With the biggest win in since the Bengals had a quarterback with bright blond hair instead of bright orange; the Bengals have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in 30 years. But, more importantly, the Bengals earned their ticket to the postseason instead of, like last year, backing into the playoffs by the dent of other teams’ misfortunes.
And beating the Steelers by playing a tough game and not rolling over when all seemed lost and Ben Roethlisberger received the ball with 3:18 left in the game and then with another chance after failing to take advantage of a missed field goal by the Steelers, it was a convincing argument that the Bengals truly earned their ticket to the postseason.
But the defensive dominance began with Leon Hall’s pick-six.
The Steelers, like they often do, sent Heath Miller in motion to determine the coverage. Roethlisberger snapped the ball after seeing off-man coverage, and then ran a route concept the Steelers employ heavily. In fact, that is the same route combination that Brandon Carr recognized after his time with Todd Haley in Kansas City that enabled him to jump the out-route for Dallas’ game-winning pick six against the Steelers.
On this play, Leon Hall (circled) had man coverage on Miller. The Steelers love to have him run a stick route out of this formation, which gives Miller the ability to break inside or outside depending on the coverage. Miller prefers to break inside and use his large frame to shield the ball, and Hall shaded outside with this in mind.
As soon as Miller broke inside, Hall jumped the route. It was another example of exemplary technique in off-man coverage, with hours of film study and understanding of the Steelers’ tendencies to boot. He drove downhill to beat Miller to his spot and was rewarded with a touchdown.