Mike Tomlin was not a happy camper after his Pittsburgh Steelers got the beat down of the season at the hands of rival Cincinnati Bengals. Nor should he have been. His team was manhandled in all three phases of the game and showed no sense of urgency over the 60 minutes of play.
If the Bengals first drive was any indicator of things to come, it was going to be a long game.
And it was.
Cincinnati opened the game on a 10-play, 75-yard offensive drive that lasted seven minutes and ended with a quarterback scramble for a touchdown by Joe Burrow — his first of the season.
The Bengals never took the foot off the gas from there and the Steelers never put up a fight.
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Following their humiliating loss, Tomlin’s press conference was short and (not so) sweet. When asked if there would be changes along the offensive or defensive sides of the line, Tomlin bluntly responded, “We’re open to doing whatever is required to change what’s trending. You may certainly see changes.”
It was a good line — really no other way he could’ve responded — but changes at this point in the season are nearly impossible. The trade deadline was on November 2, coach.
The only feasible way to make changes is internally. But there’s a reason why the starters are the starters and the reserves are the reserves. The backups don’t have what it takes to play a majority of the snaps. What’s worse? Depth is ugly thin at the positions that need depth the most.
Zach Banner to the Rescue
Plugging tackle Zach Banner in on the left or right side is the only option that could be effective along the offensive line. Banner destroyed his ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season and experienced a setback in the preseason that delayed his recovery process. He hasn’t played more than three snaps since he was promoted to the 53-man roster on October 16.
“[Banner] needs to knock the rust off and prove that he’s a viable guy that can help us win a game,” Tomlin said during his Week 9 press conference.
Tomlin is right to bring him back slowly but a rusty Banner has to be better than rookie Dan Moore, Jr., right now — right? They say that rookies are no longer rookies after Week 1, but Dan Moore is sure playing like one. He’s shown to be an inferior run-blocker and an inconsistent pass protector.
PFF grades Moore at 52.5 in run-blocking and 54.5 in pass-blocking. He’s allowed five sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and committed just as many costly penalties.
Along the defensive line, the Steelers have four players on injured reserve, including Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu — both effectual run-stoppers at the end position.
Alternatives for the Pittsburgh Steelers are few and far between. It’ll be interesting to see what Mike Tomlin can pull out of his magic hat.
Tit for Tat
Immediately after Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pulled down his first interception of the season, Mike Hilton did the same.
The former Steelers cornerback picked Ben Roethlisberger off at Pittsburgh’s 24-yard-line and took it in for a score.
“Best feeling in the world, man,” Hilton told the media after the game. “That was my first career pick-six in my whole football career, so to do it against those guys in a big division game, it couldn’t be any sweeter.”