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Week 4 Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 3, Pittsburgh Steelers 27


What you need to know

Cincinnati Bengals

-Andy Dalton took a career-high 8 sacks behind an embarrassingly bad offensive line. -Joe Mixon took on a workhorse role but there isnít much meat on the bone for fantasy purposes when sacks are constantly putting the offense in unmanageable downs and distances. -Dalton spread the ball around with six different Bengals seeing either five or six targets. -John Ross left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and had his arm in a sling after the game.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming into Week 4 the Steelers were 0-3 and don't have a first-round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick. If that wasn't enough pressure, if the Steelers could pull this game out, they could realistically have a chance to stay competitive in the AFC North with another divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5. To say this was a must win for the Steelers would have been putting it lightly. The first quarter of the game started similarly to the Steelers first start against the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers were not moving the ball and there wasn't much room for the runners to work with. The first three drives finished with zero points to speak of, a fumble and turning the ball over on downs. Towards the end of the second quarter the Steelers finally found their footing. They began to run downhill aggressively at the Bengals and were picking up chunk plays. During the entire second half there was only one drive where the Steelers failed to score.

At the end of the night the Steelers are 1-3 and heading into Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens with a chance to be at the top of the division with a second-year quarterback at the helm.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Andy Dalton, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 37 - 171 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 8 - 0
No quarterback could have succeeded behind a Bengals offensive line that struggled mightily. Still, Dalton didnít handle the pressure well. He was understandably uncomfortable in the pocket but did a poor job of sensing pressure. The game started out with some promise. Dalton marched the team into Steelers territory on the opening drive with long completions to Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert but a blown blitz pickup led to a drive-killing sack. After a turnover by Pittsburgh, Dalton threw a perfect ball to Tyler Eifert in the corner of the end zone that Eifert dropped and the Bengals had to settle for a field goal. It would be their only points of the game. Facing a third and long late in the first quarter, Dalton was hit while releasing a pass in the di-rection of John Ross. It hit Joe Haden in the chest and should have been intercepted. The Bengals had their best drive of the game going, marching into the red zone and racking up 57 yards over five minutes of possession time before a blindside strip sack lost fumble. Itís hard to place too much blame on Dalton but maybe he should have sensed the pressure coming and at least turtled to protect the ball. It was that kind of day. Dalton was sacked eight times and took a few other big hits as well. In addition to the sacks, the line also had a number of costly penalties that put the offense in uncom-fortable downs and distances. Daltonís interception came on 4th-and-long in garbage time. He threw it in the general direction of Tyler Eifert but there were multiple Steel-ers in the area.

RB Joe Mixon, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 62 - 0, Rec: 4 - 1 - 0 (5 targets)
Mixon played a season-high 61% of the snaps despite the Bengals trailing most of the game. His usage was actually encouraging, with 15 carries and 5 targets. He simply wasnít able to get anything going as a receiver and didnít get any goal line opportunities. The huge number of sacks made it impossible for Mixon to really get rolling. For example, he had four touches on the opening drive. The Bengals got into Pittsburgh territory and after a solid five-yard run by Mixon on first down, Dalton was sacked for a nine-yard loss and the drive promptly stalled out. It was that kind of day for Mixon and the Bengals offense. Mixonís biggest highlight came on a beautiful blitz pickup where he demolished the blitzing defensive back to allow Dalton time to complete it for a nice gain to John Ross.

RB Giovani Bernard, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 4 - 16 - 0 (6 targets)
Even though the game script should have favored Bernard, he played a season-low 33% of the snaps. His only touch in the first three quarters came on the meaningless final play of the half. He took a screen pass for 12 yards but the Bengals were backed up deep and just let the clock run out. The rest of Bernardís touches came in garbage time and were equally meaningless. He took a 3rd-and-19 screen pass for a modest nine yard gain on his other positive play.

WR Auden Tate, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 50 - 0 (6 targets)
Tate was one of four Bengals tied for the team lead with six targets. He got a look in the end zone on a fade route but Joe Haden was step for step in coverage so Dalton threw it high and out of bounds. The next play, Tate caught a comeback route for a five-yard gain. He couldnít break away from Haden after the catch and was pushed out of bounds at the 5-yard line. Tate made a sliding 15-yard grab over the middle in the two-minute drill before halftime. He also made an 8-yard catch on a quick slant from the slot when the Bengals spread it out with a five-wide alignment. Tate made a 23-yard catch on a post route, pin balling off of the first tackle attempt to stay on his feet for another five yards. He also drew a pair of pass interference penalties. The first came on a 3rd-and-long. The defensive back grabbed him out of his break on an out route near the sideline. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Joe Haden on a 4th-and-9. He had Haden fooled on a double move and Haden held him instead of letting him run free for what might have been a long touchdown catch. Overall, it was another positive performance for Tate who is going to get an extended look in the starting lineup with A.J. Greenís absence expected to drag out longer than expected.

WR Tyler Boyd, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 33 - 0 (6 targets)
Boyd was one of four Bengals who tied for the team lead with six targets. He opened the game with an easy 15-yard catch and run on a quick crossing route over the middle. The slot corner blitzed, living Boyd all alone. Boyd picked up 13 on a deeper crossing route, holding on despite a big hit from Mike Hilton. It was a surprisingly quiet day for Boyd, especially considering the game script should have been favorable for him seeing more than just six targets.

