Cincinnati finally got the monkey off their backs on Monday night, but it was an unlikely candidate that led the Bengals to a 20-10 victory against the Steelers.
Giovani Bernard, the pride of Chapel Hill, scored two pivotal touchdowns to seal up a Bengals win—their second in 12 regular season meetings with the Steelers. But it was Reggie Nelson’s late interception of QB Ben Roethlisberger that stalled a Pittsburgh drive that might have made things interesting late.
With concerns about the Steelers “aging” defense, it has been the offense that has come under fire as of late. The big buzzword surrounding Todd Haley and his offense—“anemic.” Getting just one touchdown, a connection to rookie pass-catcher Derek Moye, Haley and his play-calling have been heavily criticized already in this young season. The lack of protection for QB Ben Roethlisberger and the key loss of Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey are still among the major concerns in the Steel City.
At the on-set, Big Ben and his Steelers appeared to have the Bengals number. Opening with a 3-0 lead, the Steelers were driving again deep in Bengal territory. After a 31-yard completion to tight end David Paulson, Adam “Pacman” Jones was able to strip the ball and force a key turnover—leading to a huge swing momentum. After that, the offense never really gained any traction until a few completions in garbage time late in the 4th quarter.
Steeler Nation may have already thrown in the towel, but an 0-2 start is not the end of the world. Teams that have gone 0-2 have only made the Playoffs 12% of the time, but the offensive line play has improved since the heartbreaking loss suffered against the Tennessee Titans, as evidenced by just allowing 2 sacks against a dominant front four for the Cincinnati Bengals.
If Pittsburgh is going to turn things around for the 2013 season—there is going to have to be an adjustment in the run game. While Felix Jones out-performed Isaac Redman, his 37 yards only adds to the embarrassing stat line that the Steelers continue to put up week after week. In fact, in two games, the Steelers have rushed for only 75 yards total.
At this point in the season, there are 33 different players in the NFL that have more individual rushing yards than the entire Steelers rushing attack combined!
A better team on paper, Cincinnati used a balanced attack to defeat the Dick LeBeau-led Steelers D. Showcasing the speedy Bernard out of the backfield, and with a myriad of receivers to spread the ball to downfield, Andy Dalton quietly had himself a solid game. Despite some accuracy issues in the early going, Dalton was able to hit four different receivers for over 50 yards—including Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, Mohamed Sanu, and A.J. Green.
For the first time in his seven seasons, Mike Tomlin is 2 games below .500 as a head coach. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Pittsburgh, having to face the 2-0 Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football before making a trip across the pond to square of with the Minnesota Vikings in London. Although the Steelers have the benefit of playing in the struggling AFC North, the team is going to have to start stringing together a winning streak to be in contention come January.
If the Steelers are unable to escape the next two games without a win—it might be time to re-evaluate the season and begin thinking about Radio City Music Hall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The lone glimmer of hope is that in the last 25 seasons, the Steelers have finished with a record above .500 when starting a season 0-2.
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