6:10 p.m.: Just finished doing the TV show on the CW and the callers were generally pleased with the performance, much like our few posters. But there are concerns: injuries to McFadden and Polamalu; an offense going flat for a quarter and a half; the defense, which played very well today, allowing a 92-yard drive. But all in all, a very strong performance.
It gets interesting the next few weeks. The Steelers have four of their next five at home: Giants, at the Redskins, Colts, Chargers and Bengals again. If they can win four of those games, they'll be 9-2 and in command of their division. But if they go 2-3, which is possible, then they are 7-4 and need to close strong. Three of the final five are on the road, including games at Tennessee and New England.
Looking ahead to the Giants, the Steelers will need a great game from the offensive line. And that may mean Max Starks again at left tackle. He made a good accounting of himself today, but that was the Bengals. This will be the Giants. I'm sure the Steelers would love to have Marvel Smith healthy for this game, but you have to plan like Starks will play. The goal next week will be to keep the Giants off Big Ben and get Parker back to form as well as continuing the run the ball. Keeping Eli Manning off the field will be important for the Steelers. And if the linebackers were as active and dominant as they were today, then the Giants will be in trouble, even huge running back Brandon Jacobs. Just ask the Skins LaRon Landry.
Next game is very big. Going to 6-1 in this division will make them almost uncatchable. But you have to take care of it a week at a time.
4:05 p.m.: Final, Steelers 38, Bengals 10. A good start, a slump in the middle two quarters, then a 21-0 beatdown in the fourth quarter. As my son Jason's 9th grade football coach used to say, "a light bulb went on." Hello Steelers? This is Cincinnati, remember those guys. Bottom line is 5-1 overall, 3-0 in the division and 5-0 in the AFC. All good numbers through six games, but the big part of the schedule looms. Next week it's the SB defending champs Giants at home for a 4:15 kick. They can't take 2 quarters off against those guys. Let's hear the opinions. I'll be back later with final thoughts. In between, I'll be with Bob Pompeani from 5-6 p.m. on the Nightly Sports Call Steelers edition on Pittsburgh's CW. My MVP today: Mewelde Moore.
3:58 p.m.: Hines Ward is so tough and then he gets under the opponent's skin. I wonder if Dexter Jackson will get fined for that hit, that resulted in a penalty? Byron Leftwich's first TD pass as a Steeler. It's mop up time. With 1:54 left in the game, Steelers 38, Bengals 10.
3:54 p.m.: Limas Sweed -- welcome to the Steelers! Hang on to the ball.
3:51 p.m.: Do you think Ryan Fitzpatrick will see LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons in is nightmares? Geez, the Bengals haven't blocked these guys all day. Woodley just keeps getting better every game. What a bull on the outside. That makes 7 sacks today for the Steelers. McFadden has an arm injury and still no word on Polamalu.
3:46 p.m.: Today's star is Mewelde Moore and he's looking better and better the more he plays. Willie Parker is still the guy when he's healthy, but Moore has made a case to play some and maybe even more than a little bit. Cincinnati had all the steam taken out of it with that long TD to Nate Washington. This is over. With 5:17 left in the game, Steelers 31, Bengals 10.
3:45 p.m.: This is no knock, but a cellphone on the sideline? How odd is that? No word yet on Polamalu and McFadden, but when we know, we'll let you know. Wonder who's cell that was Troy was using?
3:41 p.m.: If anyone out there wonders why the Steelers drafted Timmons with the first pick a couple years back, you're seeing it now. Very athletic, tough linebacker and on a team that employs a 3-4, you need athletic linebackers. The Steelers have them and now that Timmons has had a chance to grow and learn some, it's obvious he's the guy they want out there most of the time. Could it be Larry Foote's last stand? We'll see.
3:36 p.m.: Nate Washington was absolute money on that play as was Big Ben. Finally, attacking the Bengals defense after seeming to be playing it safe for a couple of quarters. This should be the breather they need because now the Bengals have to pass and while Fitzpatrick seems to be able to manage in a controlled situation, I don't think they can put it on his shoulders. Ben's now over 200 yards passing. With 8:26 left in the game, Steelers 24, Bengals 10.
3:33 p.m.: Mewelde Moore has 100 yards. He's been the most consistent offensive player all day. And Stapleton is blocking his backside off, opening up a huge hole on that run.
3:28 p.m.: I can't tell from television, but it looks like Timmons has replaces Foote, and with good results based on that sack. I know in nickle situations Timmons plays, but it looks like he's playing base defense, too. Anyone else notice this?
3:25 p.m.: Two tough losses on one play. First of all, Cedric Benson is starting to look a bit like the No. 4 overall pick the Bears wasted on him a few years back. He's a big, strong guy who can run with speed. Polamalu has to have a concussion on that play. And he's had a few too many in his career. And if McFadden is out for more than a play or two, my guess is Deshea Townsend will be his replacement and William Gay will be the nickle back. Tyrone Carter replaces Polamalu.
