The Bengals’ defensive line was very good at pushing into the backfield in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, for the most part, that was the extent of it. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bengals recorded a total of 25 pressures against Roethlisberger on Sunday. But, they only actually hit the quarterback on five of those plays and sacked him once.
It is definitely a good thing to be able to disrupt the backfield on so many passing plays. In fact, on plays under pressure, Roethlisberger only recorded a quarterback rating of 55.7, and 10.4 when blitzed. But, at the same time, he is the kind of quarterback who has made a career on scrambling around in the backfield and making plays like this.
This one play in the middle of the first quarter is just one of many examples of plays where the Bengals brought significant pressure but failed to make anything happen. Both Carlos Dunlap and Pat Sims beat their assignments on this play to disrupt the backfield. But, as you can see, Dunlap was easily side-stepped and Sims was just fractions of a second too late.
When you get that much pressure and make the quarterback take nearly five seconds to make a decision, the pressure has to be converted for a sack. But, both Sims and Dunlap were unable to finish the play and it resulted in a first down for the Steelers.
Granted, you could chalk this particular play up to an incredible level of pocket awareness and athleticism for a big guy like Roethlisberger. But, the exact same thing happened on the previous play with Michael Johnson and Domata Peko.
The Bengals were lucky on this play that coverage was good and Roethlisberger didn’t have anywhere to go on the throw. But, when they run virtually the exact same formation and scheme on the following play and you record the same result on the defensive line, the simple fact of the matter is the Bengals’ defensive linemen were breaking down right before they could accomplish anything significant.
In certain cases, there were a few pressures that were, ultimately, pretty useful. For example, Geno Atkins may not have sacked Roethlisberger despite the fantastic pressure on the play below, but, he still followed through with his pressure enough to affect the play.
A better heads-up reaction from Atkins on this play could have resulted in a batted pass or even a quicker hit. But, what he was able to do was force Roethlisberger to throw the ball to Williams, his check-down option, who only managed to pick up 10 of the 14 yards he needed. The Steelers went for it on the ensuing fourth down and the Bengals recorded their first interception on the game. There’s a chance that none of that would have happened if Atkins didn’t force Roethlisberger to dump the ball off quickly on that third and 14 play.
Still, if you don’t reel those kind of blown pressures in, eventually you’re going to start seeing plays like this:
Granted, you could probably make the argument that Margus Hunt was being held on this play, and that’s why he couldn’t complete the pressure. But, Michael Johnson did not do an adequate job of pulling both left-side blockers on this play and Hunt did not do an adequate job of cutting through the hole. To be fair, expecting Johnson to pull multiple blocks as a defensive tackle is probably not very smart. Either way, it was another blown opportunity to break up a play that resulted in a key first down, late in the second quarter:
After failing to complete pressures for most of the game, eventually a quarterback will figure out that he can take advantage of a defense’s inability to finish by running right by them, up the middle. That is exactly what happened on this botched play in the fourth quarter.
This is the kind of play that really makes you sit back and shake your head. Dunlap completely shredded the right side of the Steelers’ offensive line on this play. But, once again, poor angles and reaction time allowed Roethlisberger to make something out of nothing. In this case, it was a 14 yard run that set the Steelers up for an easy touchdown.
Before this play, the Bengals were looking at a manageable 17-9 deficit that was probably about to graduate to 20-9. That’s not good, but the touchdown that they scored on the following drive would have brought the game to within four points instead of eight, a much more manageable scenario.
Going forward, the Bengals’ defensive line is going to have to be much more efficient if they want to put together some wins. Three of the next four quarterbacks they will face are Trevor Siemian, Dak Prescott, and Tom Brady. All three of those quarterbacks are players who can really hurt you if you give them time. Though, two of them are first year starters and one is a rookie. Therefore, the Bengals’ defensive line will need to be at their best if they hope to help the team come out of the first six games with a winning record.