Pittsburgh Steelers: Fast Start, Poor Finish Against Bengals


The return to the field of Ben Roethlisberger last Sunday to face the 6-0 Cincinnati Bengals began fast and ended badly as the Pittsburgh Steelers lost 16-10 behind two ugly Big Ben interceptions.

By defeating the Steelers, the Bengals reached 7-0 for the first time in the history of their team. It also pushed Pittsburgh three full games behind in the AFC North still in second place, but more importantly probably making a repeat of a division title nearly impossible.

Worse news is that Le’Veon Bell suffered a right knee injury forcing hI’m from the game and perhaps much longer. Carted off the field, Bell’s mishap came on a play that had him heading out of bounds but his knee turned in an awful fashion when being brought to the turf.

DeAngelo Williams did a superb job filling in for Bell, but Le’Veon Bell he is not. This game was defensive all the way around and credit to both teams for preventing the opposing offenses for not reaching the end zone more than once. The Bengals defense did a good job playing against the many weapons of Pittsburgh, but it was the Steelers’ defense that shined at Heinz Field.

Led by the efforts of Mike Mitchell, Cameron Heyward, and Antwon Blake, with all three players making huge plays, in the end, when a team makes mistakes, outstanding teams will capitalize. That’s what the Cincinnati Bengals did taking advantage of two badly thrown Ben Roethlisberger interceptions. Cincinnati did just enough to win and to use mistakes to their advantage despite Andy Dalton throwing two picks of his own.

Pittsburgh’s offense could not make big things happen following their two turnovers they grabbed. Kudos to James Harrison for turning back the clock one more time with an outstanding game including a blocked field goal. Had the field goal been made, the Steelers would not have had the opportunity to possibly win the game with a touchdown in the waning moments.

As Ben Roethlisberger shouldered the entire blame for the loss, you can’t hate on Big Ben for the loss simply because as he always does in  this situation, he mans up to take accept responsibility. Bad games happen and sometimes at the most inopportune times. Roethlisberger is a competitor and he never allows mistakes to keep him from giving 100% on the next play.

Along with Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin also needs to take responsibility for terrible clock management at the end of the fourth quarter. With well over two minutes to play and three timeouts in his pocket, Tomlin made the decision to refrain from calling one of those T.O.s before the two minute warning. Then, once the two minute warning passed, the final three timeouts came at what seems to be the wrong time and Roethlisberger and the offense were forced to try to score a winning touchdown from too far away.

As the Steelers have two more games  before they finally get their bye, they are staying home for the hot Oakland Raiders and then the competitive Cleveland Brown’s. With a record of 4-4,  where Pittsburgh finishes at the end of the season could ride in the outcomes of these next two AFC battles. At this point, it’s one game at a time, try to win each game, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Looking deeper into last Sunday’s loss, before twisting his knee in the second quarter, Le’Veon Bell had rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries. As he did in the first two games of 2015, DeAngelo Willams proved he is a fine backup. On just nine carries, Williams picked up 71 yards but was aided by an impressive 55-yard romp.

One criticism of Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley’s game plan could be the number of pass plays called. 45 in all by Big Ben which earned him 262 yards on 28 completions. In the end, the three sacks and three picks are glaring. Andy Dalton certainly did not fare much better with two interceptions of his own, but the Steelers’s offense could not capitalize.

A week ago, Heath Miller went catch-less, but last Sunday he became the team’s leading receiver for the day with 10 receptions for 105 yards. Antonio Brown had a drop which is rare not just for him but also for Pittsburgh who has had the fewest this season in the NFL.

Penalties was another huge factor in the loss to the Bengals in regards to the number of penalties. Combined, both teams were flagged 20 times! 10 on each team both coming at just over 90 yards total for the Steelers and for the Bengals. Those yellows are way too many and so often in this game, the officials and referees seemed confused about calls and unsure.

Two factors have stood out in the 2015 season around the NFL, injuries and penalties as well as officiating that goes hand in hand with their yellow flags. The injuries have been many and major. The officiating has been terrible.

Final thoughts must reflect back on the performance of the defense. Mike Mitchell is getting better every game and showing why he was a valuable acquisition from Carolina. Cam Heyward shows again why he is one of the best defensive lineman in the league. Fans have to love the play of aging James Harrison.

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Surprise player of the year award? The vote here is for Ross Cockrell who has been a pleasant addition to Pittsburgh’s secondary. Antwon Blake has also surpassed expectations. The new-look speed of the Steelers’s defense is on display.

As for Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offense, victories is the goal, but worries about what this unit can and can not do should not be a thought. It is all about execution and that will dictate where the offense can carry this team to. When they are on their game, the are in the top three in the NFL. The defense will not be the reason the Steelers fail to reach the post-season this year. That onus is on the offense.