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Steelers Defense Makes Big Statement in Bengals Win



Steelers Defense

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ defense stepped up as an undermanned unit against the Bengals to hold them to just 11 points. But that performance came with a caveat that the team had to stop a surging group of tight ends and running backs in the passing game. With no Ja’Marr Chase, that would be even more true for the team as they looked to get Jake Browning easy completions and then hit Tee Higgins for the big plays.

The Steelers came into this game to eliminate the running backs and tight ends from the game plan. No team had become more screen heavy than the Bengals over the last few weeks. They had run the second most screens since losing to the Steelers in Cincinnati. But Pittsburgh planned for that, and silenced Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Tanner Hudson, and Drew Sample throughout the game.

Higgins went off without Ja’Marr Chase. Tyler Boyd even got some production but never put up big numbers. Mike Tomlin and the defense did not want those guys to dominate, but they would let them get theirs if it would mitigate usage elsewhere. And they followed that plan exceptionally well throughout the evening.

“We talked about it at the top of the week that there had been an emergence of their backs in the passing game,” Tomlin said. “Joe Mixon had caught 12 balls since the last time we played them and Brown’s evolution in terms of what they had been doing, what had been happening, and I think that was one of the reasons Browning was playing so efficiently. He was completing passes at such a high rate because very little risk in terms of including those guys in the passing game, particularly the way that he was.”

Myles Jack and Mykal Walker talked about flying to the flat and buzzing to take those guys down. They did just that. That group caught just six passes for 26 yards, while Sample added three catches for 38 yards. That’s a fantastic effort to eliminate something that had become an issue for this group.

All in all, those guys did not make a massive impact on the game. Instead, Browning had to go through reads and was forced to deal with pressure from T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith throughout the game. It led to interceptions and the splash play script that the team needed to push through with an undermanned defense against an offense that had surged.