3:23 p.m.: Whew, if you're a Steelers fan, that was too close for comfort. Taylor is beaten on that play by Johnson.
3:20 p.m.: Harlan keeps calling him "Melende" Moore. Not a knock, but Melende is just as obscure a name as Mewelde. Here come the Bengals again to start the fourth quarter. Those short and medium passes have been picking the Steelers defense apart. It's what most offensive coordinators call for when you play the Steelers. And it's working pretty well.
3:16 p.m.: Twice you have third-and-1 and you can't convert? Goodness, the defense is going to have to try to force a turnover, of which there have been none in this game. Little glitch there by CBS, hearing Gannon tell Harlan on the Berger punt where he falls down "that was a great no-call there." Let's see if he says the same thing when they come back on the air.
3:08 p.m.: That's a good stand by the defense, but big picture, the Bengals offense knows now it can move the ball. The one break the Steelers are getting is that Fitzpatrick is inexperienced and makes the occasional dumb play. Like on second down, rolling out and taking that sack instead of throwing it away. But give Cincy credit, they are staying in this one. With 2:42 left in the third, Steelers 17, Bengals 10.
3:05 p.m.: Even if they didn't make it, Marvin Lewis made the right call. He knows his offense is on a roll and it just makes them more confident. Steelers need a stand.
3:01 p.m.: So Kevin Harlan just throws platitudes at the Steelers coverage teams and for the second time today, they give up a big return. That's a 35 and 36 yard return for the Bengals today. The special teams coverage units have been playing well this year, but looks like last year today. Looks like the Bengals are going to power football. And it's working.
2:56 p.m.: Mewelde Moore for mayor. Nice drive and Moore was the main player in that one. And that was a huge block by Darnell Stapleton, who has looked very good replacing the injured Kendall Simmons. I think Roethlisberger does not look nearly as sharp as he did earlier in the game, but if they can get Moore going (he's got 80 yards so far) they can control the ball and the game. 8:36 left in the third quarter, Steelers 17, Bengals 7.
2:52 p.m.: Dug out this old photo. Looks like Fitzpatrick is used to running for his life.
2:50 p.m.: Now you know why James Harrison is a Pro Bowler. Absolutely necessary stop on the first drive of the second half. Now, let's see if the offense can get off the schneid and get something done. I see one of our commenters is calling the Bungals, er, Bengals, 1-6 after this one. A bit too early for that sentiment, but there's a lot more concern out there now than a couple hours ago.
2:30 p.m.: That's the half, and one that started with a bang for the Steelers ends with the Bengals driving 92 yards for a TD. Impressive stuff for a team that is 0-6. The Steelers will need to retool the offense a bit and the defense will have to get back to getting to Fitzpatrick. If you want to see halftime stats, here's a link. Halftime score: Steelers 10, Bengals 7.
2:28 p.m.: Ocho, oh-no. Wow, that was an impressive drive, particularly on Fitzpatrick's part. He came off the deck and led his team down the field. It's a game now because the Steelers didn't put these guys away when they had a chance. And the Bengals get the ball first in the second half, so if the Steelers run the clock out here, they'll be protecting a 3-point lead. 42 seconds left in the first half, Steelers 10, Bengals 7.
\2:22 p.m.: This is an impressive drive by the Bengals. Their defense kept them in the game and now the offense is actually trying to do something. And when Fitzpatrick gets time, he can do some things as fans are now seeing. We'll see if the Steelers defense can answer the call as the half winds down.
2:14 p.m.: With 5 minutes to play in the half, the Bengals get a first down. And as poorly as they've played on offense, they're only 10 down. You really want to put a team like this away in a hurry if you can. It seems the Steelers offense hasn't been right since being held on four downs inside the 5 in the first quarter.
2:09 p.m.: Am I mistaken, but was that a vertical pass? Not a swing pass or a dump off? Nice shot by Kevin Harlan on Rich Gannon bringing up the shellacking the Raiders took from the Bucs in the Super Bowl in 2002.
2:04 p.m.: That was a fairly significant wince that Mitch Berger just experienced on that punt. Gee, I wonder who the emergency punter is?
1:59 p.m.: The Bengals are inventing a new offense: the three-and-out offense. For all the folks here who like to complain about the Steelers, and they are many, you could have the Bengals. Think about that for one moment. You could have the Bengals.
