Steelers Vs. Bengals: First Half Notes - Pittsburgh Leads 10-7 At Halftime

After one half, the Pittsburgh Steelers lead division rival Cincinnati Bengals, 10-7. Pittsburgh is eying the AFC North crown after taking out the Baltimore Ravens last week. 

  • Huge pass interference call on Pittsburgh corner Ike Taylor on the Bengals' first drive. He and Chad Ochocinco were jostling for position the whole way, but Taylor was getting as grabby as the TSA. Although it was only a 19-yard penalty, it gave Cincinnati the ball on Pittsburgh's goal line. They scored on the next play, as Carson Palmer dumped it off in play action to tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was lined up as an eligible receiver. Obviously, you never like to see the opposition score against the Steelers, but it's still kind of cool to see someone that size in the end zone.
  • What is with Michael Jordan's 'stache (video)? I can only assume Hanes ran a focus group where someone was like, "I really like your underwear...but I'd feel much better about buying it from someone who looked like Hitler." 
  • In the play-by-play, it'll come up as a 9-yard gain from Ben Roethlisberger to Rashard Mendenhall, but their improvised flea flicker was really something to behold. When Mendenhall hit the hole, then chucked it back to his quarterback, Roethlisberger was already swarmed by opposing defenders. He broke at least two tackles, and managed to chuck it back to Mendenhall - it's like the two were playing catch in the back yard - who spun away from a defender and almost converted for the first down. Well done, gentlemen. Just we drew it up.
  • If there was a league-wide competition for most injuries, you can bet the Steelers and the Bengals would be topping the list. Can't help but sympathize with Pittsburgh's division rival when you look at how truly extensive their injury report really is. Sheesh. 
  • Thank goodness safety Troy Polamalu scored on his interception return (video), because Pittsburgh's offense sure wasn't getting it done. Although he came up limping after the play, I'd be surprised if it was anything more than a bruised knee - on the replay, nothing bent, twisted, or sustained any sort of visible impact. Definitely not the first time (video) Polamalu's gotten the best of Carson Palmer, his former USC roommate. Could this mark the second week in a row that Polamalu single-handedly secures a Steelers win? We'll see.
  • With all the coverage sacks this season, it's getting more difficult for me to blame Roethlisberger for holding onto the ball for too long - a huge part of his game, regardless - and more tempting for me to wonder if his receivers just aren't getting open downfield. I can't tell you how many times opposing teams have rushed just three or four, dropped everyone into coverage, and still sacked Roethlisberger. In one half of football this afternoon, the Bengals - a team with an almost nonexistent pass rush this season - have brought him down twice and harassed him on countless other dropbacks.
  • Amazing one-handed, leaping grab by Antwaan Randle El, especially given the rainy conditions at Heinz Field. The 22-yard catch gave Pittsburgh the ball on the Bengals' 18, eventually setting up a 23-yard field goal. Randle El has been an afterthought in the passing game, after the emergence of rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, but it's nice to have a veteran guy who can make plays like that deep in your depth chart.
  • Roethlisberger is having a hell of a game, despite the so-so stat line (9-for-17, 99 yards). He's turning a lot of broken plays into first downs, through the air and on the ground (3 rushes for 23 yards), as per his usual. That said, his decision to spike the ball on 1st & goal with the first half drawing to a close makes no sense whatsoever. I guess he's trying to preserve his final timeout, but you simply cannot give up a play if you're not in four-down territory. If you really want to save time, go ahead and use the timeout - that's what it's there for. Or better yet, run a play. Either way, there is no reason to spike it, effectively leaving you with two tries to get it into the end zone, instead of one. That's the kind of inexcusable decision-making that a) never gets questioned by sports broadcasters and b) leaves points on the field.

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