ReFo: Bengals @ Steelers, Week 17

The Steelers beat the Bengals to wrap up the AFC North title in the final regular season game of 2014 and Ben Stockwell breaks down the big performances.

| 2 years ago

ReFo: Bengals @ Steelers, Week 17

2014-REFO-WK17-CIN@PITThe regular season drew to a close last night with the Pittsburgh Steelers clinching the tight race for the AFC North with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals who have led the division for much of the season. Jumping out to a first half lead the Steelers always had enough in hand to keep the Bengals at bay through the second half with Antonio Brown emphasizing his position among the league’s elite with the score that capped off the win.

The Bengals prize for dropping to second place in the division is a trip to face a Colts team that beat them 27-0 in Indianapolis back in Week 7. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but the combination of that and last night’s defeat along with their recent track record in the playoffs should see them enter that game as unfancied underdogs with something to prove.

Cincinnati Bengals – Performances of Note

George Iloka, FS: -1.8

Breakdown: This has been a strong second season as a starter for Iloka with clear progress shown on a solid first season in 2013 however it ended on a sour note for him and the team. Earning only his second game grade below -1.0 of the season. Iloka missed a trio of tackles (having missed only six in the first 15 games), two of them in the first 20 minutes of the game on Le’Veon Bell.

Signature Play: The third came on Antonio Brown’s game-clinching touchdown, getting beaten back to the inside to allow Brown to break upfield for the score.

Andrew Whitworth, LT: +2.3

Breakdown: Not many pass protectors have relished facing the Steelers over the years, but Andrew Whitworth has made a habit out of keeping the likes of James Harrison at bay. He continued last night, surrendering no pressure for the third time in 12 games against the Steelers since moving to left tackle in 2009. Whitworth finishes the season having surrendered only 9 pressures (1 Ht, 8 Hu) in 533 snaps in pass protection.

Signature Stat: In Whitworth’s 12 starts against the Steelers since 2009 (one at left guard last year) Whitworth has surrendered only 14 pressures and has a pass protection grade of +12.8 in those games.

Geno Atkins, DT: -0.1

Breakdown: Returning to his pre-injury form has been a tough ask for Geno Atkins this year, who has only flashed the sort of performances we saw from him as a matter of routine in 2012 and 2013. His characteristic performances are as a destructive interior pass rusher as we saw from Week 5 to Week 9, but since then he has graded above 0.0 as a pass rusher only once (at Tampa Bay in Week 13) and last night failed to replicate the strong game as a run defender that he produced first time around against the Steelers in Week 14.

Signature Stat: Even in a disappointing season by his recent standards Atkins still earned the 14th highest pass rush grade among defensive tackles with 40 total pressures (3 Sk, 4 Ht, 33 Hu).

Pittsburgh Steelers – Performances of Note

Kelvin Beachum, LT: +2.5

Breakdown: One of the league’s best this season, Beachum rounded out a strong second season as a full time starter with his fifth clean sheet of the season in pass protection. Beachum translated a strong second half to last season into a full season of top quality work playing his part in the improvement of the Steelers’ offensive line that has allowed the passing game to flourish.

Signature Stat: Finishes the regular season in fourth place in our Pass Blocking Efficiency metric and by grade in pass protection; the AFC North provides three of the top four (Beachum, Whitworth and Joe Thomas) in each category.

Brice McCain, CB: +2.1

Breakdown: Deputizing for Ike Taylor, McCain picked off more passes than he allowed A.J. Green to catch on targets into his coverage, winning that battle 2-to-1. There was an element of good fortune in both of his interceptions, particularly the second coming by way of an errant pass with Green open in front of him, but Green generated his production against other coverage defenders with only a 10 yard grab coming against McCain.

Signature Play: His first interception at Q1 8.35 owed much to A.J. Green and Andy Dalton not being on the same page but McCain still earns credit for staying disciplined against the double move to leave Green covered, contributing to Green’s decision not to continue the route.

Ryan Shazier, ILB: -1.0

Breakdown: The Steelers first round pick hasn’t started since Week 9 against the Ravens but since his return in Week 15 he has gradually increased his playing time and could be in line for a return to the starting lineup when the Ravens visit once against next Saturday. Though Sean Spence got the start Shazier played more snaps (37 to 27) for the second straight week with Vince Williams’ playing time reduced to seven snaps having played at least 30 in the previous three games.

