The Monday Night contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals really shouldn't have been that close. The Steelers (6-2) handily beat the Bengals (whose playoff hopes dashed at 2-6), but the contest remained close through the last few minutes, thanks to a heroic effort by wide receiver Terrell Owens, who caught ten balls for 141 yards and two scores.
Owens caught an absolutely beautiful ball (video) from Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (6.9 ypa, 88.7 rating) in the fourth quarter. It was the receiver's second TD. You've got to feel bad for that security guard. I guarantee that being run over by Owens wasn't in the job description. Ouch.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (6.0 ypa, 76.6 rating) really fouled up by throwing a lazy ball to tight end Heath Miller, resulting in an interception (video) by safety Roy Williams. Various penalties against Pittsburgh resulted in a Cincinnati 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line. Running back Cedric Benson punched it in to narrow the Steelers lead to 27-20.
Later, Pittsburgh overcame some severely conservative play-calling from offensive coordinator Bruce Arians; they were up by less than one score on the Cincinnati side of the field, yet the Steelers called three straight running plays, including a draw on 3rd-and-6, resulting in a failed 46-yard field goal attempt by struggling kicker Jeff Reed.
Personally, I go for the win there on third down and put the ball in Roethlisberger's hands. With just a few minutes left in regulation, a conversion basically equates to a Steelers win, and a failed third-down through the air presents little downside, as the best you can hope for is a long attempt for Reed. Go for the jugular in that situation by identifying "the most plausible winning scenario - to hell with playing for the friendliest loss."
Fortunately, Pittsburgh was bailed out by a LaMarr Woodley sack (video) preceding the two-minute warning. Cincinnati drove down the field to the Pittsburgh six-yard line, but Bengals penalties led to failed conversions on 3rd- and 4th-and-five, sealing the Steelers win.
After nine weeks of regular season play, the Steelers barely trail division rivals the Baltimore Ravens, who lead Pittsburgh by merely a tie-breaker. The two teams will meet again in Baltimore on December 5th (Week 13), this time with Roethlisberger under center.
Some random thoughts about tonight's contest on Monday Night Football:
- Props to Jaws (Ron Jaworski) and Jon Gruden for setting aside their obvious disdain for one another long enough to pantomime a helmet-to-helmet hit in the broadcast booth. You two are thespians of the first order. Without your noble reenactment, I'm not sure I could've imagined such a collision myself.
- How long do y'all think T.O. spent practicing his first touchdown dance (video) in the bathroom mirror? I mean, it looked good and all, but still.
- On Roethlisberger's absolutely perfect touchdown strike to Hines Ward: Gruden couldn't have said it better. "They [did] what two great players do. They beat you."
- Chris Berman's halftime segment "Fastest Three Minutes" should be entitled "Most Obnoxious Three Minutes." That is all. Berman embodies everything that is wrong with sports journalism.
- Very shaky clock management by Pittsburgh late in the first half. After Roethlisberger converted deep to Mike Wallace (22 ypc), the Steelers ran to the line and spiked it on first down ... with two timeouts left. The better decision there is to run another play or call a time out. Wasting a down on the spike nearly came back to bite the Steelers. Fortunately, Reed bailed Pittsburgh out after two incompletions, connecting on a field goal attempt from 46 yards out. I know that NFL coaches have to make decisions quickly in a high-pressure environment, but it's always shocking to me how all of them not named Bill Belichick don't seem to understand simple clock management.