Like the crunching of the fall leaves under your feet, or the seasonal depression, every December plays out the same way: the Steelers demolish the Bengals in a game that really could have been a lot closer if not for the fact that the Bengals were involved.
As the Steelers' defense does all the time now, they were about to give up a clock-killing scoring drive on the opponent's first possession, only this time the Bengals were determined not to let that happen. A pretty touchdown pass by Andy Dalton was called back for a false start. On his next throw, Dalton lofted one just a few fingertips too high. The Bengals drilled a field goal, only to have that waived off because they took too long. The Steelers then blocked the most obviously-going-to-be-blocked field goal ever, and it was off to the races. The Steelers went into beat-down mode. The Bungles had arrived.
As we discussed on our podcast last week after the Steelers escaped Arrowhead Stadium with a win over a lousy Chiefs team, you should never put any stock into a Steelers' performance against a bad team. The fact that the Steelers narrowly beat K.C. was meaningless; it indicated nothing about the Steelers' ability to beat a good team in the playoffs. Yesterday, on the other hand, was encouraging: the Steelers were given an opportunity to bury a feisty team, and they did.
More on the game and the final quarter of the season, after the jump...
- James Harrison has 8 sacks in 8 games, and two three-sack performances in his last 4 games. And he played the first 4 games of the season at far less than 100%. He's 33. Has any linebacker ever been as dominant at that age? Kevin Greene had 15 sacks in 15 games for Carolina at age 36, which is just absurd. Anybody else in the ballpark? With only 8 years as a regular, Harrison is a "young" 33, but his production is, by any definition, exceptional and abnormal.
- With 4 games to play, it looks like the Steelers have a real shot at having two 1,000 yard wide receivers. Currently, Mike Wallace has 977 yards and Antonio Brown has 774. And Brown has at least 67 yards receiving in each of his last 6 games.
- Here's what the Steelers might not have: a 1,000 yard rusher. Rashard Mendenhall has only 634 yards through 12 games.
- The Steelers have Cleveland coming up this Thursday, and then San Francisco the following Monday night, followed by St. Louis and then Cleveland again. We know San Francisco is good, but we also know that the Steelers always win impressively on national TV heading into the playoffs so that Chris Berman can hold both of his hands up, palms facing in with the side of the hand tapping the table, and then saying, "Don't look now...but look at the PITTSBURGH STEELERS."
|"Look ... just want to say ... look ... Pittsburgh ... look ... the Rooneys ... look ... playoffs."|
- To summarize: it's very possible that the Steelers will win their last 4 games.