Signature Stat: Shazier rounded out his injury hit rookie regular season having played 259 snaps, but a strong contribution to a Steelers playoff run could yet turn that around.

PFF Game Ball

With big plays at either end of the game Antonio Brown was ultimately the difference in the game capping off a spectacular regular season by powering the Steelers to the AFC North crown.


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Jason Williams

    If Bell is hurt, Pittsburgh isn’t going anywhere.

    • Mister Wirez

      Bull…. Bell will be out one week (at most). Plus, the Steelers have more than enough weapons to bake a filthy ratbird..

      • Izach

        Have to say without bell it doesn’t look good ravens get ngata back too let’s hope bell plays but maybe on a snap count till we have a lead or something

      • Izach

        Also 1 week is all you get in playoffs if you lose

      • Nick

        Ratbird? You mean the Ravens who going to smack the Steelers this week. Man I can’t wait for Justin Forsett to run all over the steelers for about two TDs and our Front Seven get at Ben for about four sacks.

        • Mister Wirez

          Me neither. The dirt birds are 0-3 vs Pittsburgh in the Playoffs. Flaccid will be the one running… For his life

          • Nick

            Yeah, will see

          • Nick

            What happen to the steelers…ohh that’s right The Ravens whooped the bum ass steelers in their stadium. Our Front Seven got the job done.

    • Dan

      The Steelers are 5-3 this season when rushing for less than 100 yards.

      • Izach

        But in those games what is bell production receiving? Over half his cathes are basicly run play or check downs that we can’t run with any other RB. Bells impact goes beyond rushing yards, he’s also the best short yardage back we’ve had prolly since the BUS, and he blocks well on Big Bens pass plays before leaking out to become a check down option

        • Dan

          5 receptions for 48 yards at Baltimore (loss)
          6 receptions for 48 yards vs Tampa Bay (loss)
          8 receptions for 88 yards and a TD vs Houston (win)
          5 receptions for 38 yards and a TD vs Baltimore (win)
          8 receptions for 33 yards at New York Jets (loss)
          5 receptions for 72 yards at Atlanta (win)
          1 reception for 9 yards vs Kansas City (win)
          6 receptions for 80 yards vs Cincinnati (win)

          There’s no correlation that I can see.

          • Izach

            you aren’t very good at this are you? In all those losses bell was held in check in in most of those wins he made up for lack of rushing with his recieving, only exception was Chiefs game where Big Ben had a field day passing because Chiefs over committed to stopping bell. In 2 of those losses haley/Big Ben didn’t incorporate bell enough yet Blount was still on time and turned in less productive play than bell and offense couldn’t get going. The threat of bell in the recieving game helped us win each of those games we didn’t Rush for over 100yards.
            You have to look at how the flow of each of those games went not just the stat lines. I’ll repeat, in those losses bell was held in hose wins he wasn’t, Chiefs game to stop him they Ben had good game

          • Dan

            I’m better at “this” than you are, asshole. you asked what Le’Veon Bell’s production was in the passing game, and I gave you his goddamn production in the passing game, so quit moving the fucking goalposts like the losers of arguments always do.

            By the way, Bell averaged more catches in the losses (6.3) than he did in the wins (5.0), so it wasn’t a matter of fewer opportunities in the passing game. The only correlation is receiving yards, and most of what Bell gets is YAC, which is beyond the control of the QB.

            Last time the Steelers played the Ravens, Bell provided a whopping 58 yards from scrimmage: 20 on the ground and 38 in the air. The Steelers won in a blowout anyway. That proves they can damn well survive an off night by Bell. Now run along, son.

          • Izach

            I’ll also point to the fact that he also scored a TD in that game. And production is more than just catches and yards you must look at impact on the game which stats can’t show. In those games we won bell had key plays. In key moments and the threat of him doing that opened the game up for others. As a steelers fan I know we can still win without bell but it’s much more difficult without him.

