Observations From An Ugly Game - By Christopher Stout

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

This last Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals came into Pittsburgh and were triumphant in an ugly game rife with mistakes and miscues. There were five interceptions in the game. On six different occasions the ball was coughed up. With the running game firing on all cylinders, and the defense looking down right frightening, the Steelers managed to make the game a little bit interesting in the end. But in the end, the turnovers and the momentum swings that came with them, were just too much for the Steelers to overcome.

Here are some observations form this ugly, bitter fought battle.

Ben looked straight traumatized throughout most of the game.

His passes were rarely on the mark, and his painful interceptions repeatedly extinguished all hopes of victory. Although his accuracy was lacking, he did move around well in the pocket. The offensive line gave been all day to throw the ball. He just looked way too flustered and visually-impaired.

On the final drive of the game, Roethlisberger suddenly found his poise. He didn't look confused, shell-shocked or fatigued. His passes were on the mark. He drove the Steelers down the field, and kept his composure. I got up from my chair and took notice. With under three minutes to play, Ben marched the Steelers from their own 11 yard line right into the redzone.

"What a great story," I thought. "After such a horrible game, Big Ben is going to end up being a hero."

I could smell overtime. OT was a TD and a two point conversion away, and the Steelers were on Cincy's 16 yards line. In the span of two minutes, Big Ben proved to me that he still had his touch. Here he was, making up for all the mistakes. Just one more play and -- Oh snap. Another interception. Ballgame.

And here I was ready to lift Ben's tarnished image from the ashes of defeat. I was ready to again swear allegiance to this brilliant young winner, but it was not to be. One final error sealed the deal for good.

Thank god there's a bye week coming up. Ben needs plenty of time to practice throwing to guys in his own uniform. Guys like Hines Ward for example. (Is Nate Washington really that much more open on every single pass play?) The bye week will let Ben settle down, and it'll give his receivers time to learn how to squeeze the ball.

Celebrations draw flags, but elbows to the face are just part of the game.

Celebration and taunting penalties are wack. You gotta love how there wasn't a flag thrown when Ike Taylor got a taste of Chris Henry's elbow (while both players were out of bounds). Not one piece of tissue was thrown by the men in stripes. But what happens when you see a Tecmo Bowl-style jump and bump celebration with a teammate? Field positions changes by 15 yards. That's outrageous. So is getting flagged for approaching a player you just hit, and acting as if you just hit him.

Cowher said it won't happen again. I think it will. Teams that play with enthusiasm are now put on notice -- passion will be penalized in the NFL. Sometime this season these celebration calls are going to change the outcome of a game, and that just shouldn't happen. These guys are just fired up, so just let 'em play.

On a side note, wasn't Ryan Clark's hit on Chris Henry just beyond enjoyable? I can't wait until the final week of the season. On New Year's Eve, these two teams will meet again in Cincy, and someone in orange is going to get hurt.

Willie, the O-line, and the front seven on D all played possessed.

The offensive line dominated in this game. Pass protection was airtight, and Willie Parker could drive a bus through the running lanes provided by the O-line. Willie's explosiveness can last four quarters and a full season. He was running with intensity and he never seemed to let up (except of course for that play where he got speared, took himself out of the game, and then watched Verron Haynes fumble the ball). If the O-line can continue to block like that, and if Willie can maintain his drive, then the Steelers will be in good shape.

The front seven on defense was just mauling Cincy. The Steelers D has never been viewed as a soft point, but they're performance on Sunday was just amazing. The D-line found ways to penetrate, and the front seven continuously got in Carson's face. The linebackers were just crushing ball carriers left and right. Although the Steelers couldn't rally back, the spirited play of the defense kept the Steelers in the game. When the score is that close after so many turnovers, it's because your defenders are playing exceptional football.

Willie, the O-line and the Steelers front seven on defense really gave me hope that Pittsburgh can turn this season around. Although the Steelers have a difficult road ahead, they did show some positive things during their ugly loss to the Bengals. Even with division looking the way it does now, the season is far from over for Pittsburgh.