WR John Ross, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 0 (6 targets)
Ross made a sweet one-handed grab on a pass thrown slightly behind him over the middle for a 14-yard gain. He made an 11-yard catch on a comeback route look easy. The defensive back, respecting Rossí speed, gave him a big cushion and Ross was able to come off the line with speed and then throw on the brakes for the out cut and create a ton of separation in the process. Ross made a nice contested catch for an 11-yard gain on an in route but left the game with a shoulder injury after being spun down on the tackle. He was spotted in a sling after the game and his status is very much in doubt for Week 5.

TE Tyler Eifert, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 27 - 0 (5 targets)
Eifert was on the field for 67% of Daltonís drop backs and was clearly one of the guys Cincinnati wanted to get the ball too. He was open on a fade route in the end zone but couldnít quite haul in a well thrown pass from Dalton. It would have been a moderately high level of difficulty but was the type of ball Eifert usually has been able to come down with throughout his career. His biggest gain of the day came on a diving 13-yard grab over the middle.


Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Mason Rudolph, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 28 - 229 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0
It isn't always about the big flashy plays. Sometimes it is about letting your playmakers find their footing and allowing them to make plays and not being the reason, those players can't make plays. During most of the game Rudolph had handcuffs on. Passes being throw were all within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Late in the second half the short throws began going for large gains. The pass-rush wasn't getting to Rudolph and simple screen passes being taken for large gains. Rudolph's first touchdown of the game came on a screen pass to James Conner on a spring right. Rudolph was able to hit Conner in traffic and place the ball in a place where he could work after the catch. There wasn't much downfield throwing in this game, but Rudolph did take two deep shots downfield. The first was to Johnny Holton incomplete, but the second was for a touchdown to Diontae Johnson. Johnson was lost in the mix in coverage and Rudolph was able to hit him on a deep post. It wasn't a perfect throw as Rudolph almost overthrew Johnson, but it was just good enough.

RB Jaylen Samuels, 27 offensive snaps, Pass: 3 - 3 - 31 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 10 - 26 - 1, Rec: 8 - 57 - 0 (8 targets)
What a difference a week makes. Samuels went from having a 26% snap share in Week 3 to over 50% snap share in Week 4. Not only was Samuels on the field more often, but the Steelers rolled out the 'WILDCAT'. Samuels was being put in the shotgun for a direct snap and he would read the defense and decide if he would pull the ball down or run it himself. On top of the new Wildcat wrinkle being thrown into the Steelers offense, he also was productive as a runner and as a safety release. Ultimately, there was no highlight play standing out from Samuels performance. The highlight from Samuels' performance was his versatility. Samuels played the slot, was in at running back, and ran plays as a wildcat quarterback. Samuels is the swiss army knife of this offense.

RB James Conner, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 42 - 0, Rec: 8 - 83 - 1 (8 targets)
It isn't always about the big flashy plays. Sometimes it is about letting your playmakers find their footing and allowing them to make plays and not being the reason, those players can't make plays. During most of the game Rudolph had handcuffs on. Passes being throw were all within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Late in the second half the short throws began going for large gains. The pass-rush wasn't getting to Rudolph and simple screen passes being taken for large gains. Rudolph's first touchdown of the game came on a screen pass to James Conner on a spring right. Rudolph was able to hit Conner in traffic and place the ball in a place where he could work after the catch. There wasn't much downfield throwing in this game, but Rudolph did take two deep shots downfield. The first was to Johnny Holton incomplete, but the second was for a touchdown to Diontae Johnson. Johnson was lost in the mix in coverage and Rudolph was able to hit him on a deep post. It wasn't a perfect throw as Rudolph almost overthrew Johnson, but it was just good enough.

WR Diontae Johnson, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 77 - 1 (6 targets)
On his first catch of the first quarter on the first drive for the Steelers Diontae Johnson fumbled the ball when being brought to the ground. Video of the sidelines showed Johnson being spoken to by Smith-Schuster and one could only imagine Juju telling him to keep his confidence up and to be patient for his opportunity to make a big play for his team. Johnson didn't have to wait very long. Similar to how Antonio Brown was used last year, Johnson was being used as a multi-dimensional player who could be used on an end around for a big chunk play to catch an overly aggressive defense off balance or he can play in the deep game. In tonight's match-up against the Bengals Johnson was able to deliver one splash play. In the third quarter on a busted coverage Johnson was left alone on the deep left quadrant of the football field. No one was close to him. The ball was almost overthrown and Johnson didn't need to jump for the ball, but the catch was made and Johnson scored a redemption touchdown.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 15 - 0 (4 targets)
Another quiet night for Smith-Schuster on the field. The Bengals throughout the night were putting their best defender on Smith-Schuster. While Smith-Schuster did not have a big receiving impact on the game, his impact was felt as a mentor to Diontae Johnson. On the first drive of the game, after Johnson fumbled the ball, Smith-Schuster went to Johnson and helped coach him through the turnover.