launch points. We attacked down the field early when they were in split safeties,” Tomlin said. “We weren’t going to let them sit in that comfortably all day. We did what we needed to do.”
With RB Coach Eddie Faulkner & QBs Coach Mike Sullivan handed the Coordinating duties, the Steelers produced a very productive game from QB Kenny Pickett (24/33, 278 yards) as he utilized his offensive weapons by spreading the ball around to his pass-catchers–particularly TE Pat Freiermuth as he caught 9 passes for a career-high 120 yards. Freiermuth was also very effective in catching the ball in the middle of the field-something the Steelers had rarely done in previous games. WRs George Pickens (3 Rec, 58 yards) and Diontae Johnson (4 Rec, 50) yards also caught key passes from Pickett.
“Sometimes coverage dictates that. Pat’s first week back was last week. He was out an extended period of time. It was more of a reflection of him and Kenny (Pickett) getting back on things. When (Freiermuth) is on, he really makes a difference,” Tomlin said.
For the 3rd consecutive game, the Steelers rushed for over 100 yards, thanks to 99 yards from RB Najee Harris & 49 from Jaylen Warren. Harris would produce the Steelers only TD as he scored on a 5-yard run which gave them a 10-7 lead. K Chris Boswell accounted for the other points as he kicked 3 field goals.
“I thought maybe Diontae Johnson scored on that one, but then we fumbled a few plays later. We have to take care of the football — we lost points there. I don’t know if the score was reflective of how we were operating. But that’s football, that’s how things go, and we did what we needed to do to win the game. I’m appreciative of the efforts,” Tomlin commented.
The Steelers’ defense was also very productive as they held the Bengals to 10 points and kept the pressure on Bengals QB Jake Browning (19/26, 227 yards, TD, INT) sacking him 4 times (2 by LB TJ Watt) and intercepting him once (by DB Trenton Thompson) Browning was able to get the Bengals (5-6) into the endzone on an 11-yard pass to TE Drew Sample, which gave them a 7-3 2nd quarter lead.
“One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. Efforts like Trent’s today make that real. We’re really appreciative of it. I think it’s what team is about, particularly over the course of the journey that is the season. There’s going to be opportunities for people to ascend and change the perceptions of who they are professionally. This guy has been excited about his opportunity and we’re excited for him. He delivered.”
At 7-4 the Steelers will now return home to play the 2-10 Arizona Cardinals next Sunday and then 4 days later (Thursday Night) against the 2-9 New England Patriots. Regardless of their opponents’ records, the Steelers know they need to get wins-without underestimating them.
“AFC North football, road venue — I’m appreciative of the win today and the efforts that produced it… “I’m happy that we won. We’ll keep pushing,” Tomlin responded.
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