The Steelers won their last six visits to Cincy, including a playoff victory, and 14 of the last 17. A more interesting statistic, especially for this week, is that eight times since 1990 the Steelers headed to Cincinnati coming off a loss, and they won all eight games.
Games in Cincinnati have been known for the Steelers getting back to “Steeler football,’’ by pounding the ball and winning the physical matchups, and that should be the case again this week.
The game plan offensively Sunday night in Denver showed how the Steelers are not as good when they’re throwing the ball way more than running it. The offense did score 28 points, but it also set a tone for a type of game the Steelers have trouble winning.
When the Steelers aren’t controlling the ball with long sustained drives, their defense gets little rest — especially in high altitude — and is not as effective.
Coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers didn’t get the chance to run the ball as much Sunday because they were behind in the second half, but they may not have been behind if they hadn’t run the ball just three times in the first quarter.
Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians have done a solid job this season, but they out-thought themselves Sunday.
The Steelers have a decent offensive line that has been healthy so far this year and was facing the worst defense against the run in the NFL. That was a perfect scenario to try and impose their will on the Broncos, rather than try and outsmart future Hall of Fame coach Mike Shanahan.
This Sunday represents a similar opportunity with the Steelers facing a defense that’s not as physical and has been banged up all year. Being able to control the ball with a strong running game will be especially effective because it will cut down on mistakes and keep Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh off the field.
That will give the Steelers their best chance to get back on the winning track, much like they’ve done the last 15 years in Cincinnati.
Tomlin patterns his coaching style after Tony Dungy by staying calm on the sideline. Even when things were going bad for the Steelers in the first half Sunday night, Tomlin’s facial expressions never changed.
It must have worked because the Steelers responded and played much better in the second half, almost like Dungy’s Colts did in last year’s AFC Championship win over the Patriots.
It’s just kind of odd to see shots of a losing Steeler sideline and not see the jutting jaw and spit flying.
NFL Week No. 8
Game of the week: Green Bay at Denver, 8:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN).
Upset special: St. Louis (+3) at home vs. Cleveland.
Fantasy tip: Stay away from the Jacksonville-Tampa Bay game.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461.