The last time the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North was in 2005. That’s the same season that the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL.
That is recent proof that all is not lost following the Steelers 18-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Steelers made things much more difficult for themselves by losing for a second time to the Bengals.
The Bengals now hold an almost insurmountable advantage in the division race. It would take a miracle for the Steelers to wrestle the division crown from the Bengals grasp. So if the Steelers are going to repeat as Super Bowl champs, it is going to have to be as a wild card team.
The Steelers defense looked impressive in the loss. They held the Bengals to only 61 yards rushing. They also held Carson Palmer to only 178 yards passing, while sacking him twice. They didn’t allow a single touchdown to the Bengals’ offense, and stopped them 3 times in the red zone. We really can’t ask them to do much more than that.
Unfortunately, the Steelers offense and special teams didn’t uphold their end of the deal. The Steelers special teams allowed the only touchdown of the game. Kicker Jeff Reed was within a few feet of Bengals return man Bernard Scott, and could have tackled him early in his run. Unfortunately Reed didn’t even make an attempt to stop him. He didn’t dive for his feet. He didn’t stick out his leg to trip him. He didn’t even reach out an arm to try to touch him. He just let him coast by for a touchdown.
I know that Jeff Reed is a kicker, but can someone remind him that he’s also a football player. And a professional football player at that. He has to learn how to tackle.
The Steelers offense didn’t do much better. They didn’t generate a single touchdown despite being in the red zone 4 times.
Part of the problem seemed to be the play calling. The Steelers attempted 40 passes while only giving the ball to their running backs 16 times (Big Ben also ran the ball twice). That’s more than a 2-1 ratio of passes to running plays.
The heavy emphasis on the passing game might have been okay if Roethlisberger was playing well. But he wasn’t. Big Ben completed only 50% of his passes, was sacked 4 times, and ended the game with a 51.5 quarterback rating.
Did the Steelers forget that Rashard Mendenhall had rushed for 155 yards last week? Did they not notice that Willie Parker averaged 7 yards per carry during the game, and that Mewelde Moore averaged 10.5 yards per carry? Obviously they didn’t. I think Big Ben and Bruce Arians grew too infatuated with the incomplete pass.
As if to add insult to injury (or should I say “add injury to insult”?), safety Troy Polamalu left the game due to an injury to his knee. No prognosis was available, but Mike Tomlin said that Polamalu would undergo an MRI. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious, and Troy won’t be out for an extended period of time. We all saw what happened last time Polamalu was out of the Steelers lineup.
Fortunately for the Steelers, their next game is against the pathetic Kansas City Chiefs. That may be just the tune-up that the team needs before traveling to Baltimore for their first of two remaining meetings with the Ravens.
Sunday’s loss means that the Steelers now have an uphill battle on the stairway to seven. Next stop, Kansas City.
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