1:53 p.m.: From third-and-4 to third-and-14 and you never officially take a snap? The offense seems to now be out of sync and this may turn into the type of game where the defense takes over until the offense can figure out what's going on. This type of thing works when you're playing the hapless Bengals, but if this is the Giants or Patriots, this is going to get you in trouble. But as Bill Cowher would say, it is what it is
1:44 p.m.: Fairly pedestrian first quarter has ended with the Steelers up 10-0. This is going as expected and it looks like it's going to be a tough sled for the Bengals offense all day against the Steelers defense. I'm sure the Steelers would like to use the first half to build a big lead and then control the ball in the second half. But they can't settle for FGs when they get a short field if they want to do that. So far, Starks seems to be holding up fine.
1:40 p.m.: It's 3 points, but that's not what they wanted on that drive. They seemed out of sync from the moment they were inside the 5. Borderline call on Leon Hall for pass interference, but on that play, the officials are going to give it to the defense since it was so close. On the third-down play, seemed Ben just fired it away, but it looked to me that Heath Miller was open. A score is a score, but probably not the type of score they wanted. 45 seconds left 1st quarter, Steelers 10, Bengals 0.
1:27 p.m.: Our Colin Dunlap found this interesting tidbit from the Wall Street Journal archives: Ryan Fitzpatrick completed the Wonderlic in 9 minutes. It was reported he got a perfect score, but he denies that, saying he skipped a question.
The Wonderlic is given to potential NFL draftees. With that score, you wonder how Fitzpatrick isn't practicing law instead of with one of the worst teams in the NFL? There is very little the hapless Bengals do that is right. Big Ben and Co. on a short field should be interesting.
Care to see how you'd do on the Wonderlic?
1:25 p.m.: For those of you wondering what the heck is going on in Buffalo to delay that game, it's a power outage at Rich Stadium. If you want details, go here. Not that it's going to be a game-changer, but how do you not get that yard against the worst rush defense in the NFL?
1:15 p.m.: Well, that was tidy. And nice play call at the goal line on first down to throw. It looks like Ben's going to get some time today, even as long as he likes to wait to throw the ball. Mewelde Moore continues to look like a nice pickup and will only be better once Willie Parker gets healthy. And was that a pass to Matt Spaeth on that drive? We'll see if the Steelers defense can tee off on Ryan Fitzpatrick and take advantage of the early lead. 10:02 left 1st quarter, Steelers 7, Bengals 0.
1:07 p.m.: Wonder how much that will cost Hines Ward? Unbelieveable block, but something Steelers fans have come to accept as run-of-the-mill from Ward. Seriously, that's a clean block. There is no penalty. It's the only league where no on-field foul is called, yet there's probably going to be a fine coming. I'm sure Ward couldn't wait for the chance to test the league's penchant for fines for big hits with a big block. He probably didn't expect to do it so early. I'm interested in what you think about this.
1:05 p.m.: OK, you line up wrong and then muff the center snap. Ominous signs?
1:03 p.m.: I mean, you really have to know what side of the field you're lining up on. That's an odd start to the game.
12:55 p.m.: CBS has Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon as the announcer team today. (Note the over-the-top Raider PR driven story with the Gannon pic I've linked to). Not a bad tandem for a game that I'm sure many at the network thing will be a dog. But Gannon's a pretty good color commentator. I can remember when I was in my prior job as sports editor at the Contra Costa Times in the Bay Area and Gannon leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl. Only to get pounded by the Tampa Bay Bucs. But he had good seasons in Oakland, and is a bright guy who should add good insights.
12:25 p.m.: I'll be blogging from my office at the P-G in lovely downtown Pittsburgh. Dan Gigler, who normally would blog in this space, is on vacation so I'm the replacement player. It'll be a bit strange to blog a game I'm watching on television. One of the things you get when you're at the game is the sense of what my fellow media members are thinking as the game moves along. Today, I'll only get that from the game announcers. Our first bit of news, the inactives for today's game, comes from our man Ed Bouchette in Cincinnati. Here's the list:
Steelers: No. 3 QB Dennis Dixon, RB Carey Davis, RB Willie Parker, LB Keyaron Fox, OT Tony Hills, OT Marvel Smith, WR Dallas Baker and NT Casey Hampton.
Bengals: No. 3 QB Carson Palmer, WR Glenn Holt, K Shayne Graham, CB Jamar Fletcher, LB Corey Mays, TE BEn Utecht, DT Orien Harris and DT Jason Shirley.
Ed's also reporting that OL Jeremy Parquet, signed from the Steelers practice squad on Saturday, is dressed as one of two backup offensive linemen. Trai Essex is the other. Nose tackle Scott Paxson, released on Saturday, could be re-signed to teh practice squad on Monday.
Max Starks starts at LT today for Smith. There are 7 million reasons to watch how Starks plays, and I'm sure the Steelers coaching staff wants to take a hard look at him. He's Smith's likely replacement next year. It will also be interesting to see if rookie WR and No. 2 pick Limas Sweed gets a shot to get on the field besides special teams. Another person the front office has a big investment in who has not done anything this season.