PITTSBURGH — Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt made waves when he slammed the Steelers’ playcalling after Cincinnati’s victory on Sunday. In the second half, Pratt saw the Steelers slow things down and the rest of the Bengals’ defense seemingly followed. But it was the predictability that Pratt called to mention when it came to slowing the Steelers down.
“Just settling down,” Pratt told CBS Sports. “It was us giving them plays. We knew what they were going to do. They like to do the same plays over and over.”
Pittsburgh did drop 30 on the Bengals in either fashion. That seems to be the common sentiment in the building after hearing that quote. Mike Tomlin shut down the talk of the quote, noting that all teams have core concepts that they come back to multiple times throughout the game. The winners write history as the saying goes, and Tomlin thinks there just are not a lot of secrets to hide when facing divisional opponents.
“That’s what they say when they’re having success,” Tomlin said. “They don’t say it when they’re not. So, I don’t worry much about that. I focus on the things that are within our control. When I look at the tape, there were some repeat concepts, but Cincinnati was in some repeat concepts. And that’s football. When it’s good-on-good, particularly in the latter part of the season, there’s very few secrets. I don’t know if we were all that surprised by anything that they did offensively. So, then it comes down to execution. That’s where I like to keep our focus. Man, we’ve got to execute better, we’ve got to make makeable plays. And that’s our goal. That’s where our focus is as we lean in on this week’s opportunity, and less about some of the fodder that you speak of.”
If the Steelers were tipping plays, then no unit would know it more than the offensive line. However, none of the Pittsburgh linemen bought into the idea that the Bengals knew what was coming. And if they did, then why did the Bengals defense still allow 30 points? Chuks Okorafor champions that sentiment and he did not feel that the Bengals did anything otherworldly to affect how the Steelers played. Not only that, he does not believe that they knew what was coming right from the outset of the play before the ball was even snapped.
“Everyone on our offense was saying, it was a lot about flags and we would lose a yard and two right after,” Okorafor said. “Like, those are flags. Those don’t help your case. I’m not sure they knew what we were doing. We just have to play good ball.”
Kevin Dotson saw similar things. He did not pick up on the Bengals calling out the Steelers’ plays before they ever happened. However, he acknowledged that when teams win, they often get to control the narratives and storylines in the postgame press conferences. That is what Dotson feels happened in this case. As good of a game as Pratt did have, Dotson did not see anything that proved the Bengals knew the plays.
“They weren’t,” Dotson said. “Everybody has their main plays and there are only so many plays in a playbook for any team. So, I don’t really know if he was truly, ‘oh, we’re calling out the plays’. You can say whatever you want.”
Regardless, the Steelers’ offense will hope to build off some success that was put out against the Bengals. It seems they do not subscribe to the idea that they were overly predictable and chalked it up more so to execution rather than the Bengals knowing what was coming.