ABOVE: An Imperial Storm Trooper anguishes over a bad day at work. He'll explain what went wrong to an always-understanding Darth Vader in the morning.
The Steelers offense had just that, caused primarily by many uncharacteristically "off" throwns by Big Ben. The Bengals were able to heap continual pressure on the "Large One" while giving the Steelers offensive line more than they could handle. This didn't help Ben's accuracy either.
This strange ballgame featured four field goals for Cincinnati plus another long kickoff return for a touchdown against the Steelers. This was the third long return against them this year, revealing a serious shortcoming. The Bengals missed their extra point attempt, thus accounting for their 18 total points. The Steelers, meanwhile, contained the Bengals' offense, allowing them just 12 points, but they really need to do a much better job on kickoff returns. If Jeff Reed doesn't want to make tackles, perhaps deeper kickoffs by him would be helpful? If nothing else, Reed's weak attempt at a tackle in that 96 yard runback made him the object of Steeler fans' wrath in post-game shows, in spite of four successful field goals.
For the Steelers, they failed miserably in the red zone against the number one red zone defense in football, managing just four field goals and finishing up on the short end of an 18-12 score. Amazingly, this was only the second such 18-12 score in NFL history.
ABOVE: The Steelers entered the red zone often, but the Ketchup did not flow freely. Then again, Heinz is known as the "thicker-richer ketchup".
Mike Tomlin was very succinct, as usual, in his assessment of the game. "This was not winning football. We have to go back to work... There are several areas where we have to improve... We are very much a work in progress."
Big Ben sensed that something wasn't right on this day. "They forced us into doing things that we don't do well....We just didn't play well. They did a good job...I played bad and I have to make corrections...I don't know, there was something missing all day."
Possibly even worse than this loss is the recurring knee injury to their best defensive player, Troy Polamalu. In reinjuring the same left knee that caused him to miss four games earlier in the season, the Steelers could be facing the grim news that Polamalu could be lost for the year or even worse, needing surgery. He was to have an MRI this afternoon.
On a day where their quarterback was not himself, it was surprising that the Steelers did not attempt to implement their running game more, especially in a situation where the offensive line was also not affording Ben good enough protection.
What more telling statistic could there be than the fact that the Steelers threw the ball 40 times compared to just 18 rushing attempts. Regardless of how much of a passing team the Steelers feel they have become, that much of a disparity in rushing attempts does not bode well for future success unless addressed.
The Steelers are not stupid, although sometimes their game plans can leave us scratching our collective heads. Look for them to go more with the running game in future weeks. They have the "cupcake" portion of their schedule coming up as three of their next four are against NFL bottom-feeders. It's far too early to panic, but we had Cincinnati right where we wanted them and let them get out of Heinz Field with a rare "W".
ABOVE: Cincinnati came away with a "W." and it was a hard loss to swallow for Steeler fans. This makes two games this year where the Bengals beat the Steelers in disappointing performances by the Black & Gold...or was it the Bengals?