          • Izach

            Watch the language man, just cuz you are wrong doesn’t mean you can use abusive language like a child

          • Dan

            You deserve all the abusive language I direct at you, considering you a) insulted me first (“You aren’t very good at this, are you?”), and b) didn’t even TRY rebutting me before proclaiming that I’m wrong, even though I’m the ONLY one who’s come to the table with any facts here. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

            The facts illustrate that Le’Veon Bell has been a key component in some wins by the Steelers, but virtually a non-factor in other wins. Meanwhile, there was only one game this season in which Roethlisberger had a substandard performance and the Steelers still won. That means the team is much more dependent on him than anybody else, like it or not. The Steelers still have a chance without Bell; they have little or chance without Roethlisberger. If you can’t stomach that knowledge, then I encourage you to take it in suppository form.

          • Izach

            honestly I can’t even remeber your point, mine was the steelers are better with le’veon bell, 40%of there offense goes through him. If you are trying to say can do it by himself Your not wrong either but bell was much more important than you seem to realize. Like I said without bell consistently beating his man in coverage Ben wouldn’t have had the same type of performance. You can’t just replace bell production, can we win without it of course, but I wouldn’t place it all on Ben like you are if I had choice.

          • Izach

            Also that wasn’t an insult but an observation, you didn’t see correlation between bells production in in those wins so that was on you buddy. And I had already explained in detail what was wrong with your idea that bell doesn’t matter. Several times now as well. I still think steelers will win but not by as much and not as convincingly as we would have with bell.

          • Izach

            Watch the language man, just cuz you are wrong doesn’t mean you can use abisive language like a child.

          • Izach

            Also he basic correlation is in those the 5 won bell was 4-1 for good games receiving, the games was lost he was 0-3 in good games recieving kinda shows some correlation doesn’t it?

  • Football

    Roethlisberger is the best QB in the NFL. Doesn’t get help from refs, calls his own plays, and is incredibly productive.

    Only idiots who love ESPN can’t see this.

    • Mark P

      Roethlisberger calls few of his own plays, even in the no huddle.

      • Mister Wirez

        See what a good O-line can do for a QB? Big Ben would probably have another SB ring or two, if not for the crappy lines the Steelers have had since around Cowher’s last year or so. Ben will be paid BIG $$$ after this record breaking season, and will be the highest paid QB again on his probably last Steeler contract. The O-line will extend Bens career too. Its a shame the Steelers didn’t extend no.7’s contract last year. Oh well good for him.

        Go Steelers!

        • Mike

          I sure hope not. Ben should follow team leaders such as Brady and take a cap friendly deal. After the star qb eats up all the cap space the rest of the team tanks due to letting go some of there best players. ex. flacco, ryan, brees and rodgers to a lesser extent

          • Mister Wirez

            Yeah, I hear that, and I agree 100%. That’s why I thought the Steelers would have been smart to sign BB7 before the 2014 season. I also remember hearing an interview Kevin Colbert during training camp, and was asked about BR and no new contract. Colbert said he; “hopes #7 has a huge league leading year, and that’s a good problem to have with your QB”, and I see his point.. BUT

            -Watch what you wish for Kevin.. It is Big $$$ for league leading, veteran, franchise NFL QB’s.

            The Steelers still need money and few pieces for a dominant championship team. Mostly on Defense… CB’s, OLB’s, TE, Safety and a consistent Punter.

            Especially with next years incredibly tough schedule.

          • Izach

            What tough schedule are you talking about?

          • Mister Wirez
          • Izach

            I guess it’s tough but only the Seahawks and patriots are really that bad, everyone else should be wins if Pittsburgh plays up to their potential instead of down to the opponent, maybe the Broncos game depending on our defense but I think the AFC north with do what they did to NFC south to the AFC west next year.

          • Izach

            Cap friendly and taking less money aren’t he same, if Pittsburgh extends Ben again I’m sure they’ll do it like Brady, Brady gets paid upfront for seasons he hasn’t played yet that way the patriots can spread the “cap hit” out over years. Looks like less money but in actuality he is getting an advance

      • Dan

        Source, please.

        • Izach

          It is commons knowledge that haley gives Ben audibles or freedom to call a read play but Ben doesn’t call his own play every time like manning does. Actually this year we have done better when haley calls the plays and you can tell because Bens play calls Are always quick slants to brown outside of that it’s usually haley

  • Izach

    Was actually surprised Ilokas grade was so low, I remember seeing him everywhere, making tackles and plays throughout but I guess his missed tackle on Browns TD cost him a good game