Grading The Bengals Trenches: Steelers Week (Part Two)

Life's responsibilities and Modern Warfare caught up to me over the last two weeks, so we never had the opportunity to review the Bengals performance vs. the Steelers from their first meeting. Luckily for us, we get a re-match just three weeks later. Let's take this opportunity to review the last game between these rivals and use that information to project Sunday's pivotal game.

From left to right, Bengals O-line had a Jekyll and Hyde game

Andrew Whitworth hasn't had his best stretch of games over the past 4-5 weeks. Especially when it comes to the running game, Whit hasn't been very effective. He's been just average (1.10 Kill/Death ratio - Call of Duty still on my mind.) as a run blocker. Against the Steelers, Whitworth had only 6-winning blocks and 5-losing blocks. Same could be said for the man to his right, Nate Livings. While Livings had a good game vs. the Steelers in their first match, in the game before that (Titans), and the last two games (Ravens, Browns), Livings has been the weakest link on the offensive line. When the Bengals are asked to pass more than they run, Livings looks worse. If you pay attention to him on every snap, he looks serviceable, but it's the 2-3 disaster snaps a game (Sacks, Pressures, Penalties) that leave us with a bad taste.

From Center to Right Tackle, the Bengals have really been great over the past three weeks. We'll get into Kyle Cook later, but Bobbie Williams and Andre Smith were completely dominant vs. the Steelers in the first game. They combined for 26-winning blocks and only 6-losing blocks. As pass protectors, they combined for only 1-bad snap. The running game is where they dominated; combining for 18-positive blocks and only 5-snaps that negatively impacted the run. Smith, who has been a liability as a run blocker, had his best game of his career. An all-around performance from Andre Smith that showed what he can be and why he was so highly regarded coming out of college.

Offensive Line Stats Vs Steelers

Andrew Whitworth

Run

Pass

Positive Snaps

3

3

Negative Snaps

3

2

Neutral Snaps

20

32

Nate Livings

Positive Snaps

8

4

Negative Snaps

2

1

Neutral Snaps

16

27

Kyle Cook

Positive Snaps

10

2

Negative Snaps

2

1

Neutral Snaps

14

29

Bobbie Williams

Positive Snaps

10

4

Negative Snaps

3

0

Neutral Snaps

13

28

Andre Smith

Positive Snaps

8

4

Negative Snaps

2

1

Neutral Snaps

16

27

What this shows us: Every offensive lineman should have more positive snaps than negative snaps. I've found that the best players will double their winning block to losing blocks. As you can see, the only player that didn't meet this standard was Andrew Whitworth. The rest of the line had four times the positive snaps to their negative snaps. This was probably the best game of the season for the unit as a whole. We can give Whitworth a pass because he was playing against an All-Pro in James Harrison. You would expect most plays to end up as a draw between those two.

The player who could flip these numbers upside down is Lamar Woodley. He's the Steelers best pure pass rusher and should give Andre Smith problems. The Bengals will need another performance from Smith like they got last time these two teams faced.

Running against the Steelers

LT

LG

C

RG

RT

4 carries for 11 yards (2.75)

5 carries for 6 yards (1.20)

9 carries for 28 yards (3.11)

5 carries for 47 yards (9.4)

1 carry for 0 yards (0.00)

What this shows us: The Bengals knew Woodley wouldn't play in the first game so they ran to the right heavily. They didn't try one run to the outside left, which has netted them some of their best runs this year. 15 of their 24 running back carries went to the right side. The most successful runs went between Bobbie Williams and Andre Smith. The least successful runs were between Nate Livings and Kyle Cook. The left side of the line will need to pick it up this week.

"Number 74 has reported as an eligible receiver."

Dennis Roland, the 6th man on this offensive line. He was once a regular starter, now he has his own unique position in the NFL. The Bengals used him more vs. the Steelers than they have this entire season. Roland played in 10 snaps (8 run, 2 pass plays). Obviously when Roland enters the game, defenses must know the Bengals are running the ball. They ran it on 8/10 of Roland's snaps and I'm not sure it even helped. In those eight plays, the Bengals gained 22-yards. That's only 2.75 yards per carry with Roland on the field. Four of his eight snaps were runs that gained less than one yard, while the four other plays were on runs of 5-yards or more. It's Feast or Famine with Dennis Roland in as a run blocker.

Kyle Cook for Pro Bowl

I saved this for last because like Cook, it will probably be over-looked. I talked about Andrew Whitworth's struggles in the last quarter of this season, but there has been a Bengal who has stepped up in the biggest way. Kyle Cook has turned into one of the best centers in the league and has been the Bengals best offensive lineman this year. That's saying something because Whitworth has just now been recognized as a top lineman in the NFL, but soon people will talk about Kyle Cook. He's been a joy to watch every snap each week. He's crafty, smart, strong, and will fight through the whistle. I talked about the Bengals needing a lineman who can block on the 2nd level vs. linebackers. It started in the Jaguars game; the Bengals started using Cook to block the LBs instead of Nate Livings. The change has been the biggest adjustment by the coaching staff this season. Cook has found his niche playing this role and if this is the guy the Bengals re-signed in the off season, that's money well spent. If you haven't already, vote for Kyle Cook to represent the Bengals in the Pro Bowl.

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